How Development Companies Can Hire the Best Staff
For many development companies, the hiring process is the single biggest challenge they’ve faced. Getting someone with the right skills who fits into your company culture can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.
Sep 2020 - 4 minutes read
Plus, if you don’t choose the right person, it can cost your company thousands of dollars. The U.S. Department of Labor recently estimated the cost of a bad hire to be 30% of their yearly salary, while Swedish recruiter and hiring guru Jörgen Sundberg puts the cost at an astronomical $240,000.
While Sundberg’s data might be more biased towards the executive track, the truth is not knowing how to hire will cost your company money – in lost salary, training time, hiring time, and so much more. It’s also frustrating for your existing staff, who took time away from their own work to train someone who ultimately won’t be continuing with the company.
Today, we’ll talk about why hires fail, and what development companies can do to refine their hiring process to ensure they hire the right staff.
Why Hires Fail
There are plenty of reasons why hires fail. Most of the time, the two main culprits are understanding or communication, which primarily manifests in two ways.
A lack of understanding about the responsibilities of the job in question. If the individuals responsible for hiring can’t understand the requirements of the job, how can they possibly communicate them to a new applicant?
Poor communication with candidates about company and job-related expectations. If the applicants don’t understand the culture, responsibilities, or tasks of the job in question, they won’t know how to position their own experience and skills.
Many companies also make the mistake of segregating hiring away from the rest of their staff. If your company has grown enough to have an HR department or hiring manager, it’s tempting to leave it entirely up to them. However, it helps to involve at least a few members of your team. Their input on both the applicants and the process itself can be invaluable.
How to Hire the Best Developers
So, how can you create a hiring process that brings in the best possible talent? There are a few steps that will help you get there.
Understand the Position
You would never hire a new staff member for a key position based on a coin toss. Leaving something this important up to chance would be unthinkable. However, when you start the hiring process without a good understanding of the position, that’s exactly what you’re doing. If you do manage to find someone who ends up fitting in, well, you just got really lucky.
Before you even think about the hiring process, you need a good understanding of the job responsibilities, as well as what skills are required to carry them out. Don’t be afraid to survey the position’s manager, as well as staff members who will be the new hire’s peers or even subordinates. Often, superiors and subordinates have a much different understanding of the responsibilities of the job.
Understand Your Company
Having a clear understanding of your company’s culture is key to hiring the right developer. Unfortunately, many bad hires are made because the person doing the hiring has a very idealized understanding of the company’s culture.
It isn’t enough to tout your fully stocked kitchen or ping-pong table. To attract the right applicants and hire the best staff, the hiring manager should understand the nuances of how the company runs. This includes everything from how feedback is communicated to whether there are regular all-hands meetings.
There are tons of ways to initiate the hiring process, but most of the time it involves posting the job both internally and externally. Posting the job internally encourages staff members to apply if it’s a promotion, and to send it to friends and peers who may be a good fit. Hiring based on personal recommendations is great because typically the applicant already has a good understanding of how the company works.
When combined with a thorough hiring process, getting recommendations from current staff members can work well. However, hiring too many friends can lead to a workplace without much diversity of identity or opinion. Careful vetting combined with honest recommendations can help simplify the process.
Many development companies find it difficult to narrow down a list of candidates when they post on mainstream job sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or Workopolis. These sites are designed to make it easy for applicants, which means that your hiring manager will likely have to sort through hundreds if not thousands of applications to pull out the serious candidates.
Instead of relying on larger job sites, try posting in untraditional places where great developers tend to hand out. This can include everything from GitHub and SourceForge to private developer Discord channels. It may take a bit more effort to get the job out there, but you’re guaranteed to find more suitable applicants.
Create a Collaborative Hiring Process
When your staff are involved in the process from the beginning, it’s a lot easier to find a new hire that will integrate into the company well. Also called team-based hiring, this approach includes people in various positions, from executives down to future subordinates. It’s ideal to have people who will be both above and below the new hire in terms of hierarchy.
Getting a variety of input early on helps to ensure you hire the right team member, and it also helps keep current staff engaged. Taking their opinion into account on big projects like hiring is a huge vote of confidence and will make staff feel valued.
Balance Soft Skills with Technical Acumen
When you’re hiring a developer, you need to make sure they have the skills necessary to do the work. There are lots of ways that hiring managers can evaluate this. Time-based programming challenges are a regular part of the development hiring process, or you can use a third-party online testing service which creates and administers this test for you.
It’s not uncommon for development companies to place a huge amount of weight on testing the applicant’s programming skills. However, make sure you have a good understanding of the candidate’s soft skills before extending an offer. Otherwise, you may come to realize that they’re a good developer, but are completely unable to work in a group setting, or incorporate constructive feedback.
Everyone has a different approach to evaluating soft skills, but one reliable way is to offer the candidate constructive feedback during an interview. They can tout their patience and interpersonal skills by providing past examples, but if they’re unable to display those characteristics in the moment, you should take that into account.
Is Your Development Company Ready to Hire?
Putting together the right development team takes a lot of work, and should always be looked at as a journey, not a destination. The more care and attention you devote to your hiring process, the better it will pay off for you.
With some of our tips, and a thoughtful understanding of your own needs, you should be able to refine your process until it delivers the best possible candidates for your team.