Finding a developer you can trust

Finding a developer you can trust

First, make sure you're ready

Before you start looking for a developer you need to be sure you know what kind to look for in the first place. You also need to be sure that you've addressed any internal problems that will prevent developers from wanting to work for you. If you're looking for a technical cofounder, you should be ready to make tradeoffs.

A quick note about platforms

Many people ask where the best place to find "good developers" is as if developers are some kind of underground oil reserve. If only they could find it they'll be shipping features and landing customers in no time.

The truth is, though, that there is no magical pool of talent and finding a developer you can trust is hard work. My recommendation is to look everywhere for developers, just like you look everywhere for customers. Keep your evaluation criteria consistent and you'll find the right person eventually.

Evaluate the soft skills

A common pitfall when hiring developers is to focus entirely on technical skillset. While it's important that developers have relevant experience, knowledge, and the ability to execute, their communication and collaboration skills are of equal importance. For most developers the quality of these skills is directly proportional to their experience level — and thus their rate.

It may be painful to pay a high rate, but think about it this way: which would you prefer? A developer who asks the wrong questions (or worse, none at all) and spends 3 hours building the wrong thing poorly or a developer who asks the right questions and spends 1 hour building the right thing well?

Some sort of balance, then, is what you should be looking for. Here are a few signs of a developer with strong soft skills:

1. They look at problems holistically, eg. understanding business need rather than only technicals
2. They think before they ask questions and synthesize your answers back at you to show their understanding
3. They create a paper trail for everything and have an affinity for documentation
4. They push back against requirements and challenge assumptions respectfully
5. They are adept at expressing technical ideas in plain English
6. They change the level of technical detail in their communications based on the technical knowledge of their audience

Your goal is to find a developer with as many of the above traits as possible. If that developer's rate is too high then simply buy fewer hours.

Start small, then hire

By now you're probably wondering: what do soft skills have to do with trust? They aren't an indicator of trust, but they are a critical filter to put candidates through before you hire them. Trust is built over time, so you need another filter.

The second critical filter is to simply have the candidate start working for you. Before they quit their current job, give them a small, real project to work on and pay them for their time. Give them good requirements, multiple opportunities to ask questions, and ample time to complete the project.

As with any meaningful project, this may take awhile. That's okay! Since you have them working on something that's useful to your business and they're getting paid everything is fine. Once the project is complete you'll have all the information you need to make the decision to hire them, stop working together, or keep them on as a part-time contractor.

Need help finding a developer you can trust?

I can help, and I don't charge the huge fees that recruiters do. I provide full stack development, hiring, management, and coaching services for startups. Click here to learn more, or schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

Questions or comments? Drop me a line at me@jeremyphelps.com or tweet me @remyphelps.