What makes a great developer? That’s a vital question for recruiters and HR staffers, who need to find the best in order to ensure their companies succeed at building excellent new products.
As any experienced recruiter will tell you, it’s not just a matter of a developer possessing technical aptitude and experience in building platforms; given the collaboration that takes place within teams, a great developer also possesses a full toolkit of “soft skills.” Here’s what to look for:
An Aptitude for Learning
Technology-wise, what’s cutting-edge today is liable to become an antique within a matter of years, if not months. With that in mind, developers need to constantly evolve, picking up new languages and technologies as they appear, and keeping up with the latest developments for platforms they already know well.
When recruiting, look for those developers who spend a lot of time hanging around forums such as GitHub, and who constantly ask questions of their colleagues. If they confess to a long history of experimenting with new platforms, it’s likely they’ll be able to keep up with the evolving demands of whatever company they work for.
Strong developers boast wide-ranging knowledge of everything from servers and desktop clients to mobile devices. They know Agile methodology, and how to problem-shoot significant issues.
Are you on the hunt for a game designer? Seek out pros with not only a firm grasp of C++, but also knowledge of UX, modeling, AI, and other vital elements of building games.
Although the mobile world has become more fragmented over the years, skilled developers know Objective-C and Swift (for iOS), Java (for Android), C, and C++. They should also have a handle on e-commerce and Web marketing.
Companies need software made as perfectly as possible under their deadlines. While developers don’t need to necessarily have a background in quality assurance (QA), they should know how to solve problems quickly, especially within teams.
Soft skills include communication, engagement, flexibility, efficiency, and the ability to observe your surroundings in a way that yields actionable insight. Since developers need to deal with colleagues on a regular basis, they will require all those attributes to succeed. Asking questions about how they dealt with personnel issues, and how they ably collaborated with colleagues, are good ways to judge the condition of their soft skills.
The mark of a good developer isn’t necessarily extensive knowledge of a variety of technologies and platforms. A strong sense of curiosity and a willingness to learn are sure signs that a developer can succeed in a new environment.
Nick Kolakowski has written for The Washington Post, Slashdot, eWeek, McSweeney's, Thrillist, WebMD, Trader Monthly, and other venues. He's also the author of "A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps" and "Maxine Unleashes Doomsday," a pair of noir thrillers.
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