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Common pitfalls to avoid when hiring a development team

By Jamie Mercer

Selecting the right members when hiring a development team is a vital piece of the groundwork associated with every software engineering project.

Many factors can dictate the hiring process, so when you finally choose the right candidate, you need to make sure your business has reached the correct decision.

There are many obstacles you’ll need to overcome to hire a dedicated developer that is right for your business and programming team, and when beginning the recruitment process, you should be aware of issues that can arise.  So if you’re looking to add new developers to your roster, or start a new team from the ground up, FRG Technology Consulting has selected some of the most common hiring mistakes and how to avoid them.

Failure to create a hard-hitting job advert

When taking the first steps towards hiring any new members of a development team, creating the right job advert is half the battle.

Attracting the right level of developer talent is crucial in substantial business growth, which, if you’re unable to sustain, can lead to a drop in development productivity.

If you’re new to software engineering or have a project that is tied to a strict deadline, you may rush into hiring a developer that is the wrong fit for your business. It’s a mistake that, although common, managing directors are also guilty of, and something that Will Craig of Leasefetcher advocates you avoid at all costs.

“It wasn’t more than a dozen or so words: Web developer required for new agency. Experience with WordPress essential,” says Craig. “Looking back it was a terrible attempt at a job advert and omitted pretty much every piece of important information.”

To avoid all confusion, and the common hiring mistakes when selecting a new developer, you should set out all requirements, for example, if they need a degree to fulfill the role requirements.

When creating an advert, Craig also advises you state how much experience is necessary, the hard and soft development skills desired to be successful, what projects they will be working on, and if they’ll be working in a specific team.

Failing to set out the above requirements can lead to you hiring the wrong person. You may find candidates applying that are completely unsuitable, as “with under-described positions,” Craig continues, “you tend to get an influx of poorer candidates, and a hemorrhaging of competent ones.”

In making this mistake, exceptional candidates can disregard your advert, so to keep the latest talent coming into your business, creating a strong job advert is a crucial step toward talent acquisition.

Plan against your development team working in silos

When hiring a development team, it’s standard practice for a business to select professionals who specialise in specific languages or techniques. But a common pitfall identified within the process of hiring a developer with unconventional knowledge is the creation of silos within your programming team.

If you’re new to the software development industry, your business may be unfamiliar with silos, but as Luke Morton Director of Made Tech explains, silos are single-discipline teams that are in charge of a single aspect of development.

While each particular area will work effectively, if you form individual teams of backend engineers, a separate group of UI professionals, and yet another team that is in charge of QA then your business could be asking for trouble.

To avoid the creation of silos within your dev team, it will come down to not only determining who is the right fit but also who can perform multiple tasks. So Luke advises you form a modern agile development team that will be multi-disciplined, ultimately meaning they will have all the skills required to develop a feature and deploy it into a live environment.

“This might be a person from each skill, i.e. one backend engineer, one UI engineer and another in charge of QA,” says Luke. “Alternatively, your team members may wear multiple hats, for example at Made Tech we do not have dedicated QA and instead require all of our engineers be responsible for the quality of the features they develop.”

Luke practices this within his own business, and if, for example, a selected feature needs to be sent from one team to another, they have implemented a blocking technique that will allow team members to effectively review each piece of code before moving to the next.

“Blockers represent time delays, but they also increase the risk of communication issues too,” continues Luke. “If every team only works on a single feature at a time and have all the capability to deliver it to end users as soon as they’re ready, the development time drops from the order of months to days.”

If you’re able to put this practice in place, it can lead to increased software production, which should increase revenue for your business.

Avoid a breakdown in developer communication

In every business, communication between every team is vital in helping all processes run smoothly. While it’s true that a development team will need to work efficiently to create, test and deploy projects successfully, isolating them away from the rest of the business is vital mistake you should avoid.

If you remove effective developer communication with the rest of your business, and the higher-ups, when they wish to receive a full project update, it won’t happen.  It’s crucial that all development sprints are completed on time to maintain a healthy relationship between all sides right from the get-go and erase future problems.

But this lack of communication can also go one step further within your business if staff members don’t speak the same language. Those who operate within IT won’t use the same jargon as those who are managers or stakeholders, meaning this barrier that can also cause a business-wide communication breakdown.

Preventing a breakdown of developer communication from happening is vital to successful business growth. To avoid this mistake when hiring the first members of your dev team, it’s crucial that you encourage effective contact between the two sides, and offer regular opportunities for it to occur.

If your business can achieve a common working ground, then, in theory, you should operate a well-oiled machine that successfully manages its software development.

When hiring a development team focus on dedication

When hiring a development team, you’ll face the realisation that software engineers come in all shapes and sizes. Many specialise in particular languages or development frameworks and spend years building the knowledge that allows them to stand out from the crowd during the hiring process.

But when it comes down to selecting the right person for your business, the right skills are only one aspect. For your organisation to succeed, you’ll also need someone with a strong record of consistency, who will stick with the role to learn the ins and outs of your business. This aspect is what David Jackson of FullStack Labs believes is a vital part of the overall hiring process.

“It takes us about six months to get someone fully ramped up on the team,” says David. “So it’s really hard for us when a new hire comes onboard and leaves after just a few months. Its disruptive for the development team, for our clients, and for our company culture.”

To counteract this threat of disruption throughout the recruitment process, David advises you find developers who are willing to commit to being with a company for two years, and don’t have a record of jumping to the newest hot startup every six months.

“We understand that sometimes a job just isn’t the right fit. In this case, it’s better to end things quickly, so we generally don’t mind candidates having one or two short-term roles on their resume,” he continues. “But when someone has worked at ten companies in five years, its a red flag for us.”

Finding the right people to commit to your business can take time, so rushing into the recruitment process is something you should avoid, as taking the time to find the right person can lead to a more effective development team.

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How to find the right members for your agile software team

As a business, finding the right team to complete your development tasks can be difficult, and this process can be made increasingly difficult if you’re a specialised agile software development company.

When creating new software tasks, your business will only be able to place extra pressure on your developer for a specific amount of time, especially if you operate with a smaller development team. But you can add more members to your team, and if you lack the capacity to recruit in-house then these spaces can be filled by remote workers.

To implement remote workers and to avoid recruitment mistakes, Craig Knighton, VP of Operations at Mentormate believes it comes down to finding the right leaders to connect with the host company and the remote workers.

Avoiding this drop in communication is crucial in realising the benefits of an internationally distributed agile software team.  It also allows a business to keep an intimate pulse on progress and challenges faced by remote developers, allowing for a team to reprioritise, trim from scope or pivot directionally.

“There is a natural bent to structure teams within organisations functionally; designers reporting under the same leader, project managers, developers and so on. Many teams assume this same structure translates to working with internationally distributed Agile teams,” says Craig. “While this approach captures the reporting structure, it bears no relation to how work flows during the project or how commitments are conceived and delivered. Internationally distributed teams report more success dividing by functional delivery objectives with the most important goal to group the developers and testers delivering on specific requests. In this way, detailed stories and requirements can be given to the remote team to work on as well.”

When selecting any developer to add to your agile software team, your business should be aware that they like a challenge and you should also recognise that your business is only as strong and satisfied as the people within it.

“When you first approach the move toward Agile software development with your local team, they will likely cling to interesting work and advocate sending the rest to the new team,” continues Craig. “Avoid this. Embracing a mentality of shipping undesirable work abroad only serves to increase attrition rather than boosting the bottom line.”

If your business needs to backfill technical roles, this can be the number one expense incurred for development teams. To avoid making this mistake, you need to know that every member of every team needs the same things — a mix of interesting work and an aerial view of the impact their contributions will make organization-wide.

Select the best developer to hire not the team position

As a business, recruiting new members for your team is about finding the most-lucrative talent to help you achieve your goals of successful growth and expansion.

However, when looking for the right person to fill gaps in your dev team, a common hiring mistake made during the recruitment process is to stick directly to the job specification, meaning that your business can miss out on talented developers because they fail to tick all the boxes.

Luke Hughes, CEO of Origym, provides a prime example and echoes the mistake that when hiring for a new team a business will tend to select those who can work in numerous positions, but they are not exceptional in the only one that could make a difference.

“Think of it like a sports team having players who are quite good at all positions; the team would fail instantly,” says Luke. “You want individuals that are better than you at one or two aspects but are not just good at it, they are brilliant.”

If your business is creating a new team entirely from scratch, you may have limited experience when it comes to development languages and technology. To combat this issue and help with your recruitment process, Luke also advises that you “learn, research or ask for help to create a holistic understanding of the role you’re trying to hire for.”

Gaining more direct knowledge about the role your business is searching for should give you a deeper insight into the candidate talent pool, and will prevent the threat of them slipping through the net.

If you’re able to land a developer who can help your business grow and thrive, while providing a valuable contribution, they will increase business productivity compared to those who have that little extra coding experience under their belt.

Hiring a web developer: choose the right development team lead

Any business needs a strong leader to rally their troops, and when choosing the right person to manage your team of developers, an element to avoid is to hire a development team leader who has a blinkered approach to development.

As a business, if you’re developing products for clients or you’re creating new software to be used in-house, the focus should be on creating the best product possible. It should be a red flag if your development team lead demonstrates an attitude throughout the development process that doesn’t match your business visions or expectations.

To exceed the expectations set out by clients, Mike D. Kail of security platform Cybric advises that a strong leader should be the first component of your dev team, as they can lay out the vision of the team and technology roadmap and keep all the team on the proper course.

When choosing the right person for your team, it will come down to discovering who can delve deep into your development project and understand the complete ins and outs of a project, the tools your software engineering team needs to perform all the tasks efficiently, and the ability to communicate with the shareholders effectively.

For example, if they fail to visualise the technological roadmap that will cover the entire vision of a project, then they’ll lack the ability to keep a team on track, it could lead to disastrous consequences for your business.

Ultimately, finding the right members to add to your development team can come down to a host of unique factors associated with each individual role. Avoiding some of the key mistakes above can aid your recruitment process and allow you to find members who are a cultural fit for your entire team.

Are you looking to add new developers to your team? Our free Candidate Search tool allows you to create a personal shortlist and find the best talent in the developer market.

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