Everybody wants them on their teams.
I’m not talking about the ones on the radio or in the headlines. These are the technical rock stars. The geniuses that live and breathe everything that will take your startup to the next level.
They engineer that can take what you are thinking and make it a reality in record time. The developer who can optimize everything you’ve ever had built, making it twice as fast at half the price.
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Let’s be clear: You need a rock star on your team. At least one. They will be able to do exactly what you need them to do and likely a bit more and to top it off, they will be a perfect fit on your team. During my tenure in tech and engineering leadership, I’ve hired one or two rock stars. That’s actually a lie -- I’ve hired dozens. This took a painful amount of trial and error and more wasted time than I care to admit. Thankfully, I am an engineer at heart so I boiled it down to six simple steps that gets me the technical talent I need every single time without wasting four hours every day interviewing the wrong developers.
1. Be honest and up front in the job description.
Be as specific as possible in what you are looking for, what the short and long term fit was, what skills you want and what skills you don’t. This will help you get much more relevant resumes in your inbox. Since your job description describes exactly what you want and what you don’t, you can now review resumes in record time. If you aren’t getting a steady stream of candidates that fit your job description, you should be working with a high quality recruiter.
2. Have a technical phone screen.
Google around for some relevant questions to ask to make sure that applicants aren’t totally fooling you on their resume. Make sure that they are reasonable questions and make sure you have a list of what you want to hear and what you don’t want to hear. That will make this step go much smoother.
3. Require a test project.
If it is for a contractor, pay for a small project. If you are looking for a full time developer, this is part of the pipeline and they have to pass it to get through to the interview. Put a time limit on it and be firm. The project can be irrelevant to your company and I always make mine ambiguous in what the end result should be so I can see if what they call “done” matches what I call “done.”
Do not skip this step.
I can’t stress this enough. This is where you and your team can see inside a candidates thinking process, see their best practices and standards and see how they solve open ended problems.
Some developers will absolutely resent you for this, but in todays competitive marketplace, it’s an absolute necessity.
I’ve had a developer actually tell me that they don’t trust a company that skips a test project for new hires.
Guess what? They’re a rock star developer. And I trust him.
4. Tech whiteboard questions.
Write up relevant whiteboard questions ask the developer to solve on the fly in person or a video chat. If you aren’t technically inclined, have your tech friends (or, Google) list out some questions, acceptable answers and red flags.
The goal here is to see how they think on the spot and get a good sense of strengths and weaknesses, not to trick anyone into solving brain teasers.
Do they understand the languages you are using?
Do they know specific design patterns that your team uses?
A bonus is you gain real certainty that they know what the hell they’re talking about.
5. Face to face interview.
This can be in person in a video chat depending on the circumstances. This should be immediately after the white board session to keep the candidate engaged and into what you’re doing. At the end of this interview, you will be able to get a solid impression of them and sell the position after you know you like them.
6. Team debrief.
This should include everyone on your team that interviewed the developer. If you’re the lone wolf interviewing, get a mentor, consultant or coach to help you out. The debrief should take place immediately after the interview concludes so you can decide and make an offer or move on to the next developer within a few minutes of them leaving.
At the end of this process, you can have an offer out to a rock star developer within 15 minutes of them leaving the interview. You will have full incite into what they are good at, what they are bad at, how they communicate and how they solve problems in real time. You can have full confidence when you make the hire and, by the end of the interview process, the developer is super invested in your company and is truly excited to play a part in it since you obviously care who they will be working with in the future.
Now get out there and hire the rock star you deserve.