Developer Skill & Portfolio Assessment Guide - DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency
Evaluating Remote Tech Candidates

Crack the Code: Your Guide to Developer Skill and Portfolio Assessment

Ihor Shcherbinin
VP of Recruiting at DistantJob - - 3 min. to read

Most recruiters, when vetting software developers, make the mistake of relying solely on their resumes. Yes, they can have great qualifications and an impressive academic background, but are they able to turn those into practical coding solutions? It’s important to delve deeper than the glossy surface of resumes. A comprehensive assessment of a developer’s portfolio, showcasing their journey through real-world projects, is where the true essence of their capability lies. 

It also happens that most developers aren’t that good at crafting impressive resumes. This is why developer skills assessments are fundamental to identifying candidates who possess strong technical expertise but also align with your company’s culture and methods. 

So, how can you do this effectively? 

Through meticulous examination of their portfolios, comprehensive live coding interviews, and their engagement with other development communities like GitHub and Stack Overflow, you can build a recruitment process that is both rigorous and enlightening. 

Let’s explore more on how to effectively conduct a developer skill assessment. 

The Importance of Skill and Portfolio Assessment When Hiring a Developer

Conducting skill and portfolio assessments allows you to maximize productivity and secure top tech talent, especially since IT is one of the most competitive industries. 

These assessments are your strategic tool to ensure that you’re hiring developers that will drive your organization’s success and innovation. Here are three main reasons why: 

  1. Maximizing Productivity: Research indicates that top-performing developers are a staggering 800% more productive than their average counterparts. Skill and portfolio assessments are the key to identifying and bringing on board such exceptional contributors.
  2. Challenges in Finding Technical Talent: HR professionals often face substantial challenges when seeking to recruit technical talent. According to a recent Indeed survey, almost 9 out of 10 HR professionals (86%) admit to finding it challenging to locate and hire qualified technical talent. A significant portion (36%) even describe this challenge as “very” challenging. To address this, rigorous skill assessments are essential to ensure you’re making the right hiring decisions.
  3. Projected Industry Growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a substantial 25% increase in the need for software developers by 2028. Skill and portfolio assessments help you not only attract the best talent but also confirm their suitability for your organization, making it an imperative step in managing this demand.

How to Assess Developers Effectively: 5 Expert Strategies

When it comes to assessing developers, there is not only one specific test to conduct. This always will depend on the job role itself, and the type of employee you need for your team. 

Here are 5 key strategies that will help you evaluate a candidate’s skills and technical abilities: 

1. Evaluation of Their Coding Skills 

One of the main reasons why developer assessment tests are fundamental is because they allow you to make sure that the candidate has the skills you need. My main advice here is to avoid using generic tests. 

The recruitment and selection process, particularly when it comes to specialized roles, should be tailored to the job’s requirements. You can build a technical skill assessment test with platforms like HackerRank or Codility that will allow you to gauge developers’ technical proficiency. 

You can do so by signing up for a HackerRank for Work account and creating a custom coding test based on the skills required for your project, either by selecting questions from HackerRank’s library or creating your own. 

Invite candidates to take the test before a set deadline. Once completed, review the scores and performance metrics provided by HackerRank to evaluate code quality, accuracy, and efficiency.

Live coding sessions, with platforms like CodePair, are also a useful tool to explore a developer’s real-world performance under conditions that mimic the actual work environment. You can see first-hand how candidates approach problem-solving, debug errors, and optimize code in real time.

Here you can build a tailored assessment that simulates the challenges developers would face on the job. 

2. Do a Comprehensive Portfolio Review

Regardless of their expertise level, from junior to senior, every developer should have a portfolio.

Portfolios allow you to know the candidates’ professional trajectory more closely. You can understand more about their professional experience and coding skills through their personal projects. 

When evaluating portfolios, you should never lose focus on what type of candidate you are seeking. What I mean by this is that a candidate can have an impressive portfolio with 90% of their experience building websites, but if you need an iOS developer, then they might not be ideal for your team. 

Look for projects that have a substantial complexity and scope that align with the job role you are hiring for. Evaluate the variety of technologies used, the scale of user engagement, and the kind of problems they solved.

Through developers’ portfolios, you can have a first glance at the quality of their code by looking at its cleanliness and modularity. You can also evaluate their use of version control systems like Git.

Red Flags in a Developer’s Portfolio 

Doing a comprehensive portfolio review also means being aware of potential red flags. Here are three of the most common ones to keep an eye for:

  • Lack of Diversity in Projects: A portfolio lacking diversity in technologies or project types may indicate a narrow skill set.
  • Incomplete Projects: Numerous unfinished projects could signify a lack of follow-through or ability to meet deadlines.
  • Absence of Recent Work: If their portfolio doesn’t contain recent work, it might indicate their skills are outdated or a lack of continued interest in professional growth. However, it’s always good to ask them more about the reasons why they stopped working.

3. Assess Communication and Collaboration Skills

Hiring developers is not only about their tech skills but also their communication and collaboration skills. Do they express their ideas clearly? Are they able to explain complex terms to non-technical people? Do they work as part of a team? 

Assessing these skills can be challenging because, during the first interviews, their goal is to convince you that they are exactly what you need. So, for a communication or a collaboration assessment, you can consider two different approaches:

  • Behavioral interviews
  • References

Behavioral interviews are designed to assess how candidates have responded to different situations in the past, providing insight into their interpersonal skills and problem-solving approaches. 

Questions should be crafted to elicit responses that demonstrate a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively, collaborate with others, and handle conflicts. 

It’s beneficial to involve a mix of technical and non-technical interviewers in this process. This diversity can help in evaluating how well the candidate communicates across different levels and disciplines.

For an external point of view, references are ideal. Speaking with previous employers or colleagues can provide invaluable insights into a candidate’s collaborative skills and contributions to team projects. It’s an opportunity to validate the information shared by the candidate and to understand their work ethic and team dynamics better.

When contacting references, ask about the candidate’s role in past projects, their ability to meet deadlines, how they handled feedback, and their contributions to team successes or failures. This information can provide a more holistic picture of how the candidate collaborates in a team setting and communicates with others.

4. Analyze Performance Metrics of Past Projects

This strategy is particularly useful for senior-level roles. Analyzing performance metrics of past projects can give you a deeper understanding of whether a developer is a good fit for your team.

For this, start by discussing the candidate’s project outcomes. This involves assessing whether a candidate has a history of meeting project deadlines and how they handled any delays. 

Look into the goals set for their past projects and the extent to which they were achieved. This can include technical goals, such as performance improvements or bug reduction, as well as broader project goals, like user engagement or revenue generation.

Besides the project outcomes, checking key performance indicators (KPIs) allows you to have a clearer picture of how success was defined in their past roles and how their performance aligned with these metrics. 

KPIs can also help you understand if candidates used these for self-evaluation and continuous improvement. Did they take any specific actions in response to these metrics to improve their performance or the project outcomes?

By thoroughly analyzing project outcomes and discussing KPIs, you can gain a deeper understanding of a candidate’s past performance and their potential to contribute to future projects.

5. Craft Custom Assessment Criteria for Your Project

Custom assessment criteria will allow you to evaluate their ability to meet your project’s unique requirements. This is one of the best ways to ensure you’re hiring the right candidate.

The first step is to understand the key skills and technologies you need a developer to be proficient in. For example, if your project involves developing a mobile application, proficiency in Swift or Kotlin might be crucial, along with a familiarity with frameworks or libraries like React Native or Flutter for rapid development and deployment. 

Based on these skills, you can create a set of custom assessment criteria that will serve as a checklist.

Next, you can create tailored assessments, as explained in the first strategy, through platforms like HackerRank, Codility, or GitHub. That way, you can create custom tests that align with your project tech stack and objectives.

We always recommend that post-assessment, you review the effectiveness of these custom criteria with your team and make adjustments for future candidates based on feedback from candidates, hiring managers, and technical team members. This way, hiring software developers becomes easier and more effective.

Ready to Hire Top Tier Developers?

Hiring skilled developers requires a well-thought-out strategy to ensure that you’re using your time and resources efficiently. With developer skills assessments, you can closely evaluate the abilities and value that candidates can bring to the team.

If you want to improve your recruitment process and hire remote developers smoothly, partner with us. You’ll have all the tools and strategies you need to find the perfect candidate for your team. And forget about the paperwork and HR hassle, we also take care of that.

Book a discovery call and find out more about our recruitment method.

Ihor Shcherbinin

As the VP of Recruiting, Ihor brings an unparalleled expertise to the developer talent acquisition landscape. His proficiency in interviewing, candidate selection, and offer negotiation showcases a keen ability to identify and onboard the best developers for any organization. With a comprehensive grasp over the full life cycle of recruiting, from the initial job opening to the final hiring process, Ihor stands out as an embodiment of recruiting excellence.

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