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I'd appreciate help in fleshing out a set of criteria or "outline" for determining the most appropriate programmers for my situation as well as avenues to find these programmers.

I've put together a fully functional web application, which is build using jvm based languages, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. My background is in Finance and CS, and as a result I'm very comfortable with development/IT. In the initial stage, I need to: sure up security, refactor the current code base, and implement two relatively simple features.

As I'm finishing my project/business plan I'm struggling with what criteria to use in order to identify the programmers I need. At a high level, I know I need 2-3 (backend) programmers:

  • 1 "Senior" or "Expert" programmer
  • 1 to 2 "Mid-level" or "Competent/Proficient" programmer(s)

I know I should (and I will) find programmers that have worked on similar-type projects, but beyond that I'm unsure what criteria to look at. For example, should the senior/expert programmer have 10 years, 15 years or more of experience?

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Related: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/1419/…. Of possible interest: 37signals.com/svn/posts/… –  Anna Lear Jul 26 '11 at 15:18

3 Answers 3

You need programmers that are capable of doing the work. Number of years of experience is certainly an indicator of this capability, but not an absolute one.

That said, generally speaking, I'd say people with 5 years experience in your technologies should be capable of doing most any programming you need, and someone with 10 years experience ought to be capable of supervising such development. That sets a pretty high bar; expect to pay a reasonable sum of money for these people.

Note that Java is only about 15 years old, so someone with that much experience would have had to work with James Gosling himself.

When you are interviewing, you should ask questions that will highlight those skill sets you need, and ask the interviewees to describe their previous projects in detail. This will help you decide if the person can deliver on those features you need, irrespective of their number of years of experience.

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Checking references is also a good step. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 26 '11 at 15:17
A note to the OP regarding this answer, note Robert says 5-10 years development experience. Please don't equate "development experience" with "experience with one language." If it's anything above C/C++, the chances are pretty good that a given language hasn't been around all that long, especially if you get into certain versions. It's always fun (/sarcasm) seeing something like "5 years experience with C# 4.0" (which would require them to be on the team that wrote C# 4.0). –  Shauna Jul 26 '11 at 18:56

Have you considered hiring one devloper to sort of 'hedge your bet' in case you made a mistake? You may discover you don't need three. Although everyone likes to see the profession grow with job creation, you're doing no one a favor by going bankcrupt because you hired too many.

I think it would be easier for you to hire a sr. dev since you can rely on experience and strong references. Many junior devs won't have this and hiring three experienced programmers could get costly. If you advertise for a junior dev with the potential for promotion, you may lose out on strong candidates who already qualify and won't apply.

You need a Sr. Dev not only an experienced programmer, but has the capability and possibly experience managing other developers. Unless your goal is to manage all three, but just have one who is more competent.

You're going to work close with this individual. Although your business structure may not make this person a partner in ownership, get someone who has similar perspectives on work volume, time commitment, interpersonal skill styles, and temperment. If someone keeps irregular hours and that bothers you, be up front about what works for you.

Don't be afraid to reshuffle the deck if you find one of your juniors is better than the senior; otherwise, you run the risk of losing your best programmer.

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Corollary: Don't start a business under-capitalized. –  Robert Harvey Jul 26 '11 at 18:05

Make sure you look at the kind of experience as well as the amount. You want someone with ever increasing responsibility who is solving harder problems now than he did five years ago for the senior person. There is a huge difference between 5 years experience and 1 year of experience repeated five times.

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