Freelance web developers: How to find and hire the best

Hiring freelance web developers is notoriously difficult.

Not only do talented web developers possess technical skill, but they must also be able to work in a team, predict deadlines, and handle the stresses of product development cycles.

With such a varied skillset, it’s difficult to identify the candidates that have it all, and just reading resumes won’t tell you enough.

However, if you want to build a talent pipeline yourself and not depend on a hiring platform, here are 11 steps to find and hire the best developers.

1. Know what you’re hiring for

It sounds obvious, but you can’t start the hiring process until you know what you’re looking for. Identify all the skills your developer needs to have and all the skills you want them to have. Prioritize your search process by focusing on the must-have skills.

If you need a JavaScript web developer, knowledge in Node.js for back-end work is useful, but you should still consider hiring a front-end JavaScript developer without Node.js experience if they can do the main tasks you need them to accomplish.

2. Hire the best

If you’re a business looking to hire the best talent in the development world, there are ways to increase your chances of doing so without sinking too much time into this demanding process.

The easiest way to hire talent is to use a vetted network like Toptal.

Toptal screens for the top 3% of developers and designers and offers a no-risk trial for up to two weeks to ensure a healthy working relationship between the client and freelancer.


Visit Toptal

3. Use your referral network

Before getting too deep into the search process, first tap into your referral network to find candidates. Ask your friends and coworkers if they know any developers looking for work.

Referrals are hired two-thirds of the time, so use that process to your advantage.

More often than not, referrals are an effective hiring tactic to bring in talent with real, similar work experience that is pre-vetted by people you trust.

4. Research the market

Once you expand your search to include external sources, it’s important to have an understanding of the market. How much does the type of developer you want cost?

Make sure that you match your expectations with your budget. Don’t waste your time hiring an all-star senior developer if you can’t afford it or if the person is more qualified than the position requires.

Once you know the market price for the skillset and experience you’re looking for, you’ll be able to focus your developer search, save time, and ensure that you don’t get overcharged in the process.

5. Look for teamwork and the ability to communicate

Good developers do not work in silos; they work across teams, collaborating with other developers, designers, and product managers, among others.

It’s crucial that the candidate you hire is able to communicate with coworkers, so during the interview, ask about their past experience working as part of a team.

How well can they articulate what they’ve worked on? Ask candidates about past communication breakdowns they’ve had, what caused the problem, and how they fixed it to get a feel for how they operate as part of a whole.

6. Ask technical questions

To hire the best developer, dive into their expertise and ask technical questions to learn about both their theoretical and practical knowledge.

To do this, it’s crucial that your hiring manager has a technical background as well, to both ask in-depth questions and to understand the answers.

Technical expertise is the number one priority, so make sure that it is the focal point of your search.

7. Give test projects

Utilizing trial projects during the screening process is beneficial because they let you see a developer code live and get a feel for how they work. 

Test projects also show you how well a developer can estimate a deadline, a very important skill when it comes to product cycles and coordinating with different teams.

To ensure that a developer can actually code the code and not just talk the talk, it’s crucial to give candidates a test project.

8. Can they take feedback?

An important part of any employer/employee relationship is feedback. Developers can be incredibly talented, but if they are unable to take feedback and revise their work, ultimately they aren’t a good fit for a team.

Talk to a developer’s past clients to find out how well they integrated with the team and to what degree they were coachable and able to adapt their style to a business’s needs.

9. Analyze the developer’s portfolio

When looking through a developer’s portfolio, keep an eye out for progression.

Is the developer pushing their skills and trying new things with each project?

Do they create varied results or is each project more of the same?

You want to hire a developer that is constantly learning and pushing for better results, so use a developer’s portfolio as a window to their career arc.

10. Utilize every resource at your disposal

Sure, hiring is an internal process, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other resources you can use.

Services like Codility can aid your technical evaluation of a candidate’s skill and save you time during the vetting process.

Check out open source communities, online job boards, and hiring platforms to find talented developers and broaden your search.

The more places you look for developers, the more applicants you’ll find, and ultimately you’ll hire a better developer too

11. Take your time

Above all, don’t forget to take your time during the hiring process.

Rushing interviews is a fast way to onboarding the wrong candidate. Be thorough in individual interviews and in the search process.

Assessing developers takes time, so make sure to give the process its due and be certain that you hire the right developer for your needs.

Use these steps to your advantage, and know that the keys to successful hiring are thoroughness and patience. You’ll find the right developer eventually if you keep looking. Happy hiring!

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