Developers are a mysterious bunch. You’d think it would be easier to assess their soft skills and preferred way of working than their tech experience, but that isn’t always the case.
If you’re hiring developers for e-commerce or travel tech, it’s likely they will need to have worked in an agile environment – whether that’s Scrum, lean development, or another type of iterative methodology.
As we discussed in our blog post on culture fit, whatever their role and level of experience, it’s important that new developers have the right work ethic, personal values and soft skills to slot straight into their new team. The way they’re used to collaborating, how they prioritise work and how they generate new ideas is all massively important if you want to hire the right developer.
For many e-commerce and travel tech companies, that means agile.
First up, why is agile important for e-commerce and travel tech companies?
Iterative methodologies – including agile – are the backbone of many startups and high growth companies because it means they can react more quickly to new technologies and changing customer trends.
Agile is especially useful for e-commerce because it’s such a fast-moving, competitive sector. Having an agile mindset helps the company get tech products and software updates out to the market (and to users) faster than anyone else. Agile environments also encourage collaboration between team members and even entire teams, which enables the flow and exchange of new ideas.
Priorities are constantly changing to keep up with competition and customer trends and to leverage the latest technology advancements. You need to release functionality early and often, then measure what works, what doesn’t and iteratively refine it.
Skills agile developers need:
Rapid growth in an agile environment can mean unforeseen challenges, awkward growing pains and difficult decisions. It can be a pretty big culture shock! So it’s crucial that e-commerce developers have relevant experience.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to have worked in a company that officially subscribes to a lean or iterative methodology, however. Sometimes it’s enough if they have worked in a startup environment with high growth and rapid structural, product or developmental changes.
So how do you know if a developer is going to be successful in an e-commerce or travel tech company?
Here are some of the key qualities and skills we look for in agile developers:
- innovativity and creativity – the ability to “think outside the box”
- an ability to think on their feet
- the drive and motivation to work independently
- the confidence to try new and untested ideas
- being open to other people’s ideas and new ways of working
- the flexibility to deal with fast changes
How to find agile developers
The good news is that a majority of startups and high growth companies use some form of agile methodology. So you should stumble across plenty of agile developers at events, on LinkedIn and GitHub, and in any other forums, communities and tools you have in your sourcing mix.
But how to know if a developer uses agile?
When we look for passive candidates with agile experience, we use a range of agile-related keywords. (We obviously include them in our job descriptions too!). We also look in forums, on Github and other places agile developers might be sharing code, discussing technical issues or even looking for a new job.
If a candidate hasn’t mentioned experience with agile in their CV or on their LinkedIn profile, we research their current company (and previous roles) to see whether they use agile methodologies.
Look for evidence in a person’s resume and portfolio that can demonstrate how well they interacted with teams, their communication skills, and whether they have experience helping develop an agile environment.
How to assess agile experience in an interview
If a candidate has solid experience working in a company that subscribes to an agile methodology, that’s great. But there are also other ways to assess whether they have the soft skills, work ethic and personal values they will need to thrive in an iterative environment.
The questions we ask candidates during the interview process depends on role, product and level of seniority a client is looking for. There are a bunch of questions you could ask to evaluate agile experience.
But don’t make the mistake of googling “interview questions to test for agile experience”! We spend time working with clients to understand what their ideal candidates would look like and tailor questions based on their specific hiring needs.
Example questions to ask candidates to assess agile experience
To give you an idea of the kinds of questions we ask candidates, we’ve included seven below. We’ve also explained what we’re looking for in candidates’ answers.
- What does a startup environment mean to you? What would be your ideal company culture? (Flexibility, adaptability, management style, the way they like to work)
- How has company growth affected the way you code? (How they deal with rapid growth)
- Can you describe how your current team is structured? How do you work together and communicate? (Do they work iteratively? Are they told what to do or do they have space to think of their own ideas?)
- What did your company look like when you joined compared to now? (Look for size of team/company and number of users – to see whether they’ve worked in a rapid-growth environment)
- How did the product look or work at the beginning compared to now? (Look for innovation and creativity)
- Do you have any experience working with agile methodologies? (Avoid mentioning keywords so they reply unprompted)
- How would you react if someone in your team suggested a new way of working you don’t agree with/don’t think will be successful? (How open they are to new ideas, how they work within a team, how they handle conflict, how they give feedback)
You can always train for the technical skills – it’s so hard to get someone to learn curiosity, critical thinking and have a collaborative attitude. But most importantly, a willingness to accept and embrace change.
So, how to know if a developer uses agile?
Hopefully this blog post has given you some insight into how to find agile developers and how to identify whether they have the right experience to thrive in an agile environment. It’s not that hard to know if a developer uses agile: you just need a mix of keywords, company research and pre-prepared interview questions.
Still not convinced that soft skills and culture fit is important?
For more information about hiring e-commerce developers, take a look at the rest of the blog posts in our series:
We’ve also put together an e-book full of super useful developer-spotting tips and tricks. From profiles to interview questions, it has everything you need to start filling your tech team with
aliens e-commerce developers.