Hiring a developer is about more than writing good code–that’s certainly important, but soft skills play a critical role too, and a resume usually doesn’t convey a person’s personality.
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At least, that’s the way Aleksandr Volodarsky, co-founder and CEO of Lemon.io, a freelance platform for hiring developers, sees it. Volodarksy advocates for what he calls the “Falafel Test,” an informal, half-hour meeting between the recruiter and the candidate, either virtually or in person, where code is not discussed.
“Startups tend to put the cart in front of the horse when hiring developers—but the Falafel Test keeps the cart right where it’s supposed to be: Safely behind the horse,” Volodarsky wrote.
A recruiter can learn a lot about the candidate in that half hour, including any side projects they might be involved in or games they’ve written. These “are often a window into a developer’s willingness to take initiative,” Volodarsky said. Learning what a developer does in their spare time can also provide great insight into their personality, he said. “Hiring great coders is important, but you also want to collaborate with interesting people, too.”
When it comes to hiring freelance developers it’s important that they understand both the code and the nuances of the business they’re contracting for, and this will come through in that conversation over a falafel, or the like, he said.
What developers say
Of course, developers are highly in demand and generally have their pick of jobs.
Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Survey of 65,000 global developers released in February found that 32% of developers are very satisfied with their jobs while nearly 31% reported being slightly satisfied. Nearly 55% of US developers said they were not actively looking for a job but were open to new opportunities.
Nearly 22% of academic researcher respondents were looking for a job, followed by 20.5% of data scientists or machine learning specialists, closely followed (20%) by data or business analysts and designers (nearly 20%).
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In terms of motivating factors, not surprisingly, an overwhelming 70% said they were looking for better compensation, while 58.5% said they want to work with new technologies, and 57% said they were curious about other opportunities.
Close to 70% of respondents said they learn about a company during a job hunt by turning to reviews on third-party sites such as Glassdoor and Blind. However, a large number also said they learned from viewing company-sponsored media, such as blogs and company culture videos. Interestingly, only a small number said they seek publicly available financial information, such as data from Crunchbase, which is consistent with respondents noting that company financial performance and fundraising are not a very important factor when deciding to take a job, according to the survey.
Overall, the languages and technologies that the developer would be working with was cited as most important, followed by the office environment or company culture, and flexibility of schedule. The least-important factors were the financial performance of the organization (11%), the specific team they would be working on (11%), and the diversity of the organization (nearly 7%).
A more traditional way of hiring
Stack Overflow takes a more methodical approach to hiring developers starting with a resume review, followed by an initial phone screening “to check and expand on how the candidate emulates our target qualities and to set expectations about the rest of the interview process.”
Then all candidates are given a 30-minute code screen with an engineer on the team–and no falafel. This serves to “establish whether or not the candidate can actually code. If there is any doubt on the part of the interviewer, the candidate is turned down.”
If candidates pass the initial screen and the code screen, they move on to three full interviews that focus on a candidate’s technical depth; their ability to build something end to end; and project management and developer relationships.
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Along the way, Stack Overflow said its recruiting approach includes transparency in what to expect in the hiring process; full team involvement managed by conducting interviews remotely and an emphasis on brand identity and ensuring the company is a great place to work.
A candidate’s location is not important, Stack Overflow said. “We believe in hiring smart people and empowering them to get the job done,” the company said.
The way Lemon.io’s Volodarsky sees it, “Hiring a developer based on their resume alone is like buying a car without taking it for a test drive. Both decisions require you to consider nuances that simply can’t be accounted for without a real-life interaction.”
And, he added, “It just goes to show: A falafel can be the difference between a successful startup launch and a web development nightmare.”