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7 simple rules for hiring great developers

Dan Tynan | Jan. 22, 2014
The war for programming talent is full bore. Here's how to hire the best coders when competing with the big boys

When TheLadders recruits fresh talent, it isn't looking for coders who want to hunker down in one place for the next 20 years, says Sarantakos. One of the firm's strongest selling points is that anyone who signs on will leave the firm a more polished and more valuable employee.

"You need to be honest and realistic with the Millennials," he says. "They want to make a big impact on the world with their work. So we tell every developer that comes in that we offer a lot of hard work and growth, and if they stick around they will leave a better engineer than when they came in."

Playing up the investment not only makes TheLadders a more attractive place to work, it also benefits the company as a whole, adds Sarantakos.

"We'd much rather have our developers learn new skills and eventually leave, than not invest in people and have them stay," he says. "It's better for us and for our customers."

Developer hiring rule No. 4: Cultural fit trumps coding finesse
There's another reason you don't want to hire "rockstars" as part of your team. They can be total jerks.

For most organizations, cultural fit is often as important as coding skills, if not more so. When employees at vote on new hires, half of the score is based on coding skills, the other half on how well a person fits in with the rest of the team, says Newcomb.

"So we have rules," he says. "Rule No. 1: No prima donnas and no 'brogrammers.' We don't want people with egos and attitudes, we just want to get work done."

At Cornerstone OnDemand, a cloud-based talent management software company, new developer hires must be able to think through tough issues and resolve them, says CTO Mark Goldin. But they also need to be able to work as part of a team.

"There have been a few instances where we've interviewed a candidate that was a great programmer, but didn't have the soft skills to be a team player," Goldin says. "They came off as though they thought their way of doing things is the only way. Or, when asked a tough question, they might shrug it off and say, 'Oh, I can just Google that and figure it out.'"

In fact, the team itself may be your strongest weapon in convincing developers to sign on, because it's what distinguishes you from other potential employers, says Stack Overflow's Marzewski.

"In hypercompetitive markets where everyone has standup desks and Aeron chairs, tech companies are learning to sell candidates on the only elements that set them apart from their competitors -- their product and their team," she says. "To get noticed by candidates, organizations evangelize their developer team by sending them to speak at tech conferences; they host events and functions in their own spaces to bring candidates in the door; they lead with their core mission to find candidates whose values align with theirs."


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