How To Hire A Great Drupal Developer - A Step By Step Guide
Here’s a common scenario: You’ve just been hired as the head of a company’s digital strategy. Eager to make a difference, you quickly map out the pain points on the company’s website, create a time line to implement these changes and then attempt to get buy-in from the CEO. You lay out your case and the CEO gives you two thumbs up. You then head down to IT and talk with them about your project and they say “We can’t do that. The sites in Drupal. Our Drupal guy left 6 months ago. And we’re not even sure if the code is good or not.”
We at Drupal Partners get the above story a lot (which is usually about the time our phone rings). However, sometimes companies don’t want to hire external firms and want to create an in-house team. We fully realize that as complicated as Drupal is, so, too, is identifying the right resources and hiring a great Drupal Development team. It’s especially cumbersome when you don’t have prior experience at hiring or have had unsuccessful results in the past. In fact, we’ve had the same trials here at our company. While we're darn proud of our Drupal Developers, it’s not been easy to find them. Open source is a very competitive industry to find and retain talent. While open source platforms are gaining industry adoption, the supply of talented Drupal Developers really hasn’t (in our opinion) kept pace.
Despite these many challenges, we’ve managed to put together a great team and thought we should share how we did it. We believe these practices and methodologies will help you identify the best of the best Drupal-ites. And with that, here’s step by step guide on how to hire a great Drupal Developer.
Step 1: Make sure you know exactly what you need
To avoid a lot of frustration, first make sure the job title, role, and job description are crystal clear. From there, make sure you define your project requirements as in-depth as possible. This is not a time for “guesswork.” Be as open and transparent as possible. Need someone that has niche government Drupal experience with a bit of Drupal Commerce and migration expertise? Say so. Need someone that has only created custom modules and specializes in the pet industry? Say so.
Step 2: Decide the best place to post your Drupal Developer opening
There are numerous agencies and portals claiming to have the best Drupal resources waiting to be hired. With so many of these agencies, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you’re a non-technical person. So, where should you post your Drupal Developer job opening? The below are what we’ve found to be the best use of your time when trying to find a Drupal Developer (in order of importance, of course):
- Your website: We've noticed that job pages consistently get a lot of traffic. When people go to a website, we've noticed that they'll look at the "About Us" section and then the "Careers" page. Thus, it's super important to have these as accurate and updated as possible for future work needed.
- Word of mouth: WoM is still one of our primary tools for finding Drupal Talent. If you ask a world class doughnut cook where to find good doughnuts, they'll tell you. The same is true when searching for world class Drupal Developers. (PS - We love doughnuts).
- Drupal.org: Drupal Jobs on Drupal.org is one of the best resources for finding talent. You'll find Drupal newbies to Drupal Experts. The downside is that you will have to pay to have your job listed or search resumes.
- Job portals: Think Indeed, Monster, Simply Hired and LinkedIn. If you Google, "Drupal Developer Jobs" all of these sites are in the top 10.
- Freelancing Sites: Some common sites out there are Freelancer, Elance, ODesk and, yes, Craigslist. We've heard mixed reviews for these sites, so make sure you have a specific need in mind when you talk to the candidate.
- Hiring an agency (Like us!): We really like this option, well, because we really love our Drupal Developers making your business needs happen. This is a really great option if you don't want to manage the hiring/overhead/management of a Drupal Team.
- Social Media: We've gotten jobs and talent just by responding to a Facebook post from a mutual friend. Keep your eyes posted for friends of friends sharing that they need a Drupal job or have Drupal experience.
A quick note on Drupal.org:It has its perks. Mainly, you can look at Developer profiles on Drupal.org and see their involvement, contributions, participation in forums/discussions, and more. Job seekers can add:
- Roles worked
- Contributions towards modules, issues, patches installations, integrations etc.
- Number/type of questions and answers posted on profiles
- List of projects worked
- Challenging projects worked, the methodologies employed and their outcomes – refers to the levels of innovation, enthusiasm and passion towards Drupal
- Documentation skills - a vital criterion to be considered as an asset
- Personal Information
Step 3: Look at their social media footprint
We always recommend doing a little snooping on social media. Our favorite for this is LinkedIn. A well crafted LinkedIn profile speaks volumes about the Developer. Here are some of the key items to look for:
- Experience/Time between projects: Look at how many projects, the duration of projects and depth of projects. More on this below. Developers may be of two types – Freelancers and/or attached with an organization. The time period of each of the projects or the organization they have worked reveals the ability to be stable. If a Developer has a new project every week, that’s a red flag.
- Look at the summary section: The more precise and concise it is, the better the Developer can communicate. A crisp and targeted summary may also indicate how succinct he/she – If they’re precise in their summary, there’s a good chance their code is probably pretty streamlined, too.
- Connections: The number of connections is a testimony of the collaborative trait. The number of connections with the Drupal Community can indicate the levels of active involvement with the community and the drive for Drupal. A true passionate Drupal-ion is very connected with the community sharing updates, volunteering and more.
- Recommendations: This section features the opinions of former clients; a clear reflection of the Developers abilities and professionalism. The opinion of the clients and those associated adds credibility to the Developer.
- Groups and Discussions: The Groups that the Developer is a part of shows how serious and active the Developer is in the Drupal Community.
Step 4: Start shortlisting the candidates
You’ve decided on what you need, what exact job requirements you want filled and where you’re going to find your talent. Now what? It’s time to nix people/agencies off you list. And here’s how:
- Check for the “words”: Reading the resume and interpreting the messaging is vital. Since you’ve already been ultra-specific in your Statement of Work or online posting, the resume should reflect your needs. Read through the resume and look for the words that match the technical requirements of your project, such as the Drupal versions familiar with, the modules worked on, front-end/back-end specialist, the industry and so on.
- Consider the experience level: Looking at the number of years of experience alone isn’t going to decide the candidate. Look to see if the Drupal Developer has worked on previous versions the Drupal, such as D4, D5 or D6. The more versions the Developer has worked with, the better they’ll understand the complexities of Drupal and ways to overcome them. Also, keep in mind that not all good Developers come with loads of experience. After all, everybody started fresh and has evolved. It’s the enthusiasm and the stubborn attitude of not giving up that has made them what they are.
- Give them scenarios: This is another method to gauge the level of analysis, judgment, presence of mind, typical turnaround time and knowledge of the Developer. Present a scenario that’s challenging enough to handle and ask the candidate as to how he/she would handle it. To make it more precise, keep it more targeted so it gets easier to evaluate the response. Give them specific scenarios, rather than generic ideas.
- Check the community involvement: If a Developer claims to be an expert, but has little activity in the Drupal Community, this could be a red flag. Make sure to check their profile on the Drupal Community as mentioned earlier. And, of course, there are sometimes exceptions. There are folks that may not always be active on forums or in communities, but could be pretty darn great Drupal Developers. Technical advice: Use your gut here.
Step 5: Evaluate their technical expertise
A simple and straight forward method is to ask to review some of their existing code or have them do some ad hoc coding for you. This way you can gauge their judgment, accuracy of expertise, the speed and the quality of coding. If they have some level of expertise in Drupal 8, it should be an added advantage as Drupal 8 is the most preferred version of Drupal CMS. Get the developers GitHub id so you can review the code and their Drupal.org profile page to review their contributions.
If hiring an agency, ask for some references for you to talk with. From there, ask the Developer/agency to list any recent updates, Drupal facts or news. If they stare at you blankly, then kindly say goodbye.
Step 6: Analyze their communication style
A Developer may have all the expertise that you need, but can’t properly communicate what he/she ate for dinner last night. All the knowledge in the world but a poor ability to share it is not effective or something you want to deal with. Make sure their communication style meets your company culture/goals and make sure you communicate this early to the Developer/agency. Effortless communication is what is going to ensure the smooth and on-time delivery of your project. An excellent communicator is an undeniable asset.
Step 7: Decide what makes the most financial sense
After you’ve talked with several candidates and (hopefully) a Drupal Development Agency or two, make sure you step back and look at all the numbers. Like, all of them. Sure, the agency might have quoted you $60,000 for the whole project, but you’re saving HR costs, insurance, overhead and a lot more. Best case scenario: You work with a great agency and form a long lasting partnership. Worst case scenario: The agency is flat our terrible and doesn’t deliver (We’ve seen this a lot from some competitors). If you do decide to hire an internal Drupal Developer, wonderful! But know that a great Developer will cost you (You really do get what you pay for here). But it might be totally worth it. It all depends on your business and ROI models.
Step 8: Understand If They Are Your Right Development Partner
There are over a thousand Drupal development firms and freelancers who have their own process and culture. Some might work for you when others wouldn’t. Plenty of our clients complain about development firms that are hard to reach once they commit to do the project. They are also not very transparent about the status and never keep up their promise. These key decision pointers will help you find efficient developers who always keep you in the loop.
- A dedicated project manager to discuss status and concerns
- A portal to report critical issues and bugs
- A dedicated developer to fix immediate concerns
- A complete team to take care of the entire project till its release
Step 9: Go with your gut
This is our most non-technical recommendation ever. But, we’re ok with that. There’s a reason you’re the Drupal talent decision maker at your company. Embrace that. If, after look at all the facts, things aren’t adding up, don’t feel bad about starting over. The fantastic fit is way better than the “just ok” fit. And there you have it – our step by step list on how to hire a great Drupal Developer. Have other suggestions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below. Looking to hire a Drupal Developer? We have those! We’d love to talk more about your project.