A full-stack developer is a valuable addition to any business involved in the design and implementation of web-based applications - or indeed any organisation that develops bespoke solutions for use in its own operations.
Rather than specialising in one particular aspect, they have the skill set required for both front-end and back-end development (i.e. full-stack). This means they can handle the user experience and the operational functionality of any given project. As well as the complete design and build of a website or application, a full-stack developer takes care of maintenance and optimisation, ensuring the entire platform runs seamlessly, whatever its purpose.
Full-stack development is such a diverse discipline, so those that work in it must have an equally diverse range of skills, abilities and behavioural traits. This in turn means that hiring teams have a long list of criteria against which to measure any and all applications for a full-stack development role.
This article highlights the key skills to look for and how to test for them as part of the recruitment process.
What should a full-stack developer be able to do?
A full-stack developer's job role is varied. Not only are they involved in writing quality code for both user and server sides of an application, they're also responsible for API code, seamless integration across front and back end functionality, and effective connectivity with databases.
They should have sound working knowledge of content creation tools and content management systems, and be well versed in digital media. They also need strong teamwork and communication skills, as they'll often work collaboratively with both technical and non-technical departments.
To be more specific, a full-stack developer should be capable of the following:
- Writing high-quality code using back-end programming languages like Ruby and Python
- Developing RESTful web services and APIs
- Using popular frameworks like Angular and Django for increased efficiency
- Monitoring systems for performance and optimising as necessary
- Working with and creating servers and database solutions using languages like SQL and JSON
- Testing and debugging
- Optimising UI and UX design, as well as system functionality on the business side
- Implementing security and scalability measures
- Communicating with project stakeholders
Skills to look for in a full-stack developer
What you need from a full-stack developer will depend on the make-up of your existing team and how you expect any new talent to fit in. For example, if front-end development is their responsibility alone, skills in graphic design will be critical to cover the aesthetics of the user experience - but if you have a dedicated UX team they'll collaborate with, these skills will be less of a priority.
When it comes to must-have skills for any full-stack developer though, focus on:
- Problem-solving: full-stack developers need to take a holistic view of a web application, and understand all its component parts and how they work together. They also need to find ways to improve that connectivity and performance, which takes creative problem-solving.
- Attention to detail: it takes an attentive nature to produce cleanly written code, identify bugs in quick time, and ensure optimum performance.
- Critical analysis: there is never one single solution in web development. It's a full-stack developer's job to explore various possibilities to find the most effective approach, and for that, they must apply critical analysis.
- Communication: this applies in both a written and verbal context. A good full-stack developer will have all the technical know-how, but a great one will be able to share that knowledge and communicate ideas.
Useful abilities for a full-stack developer
On top of a core set of skills, you should also look for abilities that show a candidate has potential beyond their technical competency.
These abilities will separate the average applicant from the exceptional, and include:
- Time management: multitasking is a key part of a full-stack developer's role. They must be able to manage their workload effectively, prioritising between front and back-end tasks to get the job done.
- Creativity: good web development relies on constant innovation, so whoever you employ must bring fresh ideas to the table and be comfortable pushing the boundaries.
- Curiosity: for a full-stack developer, every day should be about learning, both in terms of how an application is used (and how it can be improved), and about how new approaches are driving industry standards.
- Teamwork: it's very rare for full-stack developers to work in isolation, so they must be capable of integrating with various teams.
- Accountability: the best talent will take ownership of their ideas, stand by them in the face of criticism, and be accountable for any mistakes.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a full-stack developer?
Soft skills tests are a valuable recruitment tool. They give you greater insight as to how a candidate is likely to perform in the workplace by testing things like their work ethic, professional judgement and behavioural style.
The soft skills test you might consider for a full-stack developer include:
Teamwork: a teamwork test will help you understand a candidate's strengths and weaknesses in a professional team environment through questions about constructive communication, conflict resolution and negotiation.
Time management: prioritisation of tasks and meeting deadlines are both key for a full-stack developer. A time management test will show you how well they can organise their workload and adapt as needed.
Interpersonal skills: full-stack development typically requires collaboration at some point, and it's a candidate's interpersonal skills that ensure they're able to collaborate effectively.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a full-stack developer?
Technical tests for a full-stack developer should of course look at programming ability, as well as framework and software knowledge as appropriate.
Popular tests include:
For aptitude tests, you should consider:
Error checking: a full-stack developer must be able to maintain concentration and spot errors in quick time.
Verbal reasoning: with this test you're looking at a candidate's ability to interpret new information and their skill for coming to logical conclusions.
Logical reasoning:these tests focus on non-verbal problem-solving skills. Candidates that perform well here are able to understand sequential rules and their effects on a given process.
Our recommended test battery for a full-stack developer
Our recommended test battery when recruiting for a full-stack developer is:
Interpersonal skills: to ensure candidates have the means to communicate and collaborate effectively.
Error checking: for testing their attention to detail.
Logical reasoning: to measure their understanding of pattern-based logic.
Programming tests: the language, framework and software tests relevant to the position.
For more information on hiring a full-stack developer, visit Picked's full-stack developer test page.