Hiring developersAugust 28, 2007
I just finished Smart & Gets Things Done, Joel Spolsky's book on how to find and hire the best technical talent. I've been reading Joel on Software for years and have always enjoyed his perspective on development. This book is very short, easy to read, and a good collection of what you need to know.
The book includes a lot of different ideas, but here are the three that stand out for me.
1. The best developers do not submit resumes, you have to find them. A truly great developer will be hired by the first company that recognizes his or her talent and from that point on will be able to choose where to work. Your best hope is to find them (through blogs, conferences, books, open source projects, and word of mouth), befriend them, and convince them to join you by presenting incredibly challenging, high-impact projects, brilliant co-workers, freedom, and a terrific environment. Money is rarely the deciding factor.
2. Invest in interns. Since finding the best developers can be very difficult, develop a top-notch intern program to attract excellent college students. Treat them well, involve them in critical work, and spend the summer evaluating whether they'd be a good long-term fit. If you both agree, you have a great new hire in a year or two. Joel's company, Fog Creek Software, is famous for its internships. There's even a movie!
3. Treat them well. Once you have top talent, provide with anything that makes them more productive, and therefore better able to accomplish great things for your organization. We're not talking about perks or indulgences. Things like a quiet work environment with extremely limited interruptions (ideally a private office), a chair that makes it relatively painless to write code for 8-10 hours a day, multiple monitors and the right hardware and software tools. It is in your best interest for them to be insanely productive and to want to stay for a long time. These things are a small price to pay for that.
I definitely recommend the book, though it can feel a little thrown together toward the end. Don't read it without reading Getting Real by 37signals, though. In addition to endless insights on the development process and running a company, there is an outstanding chapter dedicated to staffing.
There is some overlap between the two approaches, but I find myself drawn to the 37signals perspective much more as it is focused on small teams where each person needs a variety of skills. Smart & Gets Things Done can apply to almost any technical position, but its heart is hiring hardcore software developers, not web developers and designers.