What you should look for when hiring a lead developer

by Heat Recruitment

Hiring your lead developer can be make or break: given the crucial role they will play in shaping the creative output of your business, the recruitment process demands careful consideration. After all, this role is unique in its requirements: as well as the sharp technical knowledge needed to drive innovation, a lead developer must be able to bring out the best in their team and ensure the business is equipped with the right talent to achieve its objectives.

Due to the nature of software development, expertise isn’t as clear-cut as a qualification from a well-renowned university. Often, the best programmers are self-taught – some may have a degree in computer science, but that won’t necessarily mean they will make for the best lead developer for your business.

With this in mind, your search for a superstar software developer should focus on the following key traits:

Technical expertise

Considering the seniority of this role, proven technical ability backed by the right experience is a no brainer: if they are to motivate the development team to deliver the best possible customer experience, professionals in this role must lead by example.

As part of their remit, a lead developer should constantly identify and explore opportunities for product or service improvement; they should be more than comfortable implementing new strategies that draw from their skill and experience. When viewing examples of their work, you should be on the lookout for code that is clean, functional, well commented and effective – one that will set a standard for the rest of the team.

A passion for their profession

The best developers don’t wait for change to come to them – rather, they keep their ear to the ground to get in at the ground floor on the latest tools and techniques the industry has to offer. You can’t train for attitude, and the importance of passion for their craft is not a trait that should be left of your list in your search for the right candidate. Once you have narrowed it down to a shortlist, ask your candidates to send you the code for a project they have created either by themselves or as the lead developer of a team.

In the interview, give them a chance to showcase their passion by asking them to explain the thought process behind the design, how it was used by consumers and the challenges they overcame throughout the project. This should act as a signpost to their enthusiasm and commitment to constant improvement.

Problem-solving and communication

The highly technical nature of the role sees lead developers acting as intermediaries between senior management and the skilled team they manage: as well as explaining the benefit of specific software solutions to key stakeholders, they must be adept in translating business challenges into technical instructions.

The need for strong communication skills should not be overlooked in your search for top talent, but the best candidates in this field should further have a proven track record in problem solving. Within their CV, you should find examples of challenges they’ve tackled and effective solutions they have implemented to subvert a crisis or maximise the value of a service.

Experience in team management

Efficient leaders in software development can motivate their team to go above and beyond in their efforts, exceed expectations and seek ways to improve the product. Masters in the art of delegation, they ensure each developer is equipped with the resources they need to do their job and are the first on the scene when a problem arises. This demands professionals in this position to have a skill-set that transcends technology into the world of talent management: the ability to coach, support and inspire a team will be imperative in the success of the product.

You may not struggle to attract applicants to your job ad but finding high-calibre candidates to lead your development team that strike the balance between strong leadership and proven technical ability won’t be easy.

If you’re looking for a helping hand and access to network of specialist developer talent, get in touch with our dedicated team today.

by Glen Pearse