Hiring software developers is no easy task. Great talent can be difficult to find and even more difficult to assess during the recruitment process. Plus many developers are self-taught, so they lack official qualifications or certifications.
This makes traditional methods of recruitment challenging for teams hiring developers. Resumes and applications do not provide the most efficient or practical way to evaluate candidates.
This article will show what skills and abilities to look for in a software developer, and how you can best test for them during the early stages of pre-employment.
What should a software developer be able to do?
The main tasks of a software developer are to produce quality software through front-end and back-end programming. This often requires working with customers, departments and stakeholders to understand proposals, goals and requirements in order to deliver projects on time.
A software developer must have more than technical skills and the ability to design and develop applications. For example, working with others is a key part of building great products and applications.
Developers also need to be able to work with and communicate with non-technical stakeholders and users to understand their pain points, challenges and business requirements.
A software developer should also be able to problem-solve and analyse information and mathematical problems.
The main day-to-day tasks of a web developer include:
- Designing and developing software
- Writing quality code
- Working within a team (sprint planning and daily stand-ups etc)
- Communicating with key stakeholders
- Testing software performance
- Fixing bugs
Skills to look for in a software developer
When hiring a web developer, it is important to identify the key skills needed to assess their capabilities for producing quality software for the role.
The five core skills to look for in a web developer are:
- Problem-solving skills: software developers may encounter technical issues, so they should be great problem-solvers.
- Logical and analytical: they need to be logical and analytical in their approach
- Attention to detail: a software developer could be working with millions of lines of code, so having strong attention to detail can help them spot errors in code quicker and solve problems.
- Strong communicators: developers must regularly communicate with a range of key stakeholders. This might mean speaking to non-technical people, which is why good communication is needed.
- High-stress tolerance: it can be stressful for software developers when things are going wrong, for example if a service breaks or a bug occurs that is challenging to fix. A high-stress tolerance is useful to identify.
Useful abilities for a software developer
A software developer should be logical, analytical and methodical in their approach to building software. For example, they might tackle problem-solving tasks by analysing the task and choosing the next logical steps to try and solve it.
Design and creativity are two bonus abilities to look for when assessing software developer candidates. Being able to understand the fundamentals of design and what makes the software look professional and appealing is a helpful ability.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a software developer?
Soft skill tests relate to how a potential candidate works, such as work ethic, professional attitude and cultural fit.
The soft skill tests you might consider using to assess a software developer are:
- Time management: developers must deliver features and products based on business requirements and developer roadmaps. This is why good time management to meet deadlines is a critical skill for employers to assess before hiring.
- Accountability: accountability means taking responsibility for when things go wrong. Ownership is a strong quality to have within a developer and could be an indication of a future leader.
- Teamwork: great teamwork skills are important for software developers when building products and services.
Which programming or aptitude tests could I use to hire a software developer?
Programming and aptitude tests are important when hiring a software developer because they will help you assess the technical abilities of candidates as well as the behavioural traits and skills.
Programming tests useful to hire a software developer:
- PHP: an open-source scripting language that is used for building web applications.
- Python: a general-purpose programming language, ideal for integrating systems more effectively.
- C++: used for system programming and embedded, resource-constrained software.
Aptitude tests useful to hire a software developer:
- Error checking: helps assess a software developer's attention to detail when writing code.
- Spatial reasoning: a useful way to test problem-solving skills under pressure.
- Numerical reasoning: a useful way to test maths skills and problem-solving.
- Verbal reasoning: an effective test to assess communication and reasoning skills.
Our recommended test battery for a software developer
There are a number of tests to choose from when hiring a software developer. We recommend selecting the programming languages specific for your role in addition to this test battery.
The top five tests we recommend using on candidates applying to be a software developer are:
- Error checking: developers must be able to spot mistakes in their code when problem-solving and peer-reviewing work.
- Time management: deadlines are critical to product roadmaps, so developers must be good at prioritising and meeting requirements.
- Numerical reasoning: developers often need to solve mathematical problems to deliver quality results.
- Specific programming tests: Software developer roles will have specific programming language requirements. It's important to assess these specific abilities.
For more information about hiring a software developer, check out our page on software developer tests.