The Secret to Identifying Highly-Skilled Software Developers

By Devin Hornick on June 4, 2019 in Uncategorized


Differentiating between highly-skilled and amateur software developers during the recruitment process poses a unique challenge for hiring professionals. Evaluating the qualities necessary for an exceptional developer goes beyond their technical experience – how does one examine a candidate’s ability to innovate or think creatively? How do you determine if they will collaborate well with their peers or how they’ll handle criticism?

Identifying top software development talent takes a keen eye and an in-depth understanding of the industry – these 3 keys are the secret to discerning highly-skilled candidates from the rest.

1.      Present programming challenges unconstrained by language.

Experienced software developers know a critical secret – their skill isn’t defined by the programming languages they’ve committed to memory. Instead, it’s measured by their ability to tap into their numerous skillsets and use them as a framework to effectively problem solve. Their fundamental technical acuity and understanding trumps their recall of information that could easily be looked up in a language specification.

To uncover a candidate’s core technical abilities, present them with various problems and allow the candidate to solve them in the programming languages of their choice, completing each challenge in a different language. All highly-skilled developers have experience with numerous frameworks and are able to resolve which is most applicable for each unique piece of the software.

With these challenges, you’re able to assess the candidate’s thoroughness and correctness as opposed to their proficiency in a specific language. This allows you to focus on more critical aspects of their work, such as problem-solving capabilities and coding style. If they’re able to successfully program in their languages of choice, they’re also most certainly able to pick up on a new algorithm should it be required in their role.

2.      Ask them to walk through past code they’ve developed.

In a similar vein, high-quality software development talent can explain their code in-depth. There are countless decisions made throughout the execution of new software, and proficient developers are able to illustrate why they made specific choices.

Ask candidates to walk through past frameworks that they’ve executed. Instead of posing specific inquiries about their algorithms, keep the question open-ended so that they share the aspects of their code that they believe are the most valuable. This provides a front row seat into the key influences of their development process and what they prioritize in their work.

For instance, one candidate may dive into an explanation about how their code increased efficiency and enhanced speed for a system. Alternatively, another may provide a detailed account of their creative process and how they were able to leverage their unique perspective to then simplify functions within their software. The various considerations that drive developers’ work are distinctive and are reminiscent of the way that they operate best. In a collaborative role, using this insight to determine how potential employees would fit into the larger team picture is imperative for long-term success.

3.      Engage in non-technical conversation.

Another shared characteristic of top software developers is the ability to communicate effectively, whether verbally or in writing. They’re able to adequately convey their thoughts and feelings with their peers, from offering compelling new concepts to politely disagreeing with a certain idea or correcting someone else’s code. This ability is pivotal to the smooth function of your team.

Interviews are the best way to get a realistic feel for a developer’s personality, temperament, and how they interact with their peers. Begin evaluating a candidate’s abilities by engaging in non-technical conversation at the onset of their interview. This allows them to become more comfortable, providing you with greater insight into their personality and communication style. Also, throughout the interview, look for opportunities to provide the candidate with constructive feedback and observe the reaction it elicits. Their response, whether appreciative or defensive, gives you a deeper understanding of their collaboration style and overall compatibility.

The successful execution of software is lucrative to the operations of millions of organizations, including your own, and it should be entrusted in the hands of an experienced veteran. Between today and 2023, over 5 million software developers will join the workforce globally, the majority of which will be in the U.S. While this may be exciting news on the surface, with so many professionals joining the candidate pool in just a few years, growing pains are inevitable. There’s no better time to equip your hiring team with the knowledge necessary to distinguish noteworthy talent from run-of-the-mill candidates than now.

Identifying top IT talent is much easier said than done – luckily, the KORE1 team has decades of combined experience to support your search. Learn more about our tech service offerings and contact us for information today.


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