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Five skills to look for when hiring a PHP developer

By Jamie Mercer

PHP coding brackets showing parts of the programming language

Whether you’re creating a new web application or updating your operating systems, having a developer on staff with the right PHP skills is vital.

When hiring a web developer, you need to make sure they have the right experience and PHP programming skills to make an impact and help you achieve your business goals.

Almost every website or web application will have a strong team of PHP developers behind it, helping their employer stay one step ahead of the competition.

When you begin your search, you’ll discover a talent pool full of PHP developers with a range of experiences and specialisms, so it’s important you choose the person who meets your requirements.

If you’re struggling to pinpoint the skills you need, we’ve picked out five core skills to look out for on your quest to hire a great PHP developer.

Knowledge and expertise beyond the basics

Developing a web application is no easy task. You’ll need a developer with the PHP skills to get your project up and running. Otherwise, you could be in a for a long uphill struggle.

Your current programming team may include developers who’ve dabbled in PHP and web development languages. But to solve major issues, you’ll need an expert on board with the skills to create, deploy and maintain your app.

When hiring a web developer, you’ll need to ensure their PHP knowledge is on point. But you’ll also need to consider their other expertise, and Hariraj Rathod of Aureate Labs advises you go for someone with bug fixing experience.

The entire hiring process can be complicated, but choosing “a well-versed developer is better than one with only a mastery of the language,” says Rathod.

While this is important, there are other concepts Rathod believes a developer should also have a firm grasp of databases and the methodologies used when integrating PHP with database management systems.

Demonstration of these added skills can be a strong telling point when looking over a CV, but Rathod advises you to consider their knowledge of object-orientated programming concepts (OOPS), before making a decision.

Don’t jump in feet first when hiring a developer—make sure they have the technical knowledge and skill set to match your requirements. This should make them a well-rounded developer and the right person for your business.

Willingness to learn and expand their PHP knowledge

When deploying a new application, developers will need to work together and learn new skills to help a project meet its deadline.

Discovering if a developer fits with your business means looking beyond their current skillset. You’ll want them to grow and stick with your organisation for the long haul, so find out their views on personal development and new training opportunities.

This is something you’ll only learn when you speak to them one on one, and even if their skills and technical experience match your needs, there should be no excuse for them not wanting to improve career opportunities.

By asking the right questions, you may find they’re very self-sufficient when it comes to increasing their skills. This is an essential trait championed by Alex Kosarev of Belitsoft who, when looking to add members to his team, prioritises a developer who’s able to work and learn of their own accord.

“If we’re interviewing a PHP engineer who knows MYSQL, but hasn’t worked with PostgreSQL that we’re using on a project, a self-reliant person would be able to learn with new DB without us holding their hand,” says Alex. “So it’s on these occasions that the technical knowledge they already have will take a backseat.”

The drive to undertake self-directed learning and the ability to work independently are traits that Alex values above any others when looking for a new PHP developer. And luckily, they’re not uncommon in the development community—our recent salary survey found that 82% of respondents used online course to increase their skillset in the workplace.

So if you’re faced with a candidate who is lacking in some hard technical skills, but is a self-starter and has a proactive attitude, Alex advises not to rule them out.

“Our experience shows that a such a person could be the locomotive driving the whole team,” he says. “They’re able to find solutions to the pressing problems while diligently learning the ins and outs of projects to suggest unobvious optimisation methods.”

Placing a priority on a developer’s ability to learn new skills instead of the their experience can help you to source developers that would normally fly under the radar and who can make a bigger impact on your business than someone with a full portfolio of projects.

Adam Prickett of Journolink places a larger emphasis on these qualities during the hiring process and uses these attributes as a measuring tool when interviewing for PHP developers to fill the skills gaps in his team.

“We’ve been prioritising enthusiasm and ability to learn quickly over extensive commercial experience,” says Adam. “We feel that there are many hobby coders out there, who often have better natural ability than some of this in the market, but may need guiding on team working and in-house standards.”

So if a developer isn’t familiar with a bustling development floor, don’t rule them out of becoming your next top-hire. Natural ability and transferable skills can be more beneficial than someone with two pages of experience on their CV who can’t solve the simplest of problems.

Strong work ethic

Pinpoint the technical expertise, and theoretical knowledge of a developer should be an easy part of the hiring process. But before having them commit to your business, you’ll also want to know how they’ll work within your development team.

Work ethic is something you’ll struggle to identify from a CV, so when recruiting, one of the first things Chris O’Leary of Link Right Media advises is to “ask for references and feedback from prior employers.”

To make your project a success, you’ll need a developer who is willing to put in the hours and keep it moving in the right direction; something you’re only likely to discover if you pick up the phone and ask the question to the previous companies listed on their CV.

Having a clear idea of the type of developer you’re bringing on board will also indicate the “other unique things they can bring to the table to make the team better, the gaps this person can fill and what will make them indispensable,” O’Leary continues.

Often hiring a person based on these attributes can lead you to secure someone who would have normally been out of reach, so slow down the interview process and find out all you need to know about a person’s skills and background before making your decision.

Are you struggling to pin down a PHP developer with the right skills and expertise? Here’s what you should be looking for in the CV of your next PHP hire.

Experience with a wide range of PHP apps

Developers shouldn’t be one-trick ponies; you’ll need someone who has experience of a variety of PHP applications and frameworks if they’re to work well in your business.

As a language, PHP isn’t as flexible as Java, so there won’t be a massive variation between the core elements. This means you should be able to hire someone who can cope with all elements of an application.

Mark Emmerson, Team Leader at FRG Technology Consulting, advises that you consider this versatility when recruiting.  “There’s a lot more malleability when you’re looking to secure the services of a PHP developer,” says Mark, “as chances are you’ll find someone who’ll be relevant to all the PHP tasks your business has.”

Larger organisations may have more time to source a person for every small role. However, SMEs often won’t have this luxury, so you’ll need to work fast to source a developer who is more flexible or a PHP generalist before the top talent is snapped up.

“As PHP applications aren’t as scalable as others, they tend to be perfect for smaller businesses.” continues Emmerson. “But it’s in these businesses that everyone has to chip in and do a little bit more when creating applications.”

So to ensure that your next developer meets your business needs, take a look at their wider range of PHP skills and technical know-how to find someone who can cope with everything your application will throw at them.

Easily adaptable to changes in PHP

Keeping on top of the latest applications and language updates is a key part of product development and if you want to introduce the latest tech, hire a person who has the capabilities to handle all these changes.

Programming languages are constantly evolving, and Matt Read, CTO of Green Rabbit Media believes the capacity to acclimatise to new technical elements should be a key skill to watch out for when looking for a new PHP developer.

“When hiring individuals for PHP positions, or any programming language for that matter, the most important component that the candidate needs to demonstrate is the ability to adapt to changes in the underlining technology while still following the core principals of high-quality programming,” says Read.

Keeping this in mind should also help you find a developer who is willing to learn, so they’ll tick both boxes during the recruitment process, and make them more attractive to your hiring managers.

So if you can find a developer who’s willing to go the extra mile, and add a further string to their bow, then your business could have a winning combination.

By taking the time to follow the advice above, you could land yourself a PHP expert who has all the right moves to take your business to the next level.

Looking for the next PHP developer to join your team? Take a look at our candidate search portal. 

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