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Round Peg, Square Hole: How to Know If a Developer is a Good Fit for Your Team

  scottporad      2011-07-09 09:50:54      1,861    0    0

Over the last few months, we have been recruiting developers, and we’ve started to get a sense for the type of developer who is a good fit for our team.  These attributes probably apply for developers at most web startups, so I wanted to share them with you.

Before I get into it, the most important thing to know is that technical skill is a threshold requirement.  The assumption is that any person who is a fit for our team will have the relevant technical experience to do the job.

Beyond that, here’s what we look for in someone as a good fit…

One of our goals is to create a team of amazing developers, and one of our beliefs is that nobody is the best in the world at something they don’t care about deeply.  So, we look for evidence that the developer is passionate about computers and really loves programming.  Examples of this are things like open source activity, cool side projects, non-mainstream programming languages, etc.  (Any programming experience before college is a good indicator as well.)

Motivation/Self-Directed Worker
As a small company, we don’t have layers and layers of management.  This is great, because it creates a terrific work environment.  However, it also means that even individual contributors need to be able to get a project to completion and can work without being prodded.

We are team of passionate developers that implement the most modern and progressive web and software development practices. We are an Agile/Scrum shop that embraces iterative development, test automation, continuous deployment and DevOps.  That’s not a fit for everyone, so people with that type of experience tend to like it here.

Working at Cheezburger is not like working anywhere else in the world. (Honestly, it’s a little bizarre.) So, we need to find people who understand our culture and we look for evidence that the applicant is either a Cheezburger user, a fan of our sites, knows about our sites or has read the dev blog. Basically, did the applicant write a cover letter specific to us or in some other way show that they care about working at Cheezburger?  Or, are they just blasting out their resume to any company with an open chair?  Instant bonus if their cover letter is written in lolspeak.  (Just kidding.)

Cheezburger is doubly unique: not only do we have our own, special culture, but we’re also a small, startup.  Startups are entirely different beasts than major corporations, and the experience doesn’t always translate.

Consumer-Facing Web Sites
There are as many types of software developement as there are flavors of ice cream, and we happen to work on a specific type: a high-traffic, consumer-facing web site.  Yes, a person who has been working on desktop apps can work on web sites, but the environment is different.  We’ve found that people with previous experience in this environment tend to be better fits.

Great developers love challenges and love working on hard things.  So, we ask this question: have they done anything that other developers would think of as hard?  This doesn’t mean they have to come from a job where they only coded in assembly, but a little bit of assembly experience does improve the code a developer writes even when they are coding in a high-level language.

There is strength in diversity, so we don’t want a team of carbon copy robots who all know the same tricks.  We want a strong fabric of developers who each bring something to the table to make us better as a team.  So, we ask, is the candidate different enough from the other people on the team to help give a broader more open perspective to development? Does this person add experience and capability to our team that we don’t already have? Do they have some skill or experience that helps us round out a weakness?

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