The Non-Developer’s Guide to Hiring Software Engineers (Security Perspective)

As a non-developer, trying to figure out what makes a good software engineer can be overwhelming especially the security. For all too many companies, it’s not until after a breach has occurred that web security becomes a priority. Even if you know what you’re looking for, you might not know how to go about getting the best engineer for your project. Thankfully, there are a couple of easy steps that will up your odds of finding a good fit. While these aren’t hard and fast rules, they’re solid guidelines that will seriously increase your odds of finding a great engineer to build your software.Learn about development. You should have a basic idea of what’s involved in software engineering, or at least as it pertains to your project. If you’re looking for someone to build a webpage, you don’t need to know much about app development, but you should have a basic understanding of server- and client-side systems, and know what databases you’re going to want to connect to what servers. The information is all over the internet, and it won’t take more than an hour or two to get a better understanding than 99% of the population, but if you don’t take the time to do this, you’ll never quite be sure whether you’re hiring the right developer.

Know what you need. What’s your company trying to accomplish? You need to set out your software development goals before looking for a developer, or you’ll be stuck with someone ill suited for the job. Just because someone is a software engineer doesn’t mean that they’ll have any idea how to handle your project. Be clear about your expectations, and see whether your developer is a good fit for the job.

Use a good hiring website. Odds are, you don’t know many software engineers. In fact, you probably don’t know any. Your best bet for finding a solid developer is to use an online hiring system that will pair your project with a developer capable of carrying it out. If you’re looking for something and need it fast, check out Guru or Freelancer, two basic sites that facilitate freelancing. The issue with these sites is that they don’t have any verification process aside from customer reviews, so you might get stuck with a developer who’s not as good as they say they are. More advanced websites, like Toptal, offer their own rigorous verification system that dramatically increases your odds of getting a developer who knows what they’re doing.

Don’t rush. With any company, particularly startups, there’s often a lot of pressure to get your all of developers as soon as possible so that you can get started on work. This is not a good idea. Hiring good developers takes time, and should be done one or two developers at a time. If you try to hire an entire team at once, you run the serious risk of hiring several low-quality developers, and by the time you realize it, you’ll be stuck choosing between firing half your team in the middle of a project and keeping a bunch of bad employees. Resist the urge to hire quickly, and instead see how your developers adjust to your company and culture one at a time, so that you can make sure you have the optimal team.

Talent. A superstar developer can learn anything. A bad developer, no matter how closely their skills align with your needs, is pretty much useless. When choosing between two equally skilled developers, it’s best to go with the one who has the skills you need. When it comes down to a bad developer with skills versus a talented developer who doesn’t have the skills you need, go with the latter. A truly talented developer can learn anything quickly, and will always be an asset to your team. Besides, most development skills become outmoded every few years, so whatever skills your team has now won’t be useful pretty soon. It’s best to go with the person who’s going to be able to get ahead of the curve next time.

Check the fit. Many employers initially underestimate the extent to which culture plays a role in how well a developer functions. If you have a great developer who’s used to having zero rules, and your workplace is a fairly rigid, goal-oriented environment, you might find that they’re unable to do their best. Whenever possible, look for engineers whose personality and work habits align with those of your office. Not only will this make it more likely that you’ll mesh well, but it increases the odds of them staying on and will make them work with their teammates more productively.

Ultimately, hiring a developer can be a stressful, difficult process, but once you get the hang of it, it won’t seem as complicated. As long as you know what you’re looking for in a developer, and consider your prospective employee’s talents and personality, you should be able to pick the engineer who’s best for the job.

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