How to Hire a Great Web Developer

By BrainStation February 20, 2019

If you’re a hiring manager, chances are you already know how difficult it can be to hire a Web Developer, with major talent shortages reported across North America.

Finding the perfect candidate for any job can be tough, but in a job market as competitive as this, companies are finding it particularly vexing to lure top talent in Web Development.

That’s why a smart and sensible process is crucial when trying to find the right person. Here are some tips on how to approach the hiring process to ensure you secure your star Developer.

Understand Your Needs

Before you even start on your job posting, it’s important to know exactly what you’ll need out of your Web Developer-to-be.

Sure, every company would love a Full-Stack Developer who can code in all varieties of programming languages and understand every detail of your project, but if the scope of the role is more narrowly focused on the front- or back-end, you may be better served with someone who specializes. To get a sense of how relatively scarce each role is, BrainStation’s 2019 Digital Skills Survey found that 33.7 percent of Developers polled considered themselves Full-Stack Developers, while 26.5 percent were focused on the front-end and 7.2 percent specialized on the back-end.

If you’re not sure of the difference, we can help – but essentially Front-End Developers are responsible for designing the “face” of the digital product being developed, while Back-End Developers’ responsibilities include database interactions, user authentication, business logic, and server, network, and hosting configuration. Front-End Developers are usually expected to understand programming languages, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as well as frameworks such as React, Bootstrap, Backbone, and AngularJS, while Back-End Developers should know server-side languages like PHP, Ruby, and Python, as well as tools like MySQL, Oracle, and Git.

Developers of all types are expected to know something about the mission of W3C.

When you do probe for specific skills, don’t overshoot and insist upon experience and knowledge of programming languages and other competencies that aren’t actually relevant to your position or company.

It’s also worth noting which skills are harder to find than others. BrainStation’s Digital Skills survey showed that the most widely used programming languages are JavaScript (with 79.6 percent of Developers reporting that they use it at work), followed by SQL (46.7 percent), and Python (34.7 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, it’s harder to find developers who regularly use Assembly (1.2 percent), Perl (2.4 percent), or Swift (9 percent).

Dig Into Past Projects

It’s probably obvious that examining a candidate’s portfolio is a crucial element in the hiring process, but it’s especially important that you have live work to test so you can really get a sense of the Developer’s ability to create a functional and smooth user experience.

“The No. 1 mistake businesses make when hiring a Web Developer is hiring someone who is knowledgeable at development but knows very little about user experience or conversion optimization,” Stringjoy Founder Scott Marquart told

“Looking good is only a small piece of what makes a website excellent. It also needs to function intuitively and be easily navigable, so that any prospect who lands on your site knows exactly how to do what you want them to do.”

In exploring a candidate’s past projects, don’t just ask what technologies, tools, and programming languages they used, but why they used them, so you can gather a sense of their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Ask about the significant challenges faced. And always ask what they would do differently.

Remember: Talent can be Trained

Most interview processes should include a live coding challenge – as much as Developers detest them – and a take-home assignment, which, taken along with the portfolio, will give you a sense of your candidate’s workflow, decision-making, and competency level. The interview, then, needs to focus on the intangible qualities that will determine whether your candidate will be a good fit. Ask how they work with others, and how they juggle competing deadlines. Ask for a few of their favorite websites and which web browser they use (the answer should be “all of them.”)

In fact, some companies are prioritizing life skills and personality fit above all else.

“We stopped vetting tech candidates based on lack of experience or formal education a while ago,” said Daniela Arango, an HR and Creative Manager for “What we look for now are references of tech professionals that have great resilience in life, and a natural ability and predilection for learning.”

Indeed, one reason it’s important not to get hung up on an area of weakness for a candidate who otherwise could be right for the job? Professional development should be a part of every good Developer’s playbook.

BrainStation’s survey found that 63.4 percent of Developers use skills training to learn new techniques and ideas, a number even higher among entry-level respondents.

Ask questions about your candidate’s enthusiasm for education and ongoing skill development, and explore the specific ways in which your potential hire finds opportunities for self-improvement.

Those are important traits among even the most seasoned and skilled candidates, given how rapidly the field is evolving.

In fact, BrainStation’s survey found that although 78 percent of Developers believe that machine learning and artificial intelligence are the trends that will have the most impact on development in the next five to 10 years, 83 percent have never developed for any artificial intelligence platforms or blockchain technology.

In other words, almost all Developers will need to level up their skills in the coming years.

Offer a Competitive Salary

According to Indeed, the average salary for an entry-level Web Developer in the United States is $66,254, rising to $105,302 for a Senior Web Developer. To have a hope at landing your ideal Web Developer, offering a good salary in that range is a must. If you have the flexibility, you might also try to lure your candidate with other perks, such as a flexible schedule, the ability to work from home, or by offering to support continued education.

Once you have found the right candidate, act fast.

“As far as the folks who are more seasoned, they’re not even getting to the point where they’re looking for jobs,” Ari Weil, vice-president of products for website performance optimization startup Yottaa, told the Boston Business Journal.

“When these guys are on the market there’s so much demand for them that they’re getting snapped up within a day or two.”