Technical Hiring for Non-Tech People 101

bMarketing? No problem.

Operations? Piece of cake.

Finding and hiring a great developer without knowing much code? Now that seems daunting. 

Many parts of the common business are becoming increasingly technology based; this means that industries which previously ran on paper now need developers and technical personnel to conduct day to day operations. For startup founders, hiring the right developer can make or break the whole project, the right people can come together to create something amazing.

But the question remains, how do you do a good job of hiring? With no real coding ability and no leads on where to look, the prospect of having to do this can seem distressing, this guide will help you get a handle on the process.

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1. Identify what you really need.

hDevelopers use technology to creatively build almost anything: products for consumers, enterprise and personal uses. With such a fragmented market, the work that people want to do by hiring a developer is incredibly diverse: from key application design, back-end integration and upgrades.

If you’re making the decision to hire someone in-house or outsource, Stella Fayman has a great guide on the KissMetrics Blog.

Creating a detailed plan of what exactly what is required to achieve the desired outcome is not optional, whether you’re looking for a contractor for a week or a full-time hire.


“Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do.”

– Malcolm Forbes, Forbes


So what makes a good job description? Success involves giving some premeditated thought to:

  • How does the organization want to portray its culture?
  • Where the role is in the team, department and business?
  • Who are the supervisors and other key interactions?
  • Areas of responsibility
  • Deliverables expected
  • Scope for progression, project phases
  • Required education, training & background
  • Renumeration range

“All things are created twice; first mentally; then physically. The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and a blue print of the desired result.”

— Stephen Covey

Doing the initial prep work is the key to successfully hiring great candidates. At Apex, we’ve found that clarity in the hiring plan leads to clarity throughout the project.

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2. Use Referrals

eImagine you need a roofer but didn’t know one. How would you start your search? Most likely, with friends, family and colleagues.

The development world is much the same; start your search by asking trusted business contacts and experts who personally know or have done business with. 

Nina Mehta of Pivotal Labs outlines some excellent Hiring Tricks for Referrals in her Medium piece.

No luck with your personal network? Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to get introduced to developers and technically skilled personnel, go to local meetups, hack-a-thons and developer events to meet and engage with exactly the people you’re looking for. Utilize personal connections over social media such as LinkedIn, don’t be shy to ask to be introduced to people who you think might have the skills you need to run your business.

Need developers you can count on? Yesterday? Get in touch with us and start immediately.


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3. Investigate & Discover The Big Picture

gIf you have some prospective candidates, the investigation of their skills begins now. There are many ways to code “right” and many ways to code “wrong.” Properly done, coding style can become an art.

The best way to get an initial picture, browse through their publicly listed portfolios, website, repositories and projects. Github is a great resource for this, as is BitBucket.

Pay special attention to:

  • How they market themselves & present their work
  • How complex are their challenges
  • Whether they are contributors to any online communities
  • How users review their apps & programs (if applicable)
  • Whether they have a though presence or write on relevant topics

Online communities, such as StackOverflow & Quora are also great tools for meeting developers and coders in their peak. Check out if they are contributory forces to a discussion or disrespectful to the community.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.

Though being able to field questions is not a mandatory skill set for developers, how they field questions and what they choose to say may be a good indicator of your interactions with them.

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4. Get a handle on their personality

iInformation hunting gives you some insight into prospective developers. Get ready to get in contact and talk to those qualified candidates; keep in mind, your aim is to mentally frame them as co-workers. Remember to test all the other critical team factors such as:


  • What is their work ethic like?
  • Would they be a good comparable fit to your style?
  • What do you think of their character?


Elon Musk, highlighted the importance in hiring for character when recently speaking at the SXSW conference, he said:

“[My biggest mistake is] weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality…it matters whether someone has a good heart.”

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5. Ask the important questions

lYou’re not that technical but that’s OK, highlighting the important questions beforehand will allow your prospect to do most of the talking and walk you through exactly what they do.

For hiring a developer we really care about three key things, technical competence, adaptable attitude & applicability of skills to your project. Evaluating adaptability should become clear as conversations continue, for competence and applicability there are two easy questions:

Question 1: What projects have you worked on in the past that you are most proud of?

Question 2: Ask them to show you a specific example from past work and comment on it

By broadly outlining the scope in their mind, you are able to assess whether the person you’re talking to might be a good match for your goals.

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6. Follow up with previous employers & clients for feedback

cThe last step in hiring your great developer is to garner feedback on their previous work from past clients/employers. Don’t be shy, ask your candidates for 3 previous references and tell them to please inform them that you will be reaching out.

Shoot a quick email or pick up the phone, ask them if they would be willing to share come quick feedback.

Make sure to ask each reference these basic questions:

  • Was the work professional & punctual?
  • Did the project stay in budget?
  • How happy were you with the outcome? Would you rehire if required?

You don’t need to dig up the archives, just a quick snapshot of what their previous employer thought, a simple easy list allows for less friction when collecting information.

If you need to do a more in-depth reference check Tomasz Tunguz’s guide on “The Anatomy of a Reference Check” is a great resource for narrowing down what you really want to know about a prospective hire.

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Bonus for developers: get s**t done

kThis article focuses on the hiring side, how to find, screen and select great developers. I’d like to take this opportunity to share something targeted to those who calls themselves development experts.

Please read this, it is for you.

We pulled out our top rejection reasons by our clients, here are the biggest reasons candidates get rejected:

  • Lack of proven work experience, no portfolio or a weak one
  • Overaggressive, conceited or a know-it-all, poor coach-ability
  • They don’t sell themselves, it comes across as a lack of vocation or purpose

How can you show someone your skills if there is no evidence of them being used in the past, or if a team manager feels like there is no way you’d be able to learn, or if you legitimately seem like you don’t care? Everything is an interview and life is sales, make sure that you put yourself out there.


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dFinding and screening a developer when you’re not that technical may seem daunting, it really isn’t.

Ultimately, the right combination of technical background (smarts) & team attitude (will) will help you grow your business. Making sure you find the right people is a matter of identifying like-minded individuals.

If the process seems like all too much, consider linking up with a friend or colleague you trust to get some technical guidance in the position definition and interview creation preparation, then conduct screening.

It’s not easy but these tips will help you find better ways to locate and check your next developer hire.

We screen our experts to connect with the best developers.  Contact us and work with them!