When it comes to software development, having the right processes in place is essential, but they won’t get the work done unless you have some real talent to get it done. However, hiring the right people for your team is a very real challenge for everyone in the industry, since the qualities you should be focusing on during the hiring process are far from obvious.
Every year, we at Coding Sans do a survey called the State of Software Development. In this survey, we ask tech companies what they are looking for in a software developer when hiring. This time, we are taking the teams that are most satisfied with the work they get done, and we will see the top five qualities they prioritize when scouting for talent.
Before we get into it, let’s see some of the things that didn’t make the top 5 list.
Most interesting is that having a college degree not only didn’t make it into the top 5, but it’s so far down the list that it needed four times the number of votes it received in order for it to get close to the top choices. Certifications are only pulling slightly less weight, showing that a degree may be an advantage, but at this point, it’s far from being a necessary requirement.
Side projects and test projects are a lot closer to the top 5. This makes sense, as side projects can indicate certain technical expertise, while the whole point of a test project is to show if an applicant is familiar with certain technologies. The latter could have easily made it further up the list; the most likely reason it didn’t, is that only so many companies actually use test projects during the review process.
So, let’s get down to the top 5!
1. Willingness to learn
The #1 of all requirements from a software developer is having a willingness to learn. It’s absolutely essential in the tech field, as technologies are constantly evolving, and new ones emerge while others fade away all the time. The best programmers aren’t always the ones who know everything, but they are the ones who are willing to learn anything necessary. This is especially true when you are hiring developers for exotic technologies, as we recently learned during an interview.
A good way to prove this is to see if an applicant has other hobbies, as this may indicate an innate thirst for knowledge in different fields, which translates very well to software development. Asking for the blogs the candidate reads and the conference she visits are also a good starting point here.
2. Work experience
Work experience only made it into #2, but it’s still a crucial aspect, and the reason is rather self-explanatory. An obvious indicator of a person being fit for a job is the work they have done before. It gives insight into their technical background far better than a degree would, and their past projects may also indicate how well they work with others and in teams.
It’s also important to note not to put too much emphasis on it, as that may lose you an opportunity to hire a developer who may turn out to be great. Still, work experience is very useful to look at in general.
3. Cultural fit
Being a good cultural fit actually beat out many technical evaluation points and made it to #3. Cultural fitness, however, is not exactly a tangible thing, and applicants tend to aim to put their best foot forward in an interview process, which may distort the result of reviewing for it in either way.
It’s key to make your company’s core values clear early in the interview, and asking applicants what they found attractive in your company could give you some useful hints in what they’re looking for and if they were a good addition to your team.
4. Technical skill evaluation (tests)
When hiring software developers, a technical skill evaluation is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It’s as obvious as it gets; the only surprise is that three other requirements pulled ahead of it. It’s key to be clear on the level of technical skills an applicant has, so this type of testing is basically a given.
However, the tests should be put together carefully and weighed properly, as they might not show the full picture either. It’s useful to have an existing developer do the test first, so you have a baseline to compare the applicants to.
5. Soft skills
Soft skills include all kinds of non-technical skills a person has, some of which may be definitive in whether they can work effectively. This can include communication, teamwork, empathy, or the ability to put everything down and focus on work. These skills are often crucial for developers, and according to our survey in 2019, companies are increasingly interested in them.
To sum it up, as far as developer requirements go, seemingly the most successful developer teams consider the will to learn the absolute most important skill to have, and everything else falls behind by a large margin. Work experience seems to be the most important indicator for technical expertise, and cultural fitness is at #3.
Technical skill evaluations and soft skills are also considered very relevant, while the remaining possible requirements, like a college degree, seem to be second-class citizens right now.
About the author
Gabor Zold is a content marketer at Coding Sans. He loves writing and tech, so he loves his job where he gets to write a lot about tech and management. He also loves metal, working out and lots of geeky and nerdy stuff.