How to Hire and Retain Web Developers

By on June 3, 2017 at 5:12pm

Any employer who has recently tried to hire web developers knows all about the supply-and-demand problem. Organizations are simply looking to hire more skilled web developers than currently exist in the employment market. Companies apply a wide range of tactics to woo developers, from larger salaries to signing bonuses to equity incentives. 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.

Oh, and there's one more issue making the situation challenging for employers: With so many tempting job opportunities available, retaining top talent can be difficult.

How can your company hire web developers with the right skills and experience for available roles? And what does it take to convince them to stay for the long term? Here are a few tips:

Go where the web developers are

Of course, you should be using networking sites such as LinkedIn to connect with potential candidates. But don't stop there.

Try resources like Meetup 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. A few years back, Yahoo placed an ad for developers in its front-end source coding. Although the Daily Mail, a news site in the UK, wasn't hiring web developers, it took a similar approach: It advertised for an SEO optimization manager in a robots.text file, which is designed for search engines bots (or SEO specialists checking out such files).

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. Expanding your search area may also be possible. If all or most job duties could be performed remotely, why let geography limit your options?

Bring in the experts

Working with a staffing firm that specializes in placing technology talent can be a great — and efficient — way to locate skilled web developers. The best staffing agencies maintain larger talent pools than most hiring managers can access on their own. In addition to working with candidates currently available for hire, they often know of web developers who aren't actively seeking a new job but would make a move for the right opportunity.

A staffing firm also does a lot of the hard work for you. At Robert Half Technology, we pre-evaluate the web developers we present to our clients, saving them time and money, and reducing the risk of a bad hire. Our account executives are industry specialists. They understand the needs of businesses like yours and can help find the right candidate match.

Know what you need

This may sound obvious, but given a web developer's highly specialized skills, the hiring manager may be out of his or her depth when discussing a developer's experience. Do you need a full-time developer, or will bringing in someone on a project basis suffice?

Here's a thought: Have a developer interview a developer.

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 merely dabbled in it. If you don't have a team member with the right background to make such an assessment, engage a staffing specialist who will evaluate a candidate's abilities before setting up an interview.

Before you get to the interview phase, ask to see some of the developer's finished work. Thoroughly review their samples, making notes of what you like and don't like. When interviewing, ask the candidate what led to their decisions. This gives insight into the candidate's approach to problem-solving.

Weigh needs vs. wants

It' also helpful to ask yourself if you're being too narrow in your job ads. Maybe you need a front-end developer who’s 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 per cent 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 learn the next 20 per cent over time?

Have 20/20 foresight

Don't just focus on a web developer's hard 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 to solve. Be sure to convey that the company considers this position integral to the team and is dedicating significant resources to attracting the right talent.

Don't hold back

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.

In addition to paying competitive wages, offering generous benefits, flexible work schedules, wellness programs and remote work arrangements are just some of the perks that can help you land a top-tier web developer.

If you know what it takes to attract the talent you need and are prepared to offer a strong salary and benefits package, finding, hiring and retaining the right web developer for your company won't be such a daunting task.

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