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I have sorted through the previous questions and couldn't find a specific answer to the following (and thank you in advance):

I have fully developed my idea on paper and am looking to move forward with it, create it, and grow it. Since I am non-technical, I am looking to either partner or employ (I would pay for his/her services) for a very talented and well-rounded programmer to help create and develop the project. I am looking for someone that can act as a IT manager/CTO and get the job done while I use my resources to develop and deploy the strategy, deal with the business side of things, raise capital, grow, etc. However, due to my lack of IT knowledge, it is always hard for me to differentiate between a good and bad programmer and therefore only find out if he/she is good or not when it is too late. So my question that I have been asking everyone around me is "How do I assess whether the programmer is good or not if I cannot evaluate them myself?" and "Is there any website that reviews and rates programmers?"

I have asked many to refer me to talented programmers but all are either not local (important for me to work side by side with them), happily employed or working on their own startup. I have also asked these programmers to help me find others but none seem to be able to help.

Any help would be extremely appreciated.

Thank you so much,



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closed as off-topic by Ixrec, MichaelT, durron597, GlenH7, gnat Jul 3 at 18:42

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More geared for Programmers or OnStartups. –  Shaded Feb 24 '11 at 17:40
I'm sensing a cloud of doom hovering over this –  Sean Patrick Floyd Feb 24 '11 at 17:46
The title says "evaluating". The body of the question is "refer me to talented programmers" and "help me find others". There's no real question here, is there? –  S.Lott Feb 24 '11 at 18:02
To a very vague extent, you could go by reputation on SO. –  Orbling Feb 24 '11 at 18:08

7 Answers 7

You are in the same position as most other hiring managers, and there's a reason companies have a complete team interview candidates:

  1. Find a friend who is a competent programmer and who you trust. (Ask for evidence of the first half of that.)
  2. Have this friend do a technical interview with prospective employees.
  3. Pay your friend for this service.

Follow this up with your own interview of the prospect, to get a feel of the rest of their employability. Remember, this person is going to have to turn your fuzzy idea into a working product; you will have to learn to work with them, rather than telling them what to do. In such a small situation, personalities are as important or more important than technical competence.


I have some ideas on the question, but not a full answer. Here are my thoughts:

  • If you are not technical (as you stated), then you have no frame of reference in which to judge the quality of a programmers work. You will need to find a "compatable" individual and hope they are not technically a goofball. By "compatable" I mean somebody with whom you can work.
  • I suggest that you look for a partner and not an employee. You know what attributes you want in a partner (baring the technical aspects) so that will help narrow your search.
  • There are (I believe many) individuals who are incompitent developers but who interview extremely well and who's resume look amazing. When I'm nice, I call them "Slick Willies." I believe the tip off that you are talking to one of these individuals is that they give a perfect interview and say "I" more than "we" when discussing their work history.
  • Look for "Code Camps", "Code days", or the like and goto them to meet folks. The Slick Willy is not likely to hang out at one of these.
  • Look for a programmer who contributes to open source projects. I suspect that they will have the kind of energy a startup needs.

There is no good answer to this problem. Finding top-flight, startup and C-level ready engineers is a problem for everybody, and no one is going to just give away referrals to such people.

But ... everything has a price, right? –  Job Feb 24 '11 at 21:55
  1. Post the job on careers.Stackoverflow.com
  2. Ask for an example of their work that matches your project as close as possible (If you're building a website, get someone who has built one.).
  3. If you find a candidate, get the next best technical person you can find to get involved in the interview process.
  4. Consider a trial period.

Be upfront about who you are, what you want to create and how you are going to be able to provide compensation. Qualified candidates are not going to waste their time otherwise.

Should make that careers.stackoverflow.com, or risk another quickly closed question. –  Ben L Feb 24 '11 at 18:13
@Ben - good catch –  JeffO Feb 24 '11 at 19:43

Find someone with business experience. Preferrably someone who's worked with startups before.

Also, find someone with full life cycle experience. There's more to developing products than writing code. Someone who fills a CTO type of position needs to be familiar with or capable of learning all aspects of product development, including things like (where applicable) server hosting, tech support, payment processing,... you name it.


Everyone made great points, but I'd like to add that your candidate should be self-motivated and optimistic. Being a startup you are likely to hit some rough waters, and it pays to have staff who can keep their morale up in those trying times.


For the non-technical, the easiest way to find a competent person is to filter out everyone who hasn't worked on a well regarded open-source project in their spare time. Make sure that you have proof that they have contributed a substantial patch that is now in a mainline, publicly released version of the software.

That doesn't sound like an easy thing for a non-technical person to do. –  David Thornley Feb 24 '11 at 19:16