Hiring Programmers: Skills, Roles and Duties to Look For

Computer programmers provide a valuable service within many types of organizations and industries. These professionals write code, develop and implement software programs and assist in various other tasks related to the technology and software used in the modern workplace. It’s helpful to know about the specific computer programming skills to seek out in a candidate, practices that hiring managers can follow to choose the best candidates and other important information in order to find and hire a computer programmer for your company.


Whether you have a large tech team that needs more members or you aren’t a tech company and are unsure where to look for talented coders, read on to learn more about how to hire a programmer.


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Right from the start: fundamental programming skills to look for

The first step in filling that empty programmer’s seat in your office is to determine exactly what you need in a new recruit. Take a hard look at the scope of your current and upcoming projects, what tools your team will be using and how long you expect to need a programmer, or if you’re looking to fill a permanent position. When hiring programmers, look for candidates who fit your company’s needs and possess skills in the following fundamental areas:


  • Analytics
  • Computer languages
  • Troubleshooting
  • Communication
  • Business sense

Analytical skills

A primary duty of computer programmers is to decipher and analyze complex information and data and translate this into computer code and software that others will use. For example, computer programmers often must understand computer algorithms and use this information to program computer data. Analytical skills are vital for operations such as program creation and data analysis. Additional skills a programmer may need include research abilities, data mining, data interpreting and diagnostics. 


Computer language skills

Computer programmers must fully understand the complex programming languages used in their everyday activities to be successful. You need to find a coder who understands the language your company’s software uses, so check with your tech team to find out what your future programmer needs to know. These are the 11 most common and in-demand computer languages to look for when interviewing potential programmer candidates:


  • Java
  • SQL
  • C++
  • Python
  • PHP
  • Visual Basic
  • Groovy
  • Fortran
  • JavaScript
  • iOS
  • Ruby

Troubleshooting skills

Effective computer programs systematically approach problems in a way that allows them to identify and solve them in a successful and logical manner. Troubleshooting the root cause of computer-related problems and implementing solutions to fix them are primary goals of computer programming. Make sure potential candidates are familiar with programs commonly used for troubleshooting, such as Ping and Netstat, to help you get an idea of their troubleshooting abilities. 


Communication skills

Computer programmers are technical experts who work in languages that most people don’t understand. A good computer programmer can take complicated information and data and communicate it in a way that non-experts can easily interpret. Good communication skills ensure that computer programmers can communicate with each other as well as the company and stakeholders who play a role in a project. Use behavioral interview questions to learn more about a potential recruit’s ability to communicate effectively. 


Business sense

A good computer programmer can see beyond the code they’re developing to the bigger picture of how the program can grow their project or group. Having good business sense allows computer programmers to think past simple code and take into account factors that can contribute to the value of the project.


Programmers with additional education in business and creative arts can provide insights into a project that a lesser-trained employee would miss, so be sure to learn about your recruit’s entire educational and employment history. When you need help finding a versatile programmer for hire, try reaching out to nearby colleges or job fairs for new talent.


What you should know about hiring programmers

As a hiring manager, you may not know every detail that goes into being a computer programmer, especially if you’re not in that profession. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t hire a high-quality computer programmer who’s dedicated to the job. Understanding the basic responsibilities that computer programmers have and gauging this against your interviewee’s skill set and knowledge can help ensure you find the right new recruit for your company.


Common duties of a computer programmer include:


  • Updating computer programs
  • Troubleshooting software and computer programs
  • Coding computer programs
  • Managing computer database systems
  • Assessing and analyzing algorithms
  • Writing programs using various computer languages
  • Debugging software
  • Working with other programmers on new coding projects

In addition to ensuring your new candidate is a coding dynamo, there are other factors you need to consider when testing their competency as a future employee. Good practices for a hiring manager to implement during the interview process include asking questions that test a person’s technical knowledge and behavioral standards. Prescreening can be done to verify a potential employee’s clean background and credit history, school and employment references and Social Security or Workmans’ comp history.


Behavioral interview questions can help you determine if an applicant would act as the type of company representative you’d expect in different situations. Your aim is to get a good picture of their habits and how they perform on the job. The best predictor of future action is the past, so ask new hires questions like:


  • Did you ever face a problem on the job?
  • Have you ever pitched an idea to a member of management?
  • What happened the last time you had a disagreement with a coworker?
  • What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve ever faced at work?
  • Have you ever needed to use creativity to solve a problem at work?

Best practices for hiring a programmer

When you need to hire programmers, it’s important to get a good idea of their technical experience in addition to asking standard interview questions. To find the recruit that best fits your company’s needs, follow these steps when interviewing computer programmers:


  • Outline the scope of your project needs: Whatever your project is, you’ll need to offer your new programmer a deliverable, or prototype, before you can begin. This may mean the bones of your new app, a sitemap for your website or a detailed UX design. This allows you to determine exactly what type of tech talent you’re looking for and pinpoint the computer languages they need to understand. Conduct a technical feasibility survey to determine the staffing requirements for the project.
  • Write an effective job description: Hiring a programmer in-house is most successful when the right candidates are drawn in with a compelling job listing and a clear idea of the role’s responsibilities. The job listing will project your company’s culture and give potential recruits an idea of what to expect from their workplace, as well as a detailed list of expected soft and hard skills.
  • Ask for detailed information about an applicant’s previous computer programming experience: These details should include specific duties, tasks, accomplishments and computer languages they regularly used. Learn their soft skills (clerical skills, software knowledge, etc.) as well as the more specific hard skill set needed for the position, such as SaaS programming, software algorithm design or Android debugging skills.
  • Request work samples if applicable: If a computer programmer has previous experience in the field, there’s a good chance they have a sample of work they’ve coded in the past. This sample will give you a better understanding of their abilities and skill level. A strong candidate should come to the interview prepared with a portfolio of relevant samples or have provided them beforehand.
  • Ask specific computer programming questions: Even if you don’t personally have experience or knowledge of computer programming, you can still ask specific questions related to the job. You can gauge the candidate’s understanding of the question by how confidently and quickly they provide an answer.

    If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions you don’t know the answers to, consider having a currently employed computer programmer sit in on the interview and provide insight on their analysis of the candidate’s answers. You can also ask your programming team to provide you with questions you can use when interviewing new recruits.

FAQs about hiring programmers

Should the computer programmer I hire have a degree?

Most computer programmers hold at least an undergraduate degree in computer programming, computer science or a similar field. However, there are many programmers who are self-taught and are just as effective computer professionals as those who received a college degree. Who you hire will ultimately depend on which candidate meets the criteria for the position you’re looking to fill.


What are common interview questions to ask candidates for a computer programming position?

The following are a few good questions to incorporate into your interview when looking to fill a computer programming job:


  • What programming languages are you proficient in?
  • How do you keep up to date on current trends in the computer programming industry?
  • Which software development process do you prefer to use?
  • What’s a recent programming project you worked on?
  • How much hands-on experience do you have as a programmer?

Should I consider a freelance computer programmer to outsource my company’s needs?

When determining the scope of your project needs, you might discover there isn’t quite enough work to justify hiring a new employee. Hiring a freelancer may be a viable alternative. Freelance workers aren’t employees but instead work on a contract basis. You can find freelance workers via online job boards such as Indeed.com. Freelancers are also sometimes hired on as employees once a working relationship has been established. Software development companies are also available for assistance with projects, offering their tech teams support to companies that need help.


Can I screen programmers for competency online?

Before inviting a new recruit into your office, you do have the option of requesting they complete a competency test online. There are many websites that provide testing services, and you can reach out to hiring agencies in your area for other testing options. Testing online beforehand can help you prevent wasting time on interviews with unqualified candidates.


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