In this technology-driven age, businesses are now recognising the importance of hiring excellent programmers to help them build effective products and services. However, it's not easy to find the right person for the job. According to ManpowerGroup’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey, 45% of employers say they’re struggling to find the skills they need. The number is even higher for large organisations (250+ employees) with 67% reporting that they have experienced talent shortage.
So how do you find the right talent for your team? Aside from looking for impressive coding skills and work experience, here are some traits that can lead you to your next great programmer.
Attention to detail
One trait that clearly distinguishes a great programmer from the rest is his attention to detail. A programmer who is keen on even the smallest of details can be significantly more productive and efficient than those who aren't.
Although hard to identify, a programmer's attention to detail can be seen in the way he picks up small details like the brand of your shirt, or how your office is set up, or how the other employees go about their tasks. Lack of attention to details can be obvious as well, so keep your eyes open for indicators.
A curious programmer is a great programmer—he/she always digs deeper into things and does not settle with the way they are. There's always a drive to explore other ways to solve problems in a more efficient way.
Fortunately, it can be fairly easy to see a candidate's curiosity during interviews. Ask questions on how they approach new tools or how they solve problems. Curious programmers are eager to learn new tricks or discover new ways to solve old problems.
While it is true that there are programmers who became attracted to the profession because it’s lucrative, there are those who are genuinely passionate about coding. Because of this passion, a great programmer explores new technologies and concepts and strives to pick up new skills, not only because they have to, but because they are enthusiastic about developing their skills as a professional. More often than not, you’ll also see how passionate they are if they have personal projects they are working on.
Adaptability and flexibility
When working on projects, change of tasks and priorities are not uncommon, so you'd want your developers to be able to respond quickly and professionally to these changes. With small-scale changes, a great developer is able to switch their focus to the new priorities easily. With bigger and permanent changes, he/she will be able to understand the new situation and the part he/she will play in it.
During interviews, you can ask your candidates about their experiences on handling changes in their previous jobs. How did they react to these changes? Were they able to deliver what was asked of them?
Good communication skills
Good communication skills do not necessarily mean just good English skills. The communication skills referred to in this trait is the ability of a programmer to convey an idea or a message as effectively as possible. Often, programmers need to communicate with people of different backgrounds—from CEOs to managers, to people who have completely no technical knowledge. A great programmer will be able to communicate his thoughts clearly so that others will be able to understand his point.
How candidates communicate their thoughts during the face-to-face interviews can be an indicator of their communication skills.
A great programmer knows that the technologies are constantly changing and that because of this, he/she needs to continuously update his/her knowledge and skills. There are employers that provide training for their programmers, but you’ll see great programmers make time to learn on their own.
During the interviews, ask questions such as "How did you learn this skill?" or "What resources did you use to learn this?" Candidates who have self-learning skills are going to excel.
Another equally important skill that you should look out for is a programmer's problem-solving skills—it’s the heart of what they do. These skills include the ability to identify the cause of the issue, the ability to determine the most efficient and clear way to solve it, and the determination to do so.
When you conduct whiteboard tests or technical tests, giving real-life problems and situations can help you find great developers better than using textbook questions. During these tests, you get to see a candidate in work: how he approaches a problem and how he works under time pressure.
Grace under pressure
Programming can be a stressful profession, especially during times when deadlines come close and something in the codes still doesn't work. It can be frustrating for some to go over thousands of lines of codes and still not find that one bug.
While some lose themselves against the pressure, great programmers are able to handle even the most stressful situations calmly and are able to continue working.
During interviews, you can ask your candidate to share a time where he was under extreme pressure in his previous job. Was he able to deliver the task? How did he handle the pressure? What was the outcome?
Ability to work in a team
All projects require team effort. When looking to hire a programmer, it's important to look not only at how well he solves problems on his own but also how well he works with a team.
Programmers have their own coding styles, but a great programmer writes codes while taking into consideration others who might work on it later. He writes code that is not specific to his own style; rather, he adapts and follows your existing concepts. Great programmers are also good both in presenting their thoughts during brainstorming and in accepting constructive feedback without taking it personally.
Respect for deadlines
As with all kinds of work, deadlines are important in helping a company achieve its goals. In programming, even the smallest delay can affect a product or service drastically.
While project managers consult their developers when coming up with project deadlines, there will always be external factors which will affect a project's completion rate in one way or another.
There may be small urgent tasks that need to be done first that may take away time from the programmers to complete their project. Great programmers, however, do their best to meet their deadlines, even if it meant putting in extra hours. Great programmers show their commitment to completing the project because they understand the importance of deadlines to the business as a whole.
Ability to handle failure
Failure is unavoidable. No matter how hard a programmer tries, there would be instances when there are bugs and errors in the code. Despite this, a great programmer shows persistence and determination to push through, even if it meant starting over.
During interviews, you can ask candidates, "Have you ever experienced having to start all over on a project? Why? How did you feel about it?" Answers to this question, or similar experiences, will give you an idea of how your a deals with failure.
With the fierce competition for tech talent today, it may not be easy to find programmers who possess most, if not all, of these traits. When you do find great programmers, you have a responsibility to aid them in progressing their career while they help you grow your business. The best business relationships are, after all, reciprocal.
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