Hiring Lead/Senior Developers: Tips for Finding Top Talent
Discover expert tips for finding and hiring top lead/senior developers in 2023. Learn the key traits and qualifications to look for in candidates
Expert Tips for Hiring the Best Lead/Senior Developers (2023)
It’s no secret that choosing the right Lead/Senior Developer to help your business grow is a difficult choice with serious implications.
With decades of experience in the industry, we've realized albeit through the hard way that:
Yes, there's truth in the theory that "what you pay is what you get." But the fact is the barrier for entry is low these days - with lots of people parading themselves as "Lead Developers" accompanied by buzzwords and fancy titles even if they are half-baked. You'll find them cheap, expensive, or somewhere in between. In the end, it's up to you to sift through the noise and find that person who can deliver your project on time, under budget, with a smile.
In other words: the best lead/senior developer for your unique needs is out there, it's just a matter of finding them.
That's why you're here reading this, right?
To help you on your journey we'll go through the process of finding and hiring your Lead/Senior Developer in a way that's practical, specific, and measurable.
We'll be using our own experience as well as the knowledge from several sources to point you in the right direction.
Now let's dive in.
Hiring the best Lead/Senior Developer: Things To Consider First
We know you're eager to hire a Lead/Senior Developer as quickly as possible, but don't rush into it. We all know things that happen in haste leave us with regrets later. Take your time to make sure you're making the right decision for yourself and your company by considering these aspects first:
What's The Difference between Lead vs Senior developer?
At first glance, the titles seem interchangeable, but there is actually a distinct difference between Lead Devs and Senior Developers.
Here is what you should know about Lead Devs vs. Senior Developers:
- Most resume listings for Lead Developer will read Senior Software Engineer, so it's important to understand the difference.
- Both roles are high-level positions with responsibilities that require a high degree of experience.
- The Lead Developer is more of a team facilitator, while the Senior Developer will be building out core parts of your systems.
Bottom line: The Tech-Lead Developer can "take on multiple roles like Project Management, Software Engineering, and Budget Management" while a Senior Developer is more hands-on with the technology side of things "and has a heavy emphasis on software development."
Why Should You Hire a Lead/Senior Developer?
To answer this question, one must first define what they mean by Lead/Senior Developer.
For the purpose of this blog post, we're defining a Lead Developer as a senior-level developer (more skilled and experienced than the average developer) that has experience leading/mentoring teams, as well as a competent bridge between the business and development. They'll manage the development team of junior to mid-level developers, ensuring the projects are completed in a timely and efficient manner. That means if you get the best-fit Lead Developer, you won't need to worry about the day-to-day coding and managing of junior developers.
Define Your Needs
Before you reach out to candidates, you'll want to define exactly what your Lead Developer will be responsible for. A lead developer can take on a number of roles, depending on the skills and experience of the candidate.
For example, a Lead Developer might be in charge of:
- Leading a development team;
- Hiring and training new developers;
- Collaborating with business stakeholders to determine project requirements, timelines, and budgets;
- Managing the development process.
So, you need to define your needs and what you’ll expect from your developer.
Spot the best talent
One of the most popular questions we get asked is, "what are the best indicators that a candidate will be successful in this role?"
A number of factors can help you identify talent.
Before you start your search, keep the following red flags in mind:
- Very cheap prices (if you see prices around $15/hour, be very skeptical)
- No relevant experience on their resume. Make sure they have at least one other major project they can show you.
- No or few repositories on Github, no Stack Overflow activity, etc.
- A portfolio of work is non-existent.
If you see these warning signs, walk away from the candidate. It's likely they are either inexperienced or trying to scam you (or both).
What you should look for in a Candidate:
Alright, let's discuss the qualities you should look for in a candidate. Let's start with the basics:
Exceptional Programming Skills
You need to make sure the candidate is well versed in computer programming and practices good software development (coding) skills.
They should be able to write great code.
They should be able to produce well-designed software, including unit tests and documentation.
If they've worked on large projects before, it's a big plus.
You should make sure the candidate is up to speed with current technologies (and technologies that are trending).
If the candidate has worked on other platforms, it's a big plus. For example, if they have experience working with .NET, JAVA, or PHP.
The candidate should have a great understanding of SQL and NoSQL databases (like MongoDB).
Proficiency in specific stack/framework/libraries that you will be using:
Make sure the candidate demonstrates their proficiency with the specific stack/framework/libraries that you will be using.
In software development, Tech Stacks are the combination of tools that are used to create software applications. For example, the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, and Node), or the MERN stack(MongoDB, React.js, Redux, and Node).
It is very important for them to have experience working with the same stack/framework that you plan on using. If they've used other technologies before, it's still a plus. You should also make sure the candidate knows how to work with any additional tools that may be required for your project. For example, if you're going to be using Git, the candidate should know how to create a remote repository and push/pull changes. Also make sure that they're familiar with other QA and deployment tools like Jira, Jenkins, or Slack.
Project Management Abilities:
Usually, a good candidate can take on many different roles while working with you. They should be able to suggest technical solutions for your problems and create a development plan.
Familiarity (even if it's the basics) with project management methodologies such as Agile, Waterfall or Scrum is a great plus. Agile for instance, allows software architects to make changes according to the customers' needs and requirements. So, if a customer wants something changed on the web application, that change should be easily made by the developer.
As a facilitator, the candidate should also have experience with collaboration tools like Slack or Jira (or Trello, if you're using it). Also, they should be able to explain the steps they're going through to complete a project.
For instance, you can ask what are the steps they're going to follow in order to develop a web application. They should be able to explain their decisions when something goes wrong or doesn't work the way it's expected to.
People skills are very important for a Lead/Senior developer. They should be able to work with other team members, provide technical support and help resolve problems.
It's part of their main responsibility to make sure that everyone in the team is working efficiently.
They should be able to teach other members of your development team how certain technologies work.
They should also be able to manage any conflicts that may arise in your team. If two or more developers are working on the same project and they disagree about how it should be done, the Lead/Senior developer should be able to resolve that conflict.
For example: If you have someone working on the backend part of your application and another one doing the frontend, it's possible that they don't agree about how certain components should be designed or how they should work.
The Lead/Senior developer is responsible for making sure that the development process goes smoothly and everyone's on the same page.
They should be able to work with other team members and make sure that there are no misunderstandings between them.
A good candidate should also be able to provide training and support for junior developers.
They should be able to explain technical concepts in simple terms so that other developers, teams, customers, or managers understand what they're doing.
Lead/Senior developers should be able to provide constant feedback about the development process. This would require both written and verbal communication skills.
They should be able to write clear and understandable documentation for developers, customers, or managers who want to learn more about the project. Plus, making presentations or writing tutorials about their work can also be a great plus.
They should be able to use different types of communication channels (phone, email, chat, video calls) so that other team members or customers can contact them anytime.
They should also know how to give constructive criticism and provide feedback.
Lead/Senior developers should be able to quickly find the root cause of problems that appear during development, within or across teams.
Problems can range from not understanding how a certain technology works to having problems with communication or project management.
They should be able to figure out the cause of the problem and provide a solution.
Look for the best fit in terms of personality
Every company has a different culture and atmosphere so it's important to try and find a candidate that will be able to thrive in your environment. We've interviewed people who were absolutely amazing programmers but just didn't fit in so we had to pass on them. We've also hired people who were not great developers but they fit in well with our team and culture.
Write a detailed Job Description
After you have defined your needs and learned what to look for in a candidate, it is important to write a detailed job description.
That means you will need to list the main responsibilities of the role, as well as what skills are needed.
For example, if you need someone to manage your development team and the project workflow, then it would be important to list these two responsibilities. It might also be useful to detail the personality traits you are looking for, as well as the communication style needed. This will help you to attract the best-fit candidates, as well as make it easier for them to apply if they feel a good match. You'll also need to figure out your budget for the role when you are creating the job description, as this will affect what type of talent you will be able to attract.
Pitfalls to avoid when writing your job description
When writing your job description, you will need to avoid making any of the following mistakes:
- Making it too general - The more specific you can be about the role, the more likely it is that a good candidate will apply. Make sure to include all the necessary skills and technologies, as well as the responsibilities of the role. It would be a waste of everyone's time (especially for the candidates) to turn away good applicants just because they don't have exactly the right skills that weren't listed.
- Overestimating your budget - It is important to be realistic about what you can offer financially so that it attracts the right talent.
- Skipping the input of a professional - It is important to involve a professional in the job description writing process if you’re not familiar with this industry, as they will be able to give you valuable advice. Plus, they'll help you catch contradicting statements and unclear instructions. For example, you don't want your job description to say you need the candidate to have experience working with the latest technology, but then list a set of skills that are no longer relevant.
- Not including a company profile - If you want top talent, it is important to paint a picture of what your company culture is like. What makes your company different from the rest? Is it a laid-back, flexible environment that encourages employees to express their creativity? You should include this type of information in your company profile, which will be included in the job description.
You should include such information as:
- Salary or pay rate (if you don't know what the standard pay is, research industry standards)
- Working hours (if you work full time and would like them to do so as well, then specify that)
- Job responsibilities (do not assume they know what is expected of them, be specific - this includes quantifying if possible)
- Company values (if there are any)
- Office location(s) and remote work options or requirements. For example, do you want the applicant to live in your area or will you allow them to work remotely.
- Required skills or software (if you want a professional to have a certain skill or piece of software, then say so)
- Preferred skills or software (you may want to list some skills or software that you prefer them to have, but would be open to hiring someone without if they are truly exceptional)
Post Your Job Offer on Job Boards or Directly
You can post your job offer on job boards (such as Craigslist, Glassdoor, Indeed) or directly to the best local/niche communities. You can also post on social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
We'll be honest with you, the above process can be time-consuming and demanding.
The good news is that there is a better way.
Post your requirements here on EliteBrains. You'll be matched with the best developers fit for your needs - you don't have to go through the tedious process of posting your requirements on every site.
To post your job requirement, click here.
Understanding the cost of hiring a good Lead/Senior Developer
It's important to get this out of the way from the jump:
If you want someone who will impact your bottom line, then you need to pay for that value. Oftentimes you can expect to pay between $50-80 an hour for a good Lead/Senior Developer.
According to Payscale, the Average Lead Software Engineer Salary is $120,127/year, while ZipRecruiter reports that the average Senior Lead Developer Salary (in the US) is $132,227 /year or $64 /hour.
EliteBrains provides the best option to hire a top software developer at a fair price (no hidden hiring fee or annoying negotiations) as low as $65/hour.
How to Find a Lead/Senior Developer: The Process to get it right
By now you'd have already narrowed down your search to a couple of profiles, and have shortlisted the best matches from those. Now it's time for you to sift through them and find the best lead/senior developer.
This is a clear-cut process that you should follow every time you're hiring developers for your business.
The first step would be to filter out those that don't meet your requirement. You can do this by simply looking at their experience and credentials on the CV, as well as asking a couple of basic coding questions that you would require a lead/senior developer to answer.
Here are some quick tips on how you can successfully filter out those profiles that aren't worth your time.
There are hundreds of different reasons why you should avoid a candidate, but for the sake of brevity, we're only going to list down a few common ones.
- The candidate has only worked on small projects and doesn't have any experience working within an organization, or their previous organization is a small business.
- The candidate doesn't have any references from past employers or peers that you can contact and confirm their work experience, or they refuse to provide them.
- The candidate is looking for a salary that's vastly different from what you can offer, and may not be willing to negotiate.
- The candidate has no GitHub profile, StackOverflow account, or other online presence that you can look at and assess their skill-set.
- The candidate has no degree or certification that's relevant to the industry (this is very important).
Having filtered out those profiles that aren't worth your time, you should now have a pool of candidates that are qualified to move forward in the hiring process.
Portfolio Check: Dig Deep Into their Past Projects
Now that you've filtered out the best profiles from your pool, it's time for you to go in-depth and check how skilled they really are.
The best way to do this is by checking out their portfolio.
How can you do this?
Visit the portfolio website that they've created for themselves. We particularly recommend developers that have their own site and not just a LinkedIn profile.
If they don't have their own portfolio website, then check out the projects that they've worked on and the technologies that they've used. Their portfolio should be well organized into different sections that represent their best work. You can search for the technologies they've used, and even ask to see a live demo of any projects if they're available.
You should also check them out on GitHub and StackOverflow, or any other forums that they've participated in related to development. Their past projects should be a good indicator of what they're capable of, and you can filter out those that aren't if their work isn't to your standards.
The next step is for you to schedule a phone screening with them, and simply ask them about their past projects. This is a great way to assess how skilled they really are.
Check out what technologies and languages they've worked with, as well as the size of teams they've worked with in the past.
You can also ask them how their work has benefited the team and if there was anything that they could have done better.
You should also ask them if they've ever been in a position where they have to mentor other developers, and what sort of advice they've given before.
This information will help you to assess their skill-set and determine if they're the best fit for your business, or if you should continue your search elsewhere.
After the phone conversation, you should have a solid idea of whether they're the best lead/senior developer for your business, or if you need to find someone else.
Developers Skill Test
If you still aren't sure after the phone screening, then we recommend that you move forward with a developer's skill test.
This is when you give them a coding test that will assess their programming skills, and determine if they're the best fit for your business.
Wondering what kind of coding test you should give them?
Here are some examples:
- Assignment Test - This is when you have the candidate work on an assignment that you can assess.
- Code Review - This is when you have the candidate look at some of your code and give recommendations on how to improve it.
- Live Coding Test - This is when you have the candidate work on a live coding test in front of your business, and you can assess their live coding skills.
To make this stage of the hiring process easier and especially for those without the required technical expertise, you can also use our online developer test tool that will allow you to assess the candidate's coding and technical skills before the interview process.
This will also help you to avoid making costly mistakes that might cost your business a lot of money and time down the road.
Once the candidate has completed their coding test, you'll receive the results and you can assess whether they're the best lead/senior developer for your business, or if you need to find someone else.
Interview and Important Questions to Ask
If they've made it this far, then you should be satisfied with their coding tests and feel confident they can do the job.
Nowadays, interviews can be done remotely with the advent of applications like Skype and Google Hangouts or even over the phone. So, if on-site interviews are not an option, take advantage of technology. Having said that, there is no replacement for meeting in person or over video chat to really get a sense of how the person thinks and works. That said, the interview is your chance to really get to know the person and assess how organized they are, as well as how they deal with pressure.
Also, keep an eye out for their presentation - it should also help you to assess their communication skills, as well as their ability to explain what they're doing and why they've chosen to do so. Keep in mind that there is no "one way" to do anything, so don't let them convince you that they have the one true way.
Let's be honest - this is a sales process, and they're trying to sell you on them.
Don't just accept what they say - ask questions!
5 Effective Interview Questions for Hiring the Perfect Lead/Senior Developer
Although there are plenty of questions you can ask, some tend to be more telling than others. You can ensure that they're a good fit for your team and post by asking them some of the following questions:
What is your process and approach to how you work?
Now, this is one of our favorites. You must realize that processes and methods are the building blocks as well as the glue that comes together to achieve an end result.
The right kind of person will have a process for everything, while the wrong one might not be entirely sure what they're doing or how to do it.
What you're looking for is someone who engages in a process and methodical approach to problem-solving.
A person who can iterate on their work, learn from mistakes and improve upon the processes they already have in place.
This is also an opportunity for you to assess what they think is important and how they prioritize the things that need to get done.
Tell me about your proudest moment of your most recent project
You see, the best person for the job should be able to speak to how proud of what they've already done and share with you why.
Resumes are not always the best place to tell you what a person is actually capable of
What you want to get out of this are the details that are typically left off a resume.
For the candidate, this is their chance to show and tell you about their successes, what they did and how it all played out. Let them toot their own horn for a bit.
You're looking to hire someone who can communicate their work and show that they actually know what it takes to get the job done.
They should be able to talk about ideas they came up with, how impactful their decisions were, the challenges they faced, and how they overcame them.
The bottom line here is that you're trying to determine if the candidate was actually involved in the thick of things and how capable they are of making decisions.
Why are you interested in this role?
What you're looking for is someone who can sell themselves and show that they've done some homework on the company as a whole, as well as the specific role they're applying for.
They should be able to speak about what interests them, why it's an interesting fit, and why they would be a valuable addition to the team.
The last thing you want is for you to spend a lot of resources - time, money, and energy - on the entire recruitment process only for the candidate to jump ship once they've started.
Their motives should be pure and their enthusiasm should be clear.
This is also a good indicator of how well they can sell themselves, which in turn will tell you how well they can sell your company to future customers.
So don't just let this slide - dig into what the person is truly looking for and why they feel this position is the next logical step.
How do you stay up to date with the changes in this industry?
Off the cuff, the answer to this question may seem pretty straightforward, but it's actually a great way of seeing how well they know their stuff.
What you're looking for isn't necessarily a person who is always plugged in and knows the latest trends, but rather someone who has taken it upon themselves to be self-sufficient and proactive.
They should be able to communicate that they're always looking for new information, whether it's through conferences or online seminars - whatever it may be.
The more they show their ability to source information on their own, the more you know that they're not just going to sit back and wait for direction.
Candidates who have a real passion for their work and have taken the time to educate themselves in order to become better at what they do are naturals when it comes to showing how they can benefit your company.
And for a fast-paced industry like IT, that's exactly what you're looking for.
This shows your candidate is a little more active and engaged in their work - which in turn shows you that they're going to be a much more proactive addition.
What is your conflict resolution style?
You're looking for someone who can show that they've dealt with conflict before and know how to approach it. The first thing you're looking for here are people who take the time to consider all sides of an issue and know how to approach it. They should be able to explain their thought process, how they came to a conclusion and how well it went. If their answers are vague or meandering, that's not good - but if they have a clear process and reasoning, it's a sign of someone who is organized and level-headed.
The best way to ensure you don't hire someone who will fly off the handle or get caught up in a moment of passion is to make sure their answers are clear and concise.
You're looking for a person who can think on their feet and know how to approach conflict in a calm, measured way. You also want to be able to see what your candidate considers to be the root of conflict and how they've dealt with it in the past.
If they're not able to show how they've walked away from a situation with their head held high, it's probably not the best fit. This question is also a great way of seeing how well your candidate can collaborate and work with people in general, which is an important skill for just about any team to have.
All in all, you're looking to see how well your candidate can lead and manage a team and ensure everyone is on the same page and working well together - which is a great indicator of success no matter what.
Decision and Onboarding
If they come across as knowledgeable, eager to learn, and keen to share what they've learned with others - you probably have a great match.
If the interview process goes well, make sure to bring them on board with an attractive offer - one that meets their needs and your budget.
What is the next step?
Now that you know what to look for, it's time to get out there and contact some of the best developers online!
The first step is knowing where to look. We've done the leg work for you and carefully curated some of the best software developers from around the world to get you started in your search.
Find Top Lead/Senior Developers Online With EliteBrains
The major problem for businesses looking for great tech leads or senior developers is being able to find vetted and reliable ones to work with - the search process, interviews, and onboarding can take up a lot of time and energy.
But with EliteBrains, it's easy to connect directly with the best developers that are battle-tested, experienced, and ready to work!
EliteBrains is a global resource for finding top lead/senior developers online - allowing you to work with the best possible tech talent and get ahead of your competitors.
It only takes a few moments to sign up and get started - so what are you waiting for?
Common Reasons Companies Hire Lead/Senior Developers with EliteBrains
Hand-picked developers vetted by 5-step testing
Talent is undoubtedly our greatest differentiator. We review candidates for skill, experience, and cultural fit - ensuring only top developers fit for the top 3% of the global market are accepted. That's why so many companies trust EliteBrains to find top lead/senior developers online.
Developers are hand-picked through five rounds of rigorous testing including Language and communication skills (38% applicants pass); Static code analysis (22% applicants pass); Test of technology skills (15% applicants pass); Testing project (12% applicants pass); and Personality and reliability evaluation (5% applicants pass).
Speed of Delivery
Time is valuable to any company. It's essential to find lead/senior developers who can hit the ground running and make an impact right away - not just in theory, but in practice.
EliteBrains works with the best developers online who are looking for their next challenge - so they're ready to take on your project with confidence and deliver results quickly. When you submit your requirements here, we'll match you with the right lead developer or senior developers within 24-72 hours. We'll provide you with a list of interested and qualified applicants that fit your criteria, and you'll be able to select the candidates that fit your needs best. What this means is that you won't waste time and resources on interviews that won't lead to anything, and you'll get the benefit of working with a reliable candidate that can make an impact fast.
Most startup owners, businesses, and companies that have tried to hire lead or senior developers know the struggle of trying to figure out what you're being charged for. It's hard enough finding a qualified candidate, but when you add in a complicated pricing model - it can make the search even more difficult.
How does a zero-hiring fee sound? Unlike with agencies and other recruiters, we don't charge any Hiring fees or commission on top of our service.
Additionally, the hourly rates are so fairly priced - as low as $65/hour you can hire lead developers - and you'll know exactly how much each hour costs, with no fluctuations or hidden fees.
You can also get started for free!
Zero-risk Free Trial
You don't pay until you hire lead/senior developers - so why not take us for a test drive?
We're offering you the chance to work with a top developer for 8-hours FREE of charge. This will give you an experience in how EliteBrains works and the chance to see if the candidate fits your needs.
You won't have to pay until you hire - so it's a great way to get started with EliteBrains.
There's no risk or obligation, and you can cancel at any time.
So what are you waiting for? Signup and get matched with a top lead/senior developer now!