Developers · Engineers

How can I test an engineer to make sure they’re a good coder?

Ioannis MSc IT professional

April 12th, 2017

My cofounder and I are looking to bring on a junior developer to help expand a product offering that we haven’t expanded since we had someone build the MVP. The only problem is there are a lot of available developers on freelance sites and we don’t trust the reviews. We know quite a few people who have had quality issues on these sites. Is there a common coding test that we can administer to make sure our candidates are quality developers?

Gabor Nagy Founder / Chief architect at Skyline Robotics

Last updated on April 12th, 2017

Two words: trial period.

If he/she is really junior, he/she probably won't have a portfolio you can look at, so that's really the only way.

Some people may have their own projects though, even if they are young (I sold my first software at 15), so you can look at those.

Steve Owens Startup Expert

April 12th, 2017

Hiring a freelancer when you're not an expert comes down to being lucky - and the odds are not in your favor.

Lots of companies that provide this service - hire one of them.

Richard Giraud President of RGENT Computing Corporation

Last updated on April 12th, 2017

Keep in mind that junior is synonymous with inexperienced. A junior will need a lot of oversight to deliver quality.

Can you interview in person? A simple test, similar in complexity to Fizzbuzz, is a good gatekeeper; if they can't pseudocode that in person, show them the door.

Can you get recommendations from people you trust?

Check references. Then verify that the person giving the reference is the person is who they claim to be by contacting them through other means (e.g., through the company they work for). That way they can't fake references.

Brian Seim Software Entrepreneur & Digital Strategist, making software that works!

April 12th, 2017

The original developer(s) isn't available any more? I usually suggest starting there. I like the sound of Gabor's trial period or even better, pick a small feature you want to add and do a trial project for just that feature with one or more developers who provide a fixed price for that feature and then pay them all and take the one that provided the best communication and relationship along with the product (feature) requested.

There's also a good book out there Don't Hire a Software Developer Until You Read This Book by a friend of mine.

Greg Kostello Crazy, in a good way.

April 13th, 2017

I've hired very skilled engineers from outsourcing companies. Here is what I do: I send the person 10 to 15 questions via Google Doc. 5 questions cover general engineering approaches and then 5 to 10 questions are specific to my domain (javascript, node, AWS, IOS, Android, etc.).

The questions should be able to be answered in one or two short paragraphs and should start from easy to hard. Some of the questions are open-ended like, "React is relatively new. What are the strengths and weaknesses of React today and what do you do to mitigate its shortcomings?" These questions are not meant to be brain teasers; they are designed to demonstrate competence.

I ask them to return their answers in 48 hours, and if they have any questions, please place a comment in the Google Doc, and I will respond quickly. I also remind them I'm looking for one or two paragraph responses, not essays.

Here is what I found: the excellent candidates answer most of the questions quickly, and a number ask clarifying questions. They may spend more time on the last few, harder questions where they revise their answers until they are comfortable. Short paragraph responses can demonstrate to our team how they think and approach problems.

For many engineers, English is not their native language, but they are superb at expressing themselves in written form where they are less self-conscious. Written communication is particularly important for us because Slack/Jira/Github as our primary tools and if they write well in English, then communication can be a very effective.

Igor Klimchenko Cofounder and CEO

April 13th, 2017

Yep, there are many coders who consider themselves as ninjas in web development even in the beginning of a career, but when you see their code standards, the only thought "Oh, horror : )

Richard Giraud is quite right regarding small experience of the juniors.

If you're interested, I can help you with searching a good coder.