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4 Tips for Hiring a Software Developer

Hiring a software developer is hard for non-technical entrepreneurs.

The first few times that you need to hire a software developer can be confusing, and difficult.  This is especially true if don’t have a technical background.  What makes a good developer is a fairly unique skill set.  Hiring a software engineer or company isn’t like hiring for most positions.  It’s hard to make a ‘gut instinct’ decision, even if you are an excellent judge of talent in most traditional roles.  This article will give you some tips to help make sure that you find the right person, people, or company.

What are you looking for?

To start, it’s important to decide what approach you are going to take.  There are different ways to approach hiring software developers, including:

  • Hiring a CTO
  • Finding a technical co-founder
  • Using plug and play technology
  • Hiring an individual developer
  • Hiring a software development company

This article from our blog covers these options in more detail.

If you’re looking for a co-founder, here are some tips for that.  If you’ve decided to try and hire a CTO, here are some views that can help point you in the right direction.

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that you have decided to either hire an individual developer or a company.

I’m not technical, how do I hire a software developer?

Here are 4 tips for hiring a software developer.

Tip 1: Learn some of the basics terms and processes of software development

You’re not going to fool any software developer into thinking you’re an expert on this skill.  That’s ok.  You should, though try to have a basic familiarity with the way a software project works before hiring a software developer.  Knowing some key terms will also help show that you have a baseline understanding.  This is good for two reasons.  Firstly, it will make it less likely that someone tries to take advantage of you. Secondly, software developers are more likely to want to work with someone who understands the process.  Clients or employers who don’t can be very frustrating to work with for a developer.

Check out these macro-level stages of the software development cycle. This article also shares some tips for managing software developers as a non-technical person.

Tip 2: Find someone with technical expertise and ask them to interview candidates for you

No matter how good a judge of talent you are, it’s going to be hard to assess how technically competent a software developer is.  One way to help get around this challenge is to find someone that does understand software development and ask for help.  They might interview candidates on your behalf to make a judgement about their technical capabilities.  They might also have ideas for how you can hire a software developer.

A second opinion is always a good thing.  If you can find someone who could do this for you, it will serve you very well when you are hiring a software developer.  If you don’t know anyone with this kind of experience, you can try to make some relevant connections.  You might reach out the following places near you:

  • College/University software engineering departments
  • Local entrepreneurial hubs like incubators, accelerators, or co-working spaces
  • Government organizations or NGOs promoting entrepreneurship
  • Social media pages/groups of tech workers in your city
  • Search your school’s alumni directory

Often entrepreneurs are happy to help one another.  You might just find someone who would be happy to help.

options for hiring a software developer

Tip 3: Compare your options

Almost all developers or software companies will have an initial conversation about your idea for free.  Some, like YourCTO, will provide an in-depth free consultation and give you a detailed estimate for the project.  If it doesn’t cost you anything, there is no reason not to get ideas from a multiple sources.  We always encourage clients to get estimates from many different options.

You’ll usually be able to tell how much thought has been put into a proposal.  A few ways you can do this:

  • If the proposal sounds too good to be true, it might be. Did they include all the bells and whistles without any push back or suggestions for phasing the project?  You should almost surely be thinking about starting with an MVP.  If the software developer or company suggests building a full-blown software solution, be careful.  They are probably trying to maximize their own time and profit, rather than prioritizing your needs
  • Do they bring any new ideas to the table? It’s pretty standard to get generic proposal templates when trying to hire a software developer or company.  If the proposal is vague and doesn’t really sound like the idea you have in mind – take note.  If, on the other hand, you see something in the proposal that shows you the developer or company has been thinking about your idea – that’s a good sign.  You can often get great ideas that you hadn’t thought of when getting bids
  • Are they trying to fit your project into their template? Some companies or developers focus on very specific coding languages or styles (e.g. only making iPhone apps).  If a proposal is pushing you in a specific technical direction that doesn’t seem to make sense, think twice.  They might be trying to make your project fit what they like to do.  As an example you may want to build a mobile app but the developer recommends a web application instead.  This may be because they have better profit margins on those projects – making it about their interests, not yours

Communication is important

Software developers are not notorious for being great person-to-person communicators.  Software development is a very technical profession, and the skills required for coding and programming don’t always overlap with verbal communication.  Here is an interesting article by a developer about this.

In software you design every single step in minute detail.  You can’t assume a step will happen if it isn’t written in the plan.  So, if you want something in your software you need to specifically note that you want it, rather than just assuming it will naturally be added by the developer.  Let’s use a registration form to show what I mean.  You want users to sign up by giving you their name, email, and creating a password.  If you tell this to a developer, they will build that, and just that.  You may be surprised to see, upon completion, that there is no ‘forgot password’ option for users.  If it wasn’t in the plan, it won’t be in the final product –and don’t assume that the developer will proactively put it in.  It’s up to you to clearly define the project.  A good developer or company will communicate this well and make sure you are happy with the plan.

Project management and software development are two different skill sets.  If you find a developer or company that really understands your needs, and seems to be proactive, that’s a great sign.  Generally, you want to feel like you and the developer or company see eye-to-eye, have clarity on expectations, and that communicating with them throughout a development project won’t feel like pulling teeth.

The last thing you want to do is hire a developer or company that will be hard to communicate with.  We pride ourselves on having dedicated project managers for each client and a 24 hour response window for all inquiries.  We will work hard to understand expectations and needs, and communicate those to the developers.  We’ll think about your project and needs and present new ideas.  We look at this as a partnership.  We bring technical expertise to your vision.  With YourCTO you never have surprises or missed steps because of poor communication.

Drop us a line for a free consultation today!

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