Six things to look for when you hire developers

When you’re looking to hire developers, it’s important that they understand a few basic things. The world of web dev is constantly changing, but there are six omnipresent areas. Finding a candidate with these skills and/or interests will help you bring people on board who will stay current and deliver great results. They are: Interface and User Experience, Security, Performance, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), Technology, and Bug Fixing.

The following list of essential skills for a Web Developer is an abridged and edited version originally posted on Quora by user Ellyse Taylor. As a hiring manager, you can use this list to formulate questions and or assessments that will be valuable for when you hire developers. For the full list of skills for Web Developers, click here.

Interface and User Experience

  • Understand that browsers implement standards inconsistently. Also consider how browsers render your site in different operating systems.
  • Consider how people might use the site other than from the major browsers: cell phones, screen readers and search engines, for example. — Some accessibility info: WAI and Section508, Mobile development:MobiForge.
  • Staging: How to deploy updates without affecting your users.
  • How accessibility requirements affect design standards. There are circumstances where it’s a legal requirement. WAI-ARIA and WCAG 2 are good resources in this area.
  • Ability to design with the motto, “Don’t make me think” in mind.

Example Question: “Tell me about a time you solved a problem with how Internet Explorer rendered your website.”

Security

Example Question: “How does using HTTPS help protect users from getting their personal information stolen when using our site?”

Performance

  • Understand and use HTTP caching properly as well as HTML5 Manifest.
  • Optimise images and how to improve web page load times.
  • The importance of combining/concatenating multiple stylesheets or multiple script files.
  • Comfortable with using tools like YSlow (requires Firefox, Safari, Chrome or Opera). Also, Google page speed.
  • Use CSS Image Sprites for small related images like toolbars (see the “minimise HTTP requests” point)
  • Proper handling of static content (i.e. images, CSS, JavaScript, and generally content that doesn’t need access to cookies).

Example Question: “What’s the value of concatenating stylesheets?”

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Example Question: “Name five tips for making a website SEO friendly.”

Technology

  • Understand HTTP and things like GET, POST, sessions, cookies, and what it means to be “stateless”.
  • Current on W3C specifications and make sure they validate.
  • Understand how JavaScript is processed in the browser.
  • Understand how JavaScript, style sheets, and other resources used by your page are loaded and consider their impact on perceived performance. It is now widely regarded as appropriate to move scripts to the bottom of your pages with exceptions typically being things like analytics apps or HTML5 shims.

Example Question: “Why should we move certain scripts to the bottom of a page?”

Bug Fixing

  • Set up a good error reporting solution.
  • Have a system for handling suggestions and criticisms.
  • Know how to implement Acceptance Testing. Frameworks like Selenium can help.

Example Question: “How do you approach bug tracking? What system do you use to ensure things run smoothly?”

A big part of making the right hire is understanding what you are looking for in that candidate. By understanding the importance of these six things every Web Developer should know, you can help solve the technical abilities side of the equation. Don’t forget the value of cultural fit to round off your quest for the perfect candidate.

Magda Walczak

Magda Walczak is the Chief Customer Officer at Search Party, the world's first marketplace that connects employers, recruiters and job seekers. She's a passionate supporter of animal rights and author of Saylor's Tale, a children's book promoting responsible pet ownership.

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