The labor market gurus have spoken— 2019 is year of the Software Developer.  In their annual ranking of the 100 best jobs, U.S. News & World Report declared Software Developer to be the top dog this year. With a projected growth rate of nearly 25% over the next 7 years, software development jobs are infiltrating almost every industry. However, adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to hiring a development team is ill-advised. Careful vetting and screening of candidates is critical to the success of your organization and its projects. Ask the following 5 questions to help you identify software developers who are best-suited to your company’s culture and needs.

1.What is your project-planning strategy and process?

As the adage reminds us, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Sure, it’s tempting for a developer to dive right into the coding phase, but the “shoot now, aim later” approach can prove costly…literally. Whether it’s a mobile app or a large-scale development project, poor planning often results in delays, miscommunication, and unforeseen costs.

It’s important to ask your candidates to explain how they typically plan their software development projects from inception through completion. A vague response that fails to include concrete deliverables is a red flag. You want developers who take the time to establish a clear project scope, one that addresses the functionality and usability of the end product and how it shapes the building process. This might include using storyboards and other tools to communicate ideas and goals. You also want a development team that is mindful of budget and adherence to a realistic timeline that accounts for testing and debugging. While a plan is certainly subject to change as the development phase unfolds, it’s paramount that prospective developers can articulate their approach to managing the lifecycle of a project.

2.What do you know about our industry and company?

It’s not realistic to assume a developer will be well-versed in every aspect and nuance of your field. It’s only fair to allow for a learning curve even among top talent. However, it is entirely appropriate to expect your developers to demonstrate a strong working knowledge of your domain. In other words, it should be apparent starting with your preliminary conversations and/or interviews that they’ve done their homework. Developers who have conducted research should understand the market, key trends, and competitors.

Additionally, your development team should know how your company fares in the market in terms of size, consumer base, brand, and business model. This may require immersing themselves in articles, data, industry publications, and even attending on-site meetings.  Developers who fail to have their finger on the pulse of your company’s culture and clientele will struggle when it comes to achieving optimal UX and meeting your prescribed outcomes.

3. Do I have access to all development activity?

Lack of transparency is a major red flag when it comes to hiring developers.  A requisite team should encourage and invite open lines of communication and solicit input throughout each phase of the project. After all, this is your brainchild, your product, your reputation, and most importantly—your money.

Whether it be through daily scrum meetings, shared access to a project management program where all activities and accountabilities are logged, or through other means, you should be able to communicate with each member of your development team about their individual progress any time you see fit. Exercising your right to transparency doesn’t have to mean flexing your management muscle or presenting as the universally-dreaded Big Brother. Instead, establishing clarity and openness among developers will keep everyone on task and prevent costly miscues.

4. What technology stack do you use and why?

There’s certainly no shortage of options for today’s developers when it comes to choosing a technology stack. In terms of selecting the right stack for your organization’s project, giving your development team free rein to decide is not the way to go. The strategic importance of your tech stack can’t be emphasized enough. It’s crucial to clearly define your project’s scope and expectations, as the chosen technology stack will dictate user experience, product capabilities and functionality, and of course time and cost requirements.

Maybe one of your top developers has a strong penchant for Ruby and has used it extensively in past projects. But what’s good for the goose is not always good for the development gander. In other words, if the other developers on the team are well-versed in Python—a more user-friendly, popular, and feature-packed option—it’s in your best interest to go with the latter, given you may need to change or add talent to your team as the project progresses. In addition to ease of use and popularity, it’s important to consider the cost associated with using a specific stack (deployment on servers, paying developers, available documentation, etc.) In short, avoid developers who adopt a trial-by-fire approach to choosing a technology stack. Look for team members who believe in tried and true stacks with proven track records of project success.

5. Will you provide ongoing project support after deployment?

Let’s face it—a project is never really “done.” In fact, you will need all development hands on deck after deploying the finished product. From debugging and trouble-shooting, to adding new features and updates, a reliable development team should be available to manage and facilitate ongoing software maintenance. Look for developers who can articulate their post-deployment experience and methods for handling urgent requests and issues that will likely arise once your project is made available to clients/users.

With the economy heating up and a growing need for developers, it’s crucial you take the time to carefully assess development talent through a series of probing questions. Making sure you hire a  development team whose methods, experience, and values are aligned with your organization’s culture and goals is essential to each project’s success.