11 Tips on Hiring a Rails Developer
The following article is a guest article written by John Philip Green of Savvica, a Toronto based educational technology company whose development efforts are focused on Ruby and Rails.
Hiring Rails full-time Rails developers is hard. Here's why:
- Surging demand. You will likely fight other companies for every recruit.
- $100/hour++ freelance consulting rates are commonplace.
- It's hard to evaluate candidates. In the Java or .NET world, number of years of experience is relevant, but not here. The framework is only 3 years old.
I've hired ten full-time Rails developers into startups so far in 2007, but to do that I've had to interview hundreds and learned a lot of lessons. With that, here's my best advice to anyone else who wants hire a Rails developer:
- Don't use Monster.com or recruitment agencies. Use your feet instead; find out where Rails developers meet each other and go there. In San Francisco it's the Ruby Meetups, in Toronto check out PubNite. WorkingWithRails.com can also be useful. If you must post to job boards, try 37 Signals and add your job posting to SimplyHired. [Ed: Don't forget the Ruby Inside job board!]
- Poach! Talented but unhappy Rails developers are sulking in companies all around you. Just don't poach from friends (or me).
- Don't hire someone that doesn't know Rails at all. Perhaps as with all things, you want to hire someone who has self-selected to do that job. Rails is famously easy to get started with… you can literally be running your first Rails app minutes after visiting rubyonrails.org for the first time. I won't hire anyone who hasn't at least built and deployed a couple of projects in their spare time and who understands both the advantages and disadvantages of using the technology.
- Look for open source contributions. Being intimate with the open source workings of the Rails community is crucial. Open Source contributions such as releasing a Rails plugin, or fixing bugs on projects like Beast, or Rails itself, demonstrates exposure to other Rails code bases.
- A personal Rails blog is required. Every Rails developer should have a blog to engage with the community. On a related note, I've often asked candidates to list their favorite Rails blogs or even show me their newsreader. They should know most of the top Rails blogs and who's behind them.
- A university degree is not important. I hate to say it–I'm personally a graduate from Canada's highly-regarded Math/CS program at Waterloo–but several of the best Rails developers I know didn't study computer science at all.
- Avoid brand-name superstars. They will command massive salaries, sport huge egos, and ultimately not fully commit to your company. Better they gain notoriety through your projects.
- Hire perpetually. You'll find that I always have an open Rails developer position, because when demand outstrips supply, you should hire when you can.
- Have a company Rails blog with useful, meaningful posts (like our Email Veracity post which made it to del.icio.us/popular) to spread awareness and goodwill.
- Special compensation. Money is just one technique of persuasion, everybody wins if you are more creative. First, Rails developers need their MacBook Pros and fat external screens, obviously. Trip to RailsConf should be included. I've also noticed they enjoy free lunches now and again. [Ed: Don't forget the Red Bull..!]