How to Avoid Hiring Bad Programmers

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What you should consider before hiring a Programmer

There is an old proverb that says one bad apple can spoil the bunch. This old saying speaks truly when it comes to startups. Undoubtedly, you want to hire the best people, which could be expensive. Hiring professionals can cost you a lot, but hiring amateurs can cost you more. These costs can be in the form of re-work or expensive training.

So, how do you ensure that you’re getting the right people, especially in the tech industry? Paul Graham, the founder of venture capital firm, Y Combinator, believes that if the company’s founder is not a programmer, hiring bad programmers could easily be the top way to kill the startup.

This is easily understandable. After all, how can you gauge an applicant’s expertise if you are not an expert on the subject? A tech startup founder without a programming background could have much difficulty in determining the good programmers from the bad ones.

In companies with good programmers, hiring one bad programmer can still derail a project’s timeline, leading to additional costs if not managed properly. Here are a few tips to avoid hiring bad programmers.


1. Keep Your Good Programmers Happy

Establishing a good company culture will help lower turnover rates and even attract better candidates. Here are some tips to do it:

a. Involve them in the hiring process

Hiring top performers is not an easy feat. Keeping them happy and engaged is a whole new ballgame. This suggests that resting easy after hiring good programmers is not the way to go. Having a good programmer in the team not only ensures that you have someone who can save the day if another one messes up the code.

Good programmers can also help you look for more of the same caliber or mentor the ones who are showing potential. They can help you interview and identify the good candidates from the bad ones. They can also assist in establishing an effective hiring process, which includes an exam for the applicants. Also read: 5 Tips for Developers Conducting Interviews

b. Leverage on their network

Good programmers can refer you to their network of colleagues who can be of great value to your company.

Create a LinkedIn page for your business and ask your dedicated developers to like the page and share job openings to their friends and connections. Good programmers can help you verify the references of job applicants too.

c. Establish a referral program

Most of the time, people are wary of referring someone to their current employer unless they trust the individual and are confident of their expertise. This is because referring someone means putting your own reputation on the line.

Establishing a referral program can help you generate good quality leads.

Also Read: 4 Strategies to Keep Your Developers Productive


2. Talk to Programmers

These tips can help non-technical founders in identifying the right applicants from the ones who are simply good on paper.

a. Observe how they talk

Before hiring a programmer, talk to programmers you already know and observe how they discuss or present complicated programming ideas and topics. Now, observe how the applicant does the same and use it to gauge if the applicant is a good one or a bad one.

b. Connect with programmers

If you don’t know any programmer, you can connect with them through pocket events and seminars. As you work the room, you can briefly mention that you are looking for new programmers for your own company. However, you need to be very specific with the platform or language you require.

They may even be able to refer some programmers to you, or you can observe how they talk. Later on, you can use these questions during your interview with the applicants.


3. Verify the Data on the Resume

Knowing a programming language and actually having expertise in it are two different things. This is why you should be on the lookout for applicants who will try to pack in all the programming tools and languages they can in their resume, regardless of whether they actually have broad experience in them or not.

Here are some tips to verify data on their applications:

a. Check certifications

Request for proof of certifications in the programming languages and tools they indicated in the resume. Verify if the institution that awarded the certifications is a bona fide, registered school.

b. Check past projects

Compare the tools and languages they indicated with their past, finished projects. Go further and contact the references they indicated in the past projects to confirm their participation, skill level, knowledge, and even work attitude.

c. Be wary

Exert some caution when assessing resumes that are too vague. Oftentimes, when applicants are unable to provide the complete details of their past employment, they are hiding something that could jeopardize their chances with a new company.

d. Do a background check

Go beyond the resume and check for recommendations in their online professional profiles. You could try contacting colleagues from their past company through social media.


4. Give Them a Test

Nothing shows the skill set of an applicant better than a test. After all, answering interview questions is a skill that can be acquired over time. Applicants can prepare for interview questions in advance and even overstate their abilities, but they cannot prepare adequately for on-the-spot tests. Here are some tips.

a. Go beyond the usual IQ tests

The best way you can find out if the applicant is a competent programmer is by giving him or her a meaningful programming test with clear specifications. This could be a 2 to 4 hour-long task complete with good requirements to see if the applicant can program well.

b. Bring in the experts

After the test, ask one of your programmers in the team to review the code and analyze if the applicant is following good coding standards.


5. Expand Your Search

If your startup location is not located in prime hubs like Silicon Valley, you might have slimmer chances of discovering top-of-class programmers. Expand your search and don’t be afraid to look for programmers who are not even in your country.

Competent programmers are vital to your company, as they can help strengthen your foundation and connect you with an extensive programming network. Hiring remote programmers from other countries could even come at lower asking prices.


6. Outsource to a Reputable Development Firm

Good programmers, like most top performers, are hard to find because most of are already hired, happy and are not looking for new employment.

So, how do you ensure that you can still get good programmers with today’s competition? One way is to outsource your deliverables to a reputable software development company like Arcanys.

These outsourced software development firms invest not just in hiring excellent programmers but also retaining them to ensure that they are capable of delivering high-quality output for their clients around the world.

Outsourcing also eases your concern of hiring a bigger team once you are ready to scale to match your growth. Moreover, these firms can help you save money in terms of the tools, equipment, and training requirements of programmers.

Hiring top-of-class programmers is difficult, but remember, your people are your top resource. This is why evaluating your options and taking the time you need to analyze applications are important, even if you’re just trying to fill a position or building a whole new team.

About the author

Fred had been working on IT and operational projects in the finance and software industry in Switzerland for 10 years before co-founding Arcanys in 2010. He carefully negotiated with and managed outsourcing suppliers as a corporate buyer on the one hand, and led delivery teams as an internal provider to operational departments at an executive level of listed companies in Switzerland, on the other. With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, Fred is now leading the worldwide sales and marketing efforts of Arcanys. View on Linkedin

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