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14 things to look for when you want to hire a programmer

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Hire a programmer

To hire a programmer you need to know what to look out for in a new team member. Maybe you are sick and tired of recruiting programmers who fail you over and over?

You need to make sure you hire programmers who not only know their programming languages but who have a variety of other crucial skills to bring to the job. So, what makes a good programmer, apart from technical skills?

Here are 14 things you should take into consideration when looking to hire programmers.


Walt Disney once said ‘We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.’ Remember these words when searching for tech talent. Computer programmers never accept things as they are and always strive to find the best solutions and new ways of solving problems. Programmers without this mentality often don’t move forward. Are your candidates curious? Do they ask questions?

Attention to detail

When hiring programmers try to see how good they are at paying attention to as many details as possible. This will often reflect their overall performance. To be truly skilled in programming languages and software development, detail is crucial.

Clear thinking skills

Being a computer programmer is connected to logic. So, a programmer’s strong, clear thinking skills are of key importance. You can measure this by performing a logic questions test. Alternatively, DevSkiller TalentScore coding tests are perfect for testing actual software development skills when looking to hire developers.

Ability to plan

Experienced programmers have the ability to plan their actions after analyzing a new assignment. Asking candidates to explain their approach to a new task is a way of checking this ability. Ask them how they planned for successful projects they have worked on. See if they have shown project management skills. Particularly for freelance programmers, they will most likely have worked on a variety of programming projects, it’s worth finding out about the planning of each project.

Respect for deadlines

Being on time should be a priority for your programmers. Projects they are working on will need to have deadlines to make sure your business is on track. Ask your candidate to describe a situation when they were faced with a deadline.

Programmers who have worked for large companies, or even for small businesses with ambition, should be familiar with working to a deadline.

Read – 45 software developer behavioral questions for non-technical interviews

Top reading speed and comprehension skills

Writing code is just a fraction of the work a programmer does. They also spend a lot of time reading code. Reading is just one of the skills in which your developer should be proficient, and so slow readers can slow down a project. There are also a variety of soft skills software developers need to possess. They need to be approachable and have great listening and comprehension skills to be able to understand what is required of them.

Learning skills

When you are looking to hire developers, don’t underestimate the skill of learning on the job. In his article What Skills Employers Want in a Software Developer: My Conversations with Companies Who Hire Programmers, Matt Weisfeld mentions the words he heard as a young programmer looking for a job, “We don’t hire people for what they know, but what they can learn.”

Good programmers should be aware of any changes to the usual development process and be able to evolve their skills over time. Web developers should know of the latest trends in web design and be aware of what is happening on the best sites. Whether it be learning different programming languages, new skills in your current programming language, or something entirely different, the secret is to have the aptitude to learn. Experienced developers don’t have one single, 30-year career, they have 30 one-year careers.

For you, it is important that your programmer candidate will learn to become better at the job over time.

Perfect programmers always follow the latest trends, they look for new solutions and learning opportunities. They are masters of self-learning. These programmers are relatively easy to find – ask your candidates how they learned a specific skill. Do they read/ follow any programming-related websites, magazines, or books? What do they do to be up-to-date? Their answers will show you their willingness to learn.

What about their degree? Does it matter? In his article This is why you never end up hiring good developers, Laurie Voss writes, ‘engineers write code and ship software; academics prove theories and write proofs of concept. Somebody smart might be able to do both, but it’s by no means a given, or even very strongly correlated.’

Programmers who are aware of their own skill sets

There is no person who knows everything, so software developers who have the ability to accurately measure their own skill sets are an asset. Whether its top freelance developers or the most skilled computer programmer, possessing the self-awareness to know that you don’t know everything is a skill that will continually allow you to develop—in both senses of the word.

Passion & enjoyment

Without passion for a job, there is no motivation to search for new solutions. You need to find out whether programmer candidates are excited by each project they have worked. Do they seem to enjoy their work as a computer programmer? Do they show passion for the programming language they specialize in and do they have the technical expertise to talk about the subject in detail?


In a changing environment such as programming, not being able to adapt or handle change is a major no-no when it comes to trying to hire programmers. A candidate who complains over changing requirements will not be a good team player when it comes to your hiring efforts.

Instead, look for someone who has worked in a variety of situations and possibly even various industries. Try to find programmers who have adapted their role and have shown more than just the basic hard skills it takes to do the job. Tech expertise can only take you so far, after that you need people in your team who can rise to adversity and adapt their working style to fit in with the changing world of modern business.

Ability to handle failure

There are very few programmers who haven’t failed at some point. The ability to handle failure will tell you a lot when trying to hire programmers. Ask them about their failures and how they eventually solved the problems. Some job seekers might be unwilling to talk about their mistakes and try to pass themselves off as the perfect candidate but it actually shows courage to own your failures and try to learn from the past.

Soft skills

Developing software is about more than just the basics. There is more to the job description than simply writing code. Soft skills are a huge part of being able to work well within a team.

Check if your candidates can convey their ideas both accurately and effectively. You can apply the pitching method often used in the world of start-ups. Can your candidates sell themselves in a short presentation? This will demonstrate not only their hard skills to be able to do the job, but their soft skills to be able to talk clearly about the ins and outs of the projects they have worked on.

Teamwork mentality

If candidates speak badly of the manager of their previous software development company or their previous work experiences, they are likely to think too highly of themselves. They may ignore orders, do their own thing and complain. Even if they disagree with somebody, top programmers are able to understand the reasons for a particular decision.

Just ask yourself a really easy question: would your team enjoy working with such a person? Do YOU want to work with such a person?


Yes, laziness. In an article entitled 15 Characteristics of a Good Programmer, John Rampton writes about three good qualities in a good programmer i.e. laziness, impatience and hubris.

A lazy person can come up with perfect time-saving solutions. However, this approach can also have its drawbacks.

Keep in mind that hiring the wrong programmer can set a software development company back by months. It is expensive and wastes a lot of time. Make sure when you screen candidates that you are looking at their skills as a whole.

For further technical hiring tips, we recommend you download the free Devskiller Ebook-

The essential guide to technical hiring success


These are just a selection of the wider traits to look out for when trying to hire a programmer. Although a good combination of skills is what it takes to be a good developer, testing their on-the-job programming skills will always be the most important factor to consider. This is where Developer testing platforms like DevSkiller TalentScore are an invaluable resource for hiring managers.

Learn more about DevSkiller TalentScore

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