Top Five Things I Look for in a Coder


I am writing this blog because every time I interview a coder I always ask myself the same question, “Will they be a good fit?” That is why it is important to know what you are looking for in a coder. Here are my top five things I look for in a coder:

1. Good communication skills.

2. Keen attention to detail.

3. Ability to work independently and as part of a team.

4. Ambition in learning new technologies and techniques.

5. A desire to refine their craft as a coder by following coding standards and best practices.

I’m going to show you my list of the top 5 things I look for when hiring a new coder.

Good judgment: The best coders have good judgment. This is one of the most important things! A good coder is able to make smart decisions about what code to write and how to structure it. If a coder doesn’t have good judgment, they will write bad code, which will make your product buggy and slow.

Communication skills: Coders are usually working in teams, so they need to be able to communicate with other people. They need to be clear about what they are doing and what they need from other people on their team.

Life experience: Having life experience is especially important for junior coders (who are probably younger). They will not have much work experience, but if they’ve had some life experience and can talk about that, that will help me see who they are as a person.

Intellectual curiosity & passion for learning: You want a coder who is intellectually curious about how things work and passionate about learning new programming concepts. That way, even if the job does get boring at times, your coder has the motivation to keep learning new things and trying out new ideas in

I get asked a lot what I think makes a good coder, and how to decide who should work on one of our projects.

I look for a few things in particular, some of which are pretty specific to our industry. Some of them are not industry specific at all, but can be very telling about how someone will do in this position. Here are my top five:

When I interview coders, I look for five qualities.

Expertise: They can teach me things.

Style: Their coding style is similar to mine.

Judgment: They have good judgment about what to work on and how hard to work.

Openness: They are open about what they don’t know.

Motivation: They want to be great coders.

The only thing I look for in a coder is whether their code works. If it does, I hire them. If it doesn’t, I don’t.

My philosophy has always been to hire smart people and let them tell me what to do. If they’re smart enough, they’ll be able to do the job better than I could anyway. And if they’re not smart enough, there’s no amount of direction that will help them.

A corollary is that I usually don’t even know what questions to ask in an interview. How can I? My job is to build things that don’t exist yet. But coders are supposed to build things that do exist already, so presumably they know how. So instead of trying to figure out if candidates are good at something I’m bad at and couldn’t evaluate anyway, I just try to see if they’re interesting people who like building things.

I think one reason why hackers are underrepresented in business is that startup founders– who are generally hackers themselves– are too obsessed with this question of skill at coding, and consequently rate it higher than other qualities like personality or determination or taste.

As a result founders tend to undervalue those aspects of the craft, which means the companies they start don

I’ve interviewed over a thousand programmers for the companies I’ve founded. Here are my top five suggestions for finding the best coders.

The most important thing is to look at what they’ve done. Look at some of the code they’ve written. Ask them why they wrote it that way, and what they would do differently if they had to write it over again. You’ll learn more in one hour of code review than you will in a month of interviewing, and you’ll have much more fun too.

Look for people who like to code, not people who like to talk about coding. You can test this by giving them some problems to solve right there on a whiteboard. Anybody can sound smart if you let them talk long enough, but don’t let them talk. Make them write code instead.

If you want to find good hackers, look for people who love hacking on their own projects. Good hackers tend to be more interested in solving problems than in making money, and so good hackers are disproportionately likely to be working on interesting open source projects rather than just serving as cogs in a big company’s engineering machine.

You need people who are smart and get things done; not necessarily in equal measure. If someone is really smart but lazy,

I get asked all the time for hiring advice for coders, so here’s my list. I think this is a pretty good list, but if you disagree with any of it, or think I should add anything additional, send me email.

1) Good Taste.

2) Technical Ability.

3) No Social Awkwardness.

4) High Energy Level.

5) Likes Programming.

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