By Jamie Mercer
Mobile development is still a niche concept for a lot of businesses, and in a highly competitive hiring market, knowing how to interview a mobile app developer can go a long way in helping you secure the perfect hire.
The introduction of mobile applications has changed the way businesses operate, allowing companies to connect with their customers in new ways, and deliver great service on the move.
Whether you decide to create an app that runs on iOS, Android or both, you need to produce a tight job spec that reflects your project requirements and your long-term application plans. Hiring the wrong developer can be a costly mistake, so creating a hiring plan will help guide you through the process, and make sure you’re not wasting time on candidates who don’t fit the bill.
But with languages and frameworks continually evolving and moving the goalposts when it comes to developer experience, qualifying candidates and ensuring they meet your requirements can be difficult.
If you’re unsure of the skills to look out for, we’ve put together some top tips on how to interview a mobile developer.
The world of mobile development is still relatively new, and although there are experienced developers working in the sector, during the interview you’ll need to recognise the difference between theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
Hiring a developer who matches your exact needs can be the difference between failure and success, and before drilling down into the specifics of app development, you’ll need to test their basic knowledge of programming.
Developers should have mastered the programming language and development tools they’ll be expected to use in your business. A solid grounding of core skills is just as important as familiarity with the latest tech stack, so first off, ask questions about their overall knowledge.
If you’re still unsure of whether they have a firm grasp of the basics of development then have them take a technical test. This will give you a great deal of insight into the expertise of a developer and whether they’re able to cope under pressure.
Putting together the means to test a developer’s know-how couldn’t be easier. Your business can create tests based on your application or bugs you’ve encountered, and ask the candidate to put together a positive solution.
If you don’t have the means to build technical tests, multiple online tools can assist your hiring manager in discovering whether a person has the necessary skills to create an application that suits your business needs.
The work of a mobile developer won’t stop after they’ve put code into a text editor, so you’ll also need to delve deeper into their knowledge of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) development. You’ll want your app to be different than all the others out there, so ask them to explain how they’ll make this happen.
Both iOS and Android favour different programming languages, and when hiring your next mobile developer, you’ll need to bring in someone who has practical experience with your language of choice.
Mobile programmers often have knowledge of both iOS and Android development, though typically they’ll specialise in one or the other. If you plan to utilise both, make allowances in your hiring strategy; you may be hard pressed to find a candidate who’s master of both, and if you can’t find one, it may be necessary to hire more than one developer.
When looking for a skilled iOS developer, the first major telling point should be their experience of Swift, and how they’ve used the language to code applications successfully.
Usurping Objective-C as the primary programming language used in iOS development, Apple created Swift as a tool for coding applications and other aspects associated with the operating system.
Now the language of choice for many new developers breaking into the mobile sector, if your chosen developer can describe in detail the processes, languages and techniques they used when creating an application, you could be part of the way towards a perfect hire.
Equally important as their proven mastery of Swift, an ideal candidate should be able to confidently discuss and demonstrate expertise in Apple’s core frameworks such as UIKit, CoreData, and Notification Center.
All products were exclusively created by Apple to assist developers who want to work solely with its operating system, and alongside Cocoa Touch, they are a vital part of the remit for any developer looking to make it in the mobile sector.
A further consideration you’ll need to make is their knowledge of UX, and whether they can provide your audience with the right user experience.
Choosing an Android developer for your business is a different prospect to hiring an iOS developer, as there are more language variables you’ll need to consider before making a final decision.
Unlike iOS, Android does not favour one specific programming language. Java, C, and C++ can be used to develop different parts of an application, which will be migrated together before it’s deployed in the app store.
Because Java shares many elements with core Android development, this should be your top priority when questioning a developer.
Not all mobile developers will be up to date with the latest rapid-release version of the language, but if they have a strong working knowledge of the core fundamentals, it should tick some of the boxes during an interview.
Practical knowledge of Android’s SDK and frameworks should also be a key talking point; asking your candidate to provide examples of their experience with Corona or AppsBuilder will give you an insight into their working mindset.
One final thing you should question an Android developer about is their practical experience with Android Studio. An exclusive development environment used to create Android apps, it’s something your perfect hire should be familiar with to hit the ground running.
The world of mobile development is continuously evolving, and although knowledge of languages and frameworks are key parts of a developer’s remit, the ability to learn a new technology is also a key trait.
Many of the languages and frameworks commonly used in mobile development have already undergone significant changes, and with these advancements expected to continue, you’ll need the right people in place to handle the upheaval.
The mobile industry moves so fast that nothing remains static for long, and when bringing in a new developer, their ability to adapt to these new technologies should be a vital part of the decision-making process.
Before implementing any new technology, your business will need to plan accordingly, and a crucial part of that plan should be to hire a developer to cope with the implementation.
This ability to learn quickly and implement new tech should be something you consider before making your next hire. If you want to confirm their willingness to learn, ask them about previous difficulties they’ve faced when picking up new tech.
Every developer should be willing to share their experiences and if you’ve chosen to develop an app focused on AR, it’s a natural to question candidates on their experience with this tech. However, if they have zero practical experience with Apple’s AR Kit or ARCore, ask them to describe an occasion where they’ve been in a similar situation.
But as many business are still behind the curve when it comes to implementing the latest mobile technology, there will be a shortage of developers ready to pick up pieces. Because of this, you’ll find developers who are willing to learn new skills and adapt to your project needs to help your business succeed.
Finding out about a developer’s technical knowledge should be the primary part of the interview, but when it comes down to making your final decision, it’s their practical experience that should have the most bearing on whether you hire them.
A firm grounding in theoretical knowledge of iOS or Android will allow a developer to answer all your interview questions, but if a developer is unable to transfer what they’ve learned into something actionable, they may not be right for you.
Developers will normally showcase their practical experience in a GitHub account, portfolio or they’ll be able to show you their app in the Play or App store. But in the world of mobile development, searching for their previous apps on the App Store, and taking a peek at their downloads statistics is also a good starting point.
While it can be difficult to pinpoint their exact experience from a CV or portfolio, during an interview, you have the chance to ask them about the last project they worked on and how successful it was.
All of the practical experience a developer has will be relevant in some shape or form, so ask them to speak about the frameworks they used, whether it was a hybrid app or for a specific platform, and if it was received well by the audience.
Before you hire a mobile app developer, there is one final test you should have every candidate take to check whether they’ll be suitable for your business.
Many mobile developers will have a portfolio showcasing their skills, but a coding exam is still a great tool to help validate your hiring decision.
However, because mobile development is a very niche area, you may need to call in technical experts to design suitable situations to test a developer’s aptitude. And while this can be an expensive luxury, having as much reassurance of their skills as possible should be a top priority if you are looking to hire a top-class mobile developer.
Taking the time to recruit a developer can be a painstaking process, but if you secure the services of a mobile developer with the extensive development experience, it can speed up your development and allow you to complete tasks more efficiently.
Using a recruiter to search the hard-to-find areas of this niche marketplace can take all of the stress away from the recruitment process. Not only will a specialist recruiter open up a wider talent pool of available candidates, but they will also have the resources to dedicate more time to your search, helping you to secure the perfect hire.
Whichever route you choose to take when hiring your next mobile developer, the final decision should come down to whether they are suitable for your business.
By delving deep into their practical experience, questioning their knowledge of development languages, and finding out their ability to adapt to new tech, you could identify a developer who’ll stick with your business for the long haul.
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