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7 Simple Rules for Finding Great Developers


Gone are the days when you can lure top performers away with a title upgrade and raise, and this is especially true when it comes to great developers. In fact, “improved job title” was cited as the least important factor for candidates when considering a new job offer.

So if great developers aren’t looking for a fancy new job title, what is it that they are looking for exactly, and how can you leverage these aspirations to your advantage while hiring? By using the following tips, you will be able to hire, and also retain, the best developers.

Here are the 7 easy rules for finding great developers.

1. Make sure your hiring managers are qualified

There’s a disconnect in the current hiring process for most companies. Unfortunately, many in-house hiring managers, who are required to screen and test applicants’ technical abilities, are not industry-experts. They may not have any experience with programming. How can you expect these hiring managers to spot quality code if they don’t know how to code at all?

In order to effectively distinguish great developers from the rest, it is best to have another developer run the hiring process (or at least one screening round). If you do not have this luxury, however, there are other options available to you. You can hire great developers through top freelance talent networks like Toptal, or if you feel up to it, you can use a hiring guide produced by top engineers themselves.

2. Look for skills beyond technical ability

The best developers are more than just great programmers. They are also great communicators, great problem-solvers, and highly intelligent. Coding at its core boils down to a long series of complex problems that need to be simplified and solved, so you want someone you can trust to find elegant solutions and explain issues clearly. As a bonus, consider leadership skills if you plan to keep growing your team of developers. As the team grows, you will need someone who can step up as a leader, and it will be extremely helpful if that person has been with you from the get-go.

3. Your network knows best

The best way to find new hires is often through your existing network, but you will have to be intentional with this process. Empower your current developers to help you find a great programmer within their network. After all, great developers tend to know other great developers, and a shared connection will open the door to discussing job opportunities.

You can make this even more appealing to your existing developers by offering referral bonuses. In a survey by CareerBuilder, it was revealed that 48% of employees are motivated to participate in a referral program when there’s a cash bonus involved. Beyond the financial rewards, having a well executed referral program in place will help speed up the hiring process and result in much higher quality hires and retention rates.

4. Promise personal and professional growth

According to a survey by Glassdoor, 76% of software developers would leave their jobs for career growth opportunities. The very best developers are always thirsty for new information and exciting projects, and they will move on if they do not feel like they are getting these opportunities through their existing job (important to keep in mind once you make a hire). Position your company as the kind of place that cultivates long-term growth, where developers will be surrounded by other top notch talent. This will attract the best, who will stick with you for the long haul if you deliver on your promises.

5. Figure out what else motivates potential employees

Some of the top motivations that skilled developers have for changing jobs may surprise you, while some might not. Active job seekers want better compensation, a better fit for their skillset, more challenging work, more opportunities to advance, and more learning opportunities. The reasons for passive job seekers overlap some, but you might also be able to attract them to your company with things like a better work/life balance. In short, you can’t attract new employees unless you know what it is that they are looking for in their next job. Don’t be afraid to ask them during the interview process and deliver wherever you can.

6. Amp up your job descriptions

Boring job descriptions are a waste of time, and the best developers might not even read past the first sentence. Even worse are inaccurate job descriptions – then you are just wasting everyone’s time. Focus on getting your marketing and human resources teams to tell your story instead. In his TED talk, Simon Sinek highlighted why leaders need to start with “why” in order to elicit actions. By having the human resources and marketing work together to come up with a cohesive story for the hiring process, you will not only attract the attention of the right audience, but also earn respect of your applicants.

7. Build a great organization to really attract the best

Great developers want to work for great companies, and no amount of promises, perceived know-how, or stellar job descriptions will save you if your project isn’t exciting and your company isn’t dynamic. Google gets around 75,000 applications per week, and it’s actually 10 times harder to get a job there than it is to get into Harvard. The company has developed itself into one of the most globally recognizable brands, which in turn attracts the best developers and software engineers from all over the globe.

Companies that are looking to attract top talent need to be able to match the same set of expectations they require from applicants. You can follow every single rule on this list, but if you don’t have a great company or project to back you up, you are going to run into a lot of trouble when trying to attract and hire truly great developers.