To Have and to Hire: Tips for Hiring Web Developers

Any employer who has tried to hire a web developer recently knows all about the supply-and-demand problem. In today's specialist economy, skilled web developers are needed, but often hard to find.

Companies are applying a wide range of tactics to woo developers – from free cheeseburgers to generous travel stipends. Not surprisingly, the bounty of potential perks has some job seekers applying for roles beyond their abilities, leaving hiring managers to do even more legwork to identify qualified candidates. And with so many tempting employment opportunities available, retention of talented web developers can be a challenge.

How can your company recruit web developers with the right skills and experience for available roles, and convince them to stay for the long term? Here are a few tips:

  • Go where the developers are. Of course you should be using networking sites such as LinkedIn and career websites like to advertise jobs and connect with potential candidates. But don't stop there:
    • Try resources such as to learn where local web developers get together to share best practices for using tools of the trade such as Ruby on Rails or Perl.
    • Consider posting creative advertising in places only a skilled developer is likely to look.
    • Make a point to engage in leading web design and development conferences and workshops; if your company has the budget, look into sponsoring all or part of an event.

Also, look to staffing firms that specialize in placing technology talent. In addition to working with candidates currently available for hire, they might know of web developers who aren't actively seeking a new or full-time job, but would make a move for the right opportunity.

  • Present a clear vision. Don't just focus on a web developer's skills – consider whether that person's attributes and work style will mesh with your corporate culture. Recommendations from team members and trusted business contacts can help you find candidates likely to thrive in your unique work environment. Also, be clear with candidates about your company's mission (particularly if your business is a startup), what your corporate values are, how web assets are important to your firm's success, and what problems you need the web developer solve.
  • Have a developer interview a developer. If you want to hire developers who know what they're doing, put them in front of the experts. An experienced web developer can decipher if a candidate really coded a project, or just played a small part in the development. They'll also be able to discern whether a potential hire has hands-on expertise in .NET or Python, or has only dabbled. If you don't have a team member with the right background to make such an assessment, consider engaging a staffing specialist who will evaluate a candidate's abilities before setting up an interview.
  • Offer good stuff. There's no avoiding it: You have to provide something special to attract great tech talent today. But that doesn't mean your company needs to stock the break room with six different types of exotic coffee or pick up the tab on employees' monthly housekeeping expenses. Generous health benefits, flexible work schedules, wellness programs, remote work arrangements, and competitive compensation are among the perks most highly sought by today's technology professionals. You can be sure that a fun, creative and supportive office environment where work/life balance is emphasized also equals "special" in the minds of many talented web developers.

Don't be too exacting

One reason some companies have difficulty finding qualified web developers is because they're too specific in their requirements. Maybe you need a front-end developer who is proficient in JavaScript and jQuery, but is it absolutely necessary for that person to also possess deep experience in PHP and MySQL? And why hold out for an expert in HTML5 when you've already identified a promising candidate who is a master of Adobe Flash?

Make sure you're clear about "musts" and "nice to haves" when it comes to skills, otherwise, you might prevent an outstanding web developer from applying for the job. Also, be willing to provide training. If a candidate has 80 percent of the skills you'd like to add to your team, and more importantly, the right abilities for immediate projects, can you let that person earn the next 20 percent over time?

A final tip: Consider "auditioning" a web developer on a project basis before hiring full time. This will allow you to observe the person in action in your work environment and evaluate their work firsthand. It's an extra step in the hiring process, but a web developer who truly wants to devote their talents to your organization will appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate their skills.