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Our Hiring Philosophy For Ruby on Rails Developers

Apr 2012

Though the number of Ruby on Rails developers is rising, many may lack the level of experience that we require. Therefore, it is necessary to implement a strong hiring practice to identify the best candidate for a role, and ensure that new recruits are not simply apprentices but experienced developers who can contribute significantly from day one.

We have always taken inspiration from 37signal’s working practices and recently came across Google’s hiring strategy that seems to advocate what we happen to be practicing already. So in this blog I would like to give a bit of background information on hiring methods established by Google and 37signals, and then show how our recruitment process and strategies compare.

Google’s Hiring Philosopy

Google’s Lake Wobegon Strategy advocates hiring above the mean, arguing with proven results that sustained company success is most achievable when you only hire those who are better than the mean average of your entire team. So, by hiring a better person with every new employee you are more likely to see increased company success.

37signals’ Hiring Philosophy

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (founders of 37signals) in their latest book Rework, discuss some of the principles of successful hiring, including:

Don’t limit your search to a specific geographic location as this restricts your pool of potential candidates to a specific area. This is particularly relevant to our field, where experienced Ruby on Rails developers can seem few and far between if you are only advertising locally. By expanding your search internationally you are increasing your chances of finding the best person for the job. With the advances in technology, building an international distributed team is not only possible, but beneficial, as 37signals have found.

It is also important to test-drive your candidates in a real working environment. The candidate needs to be somebody who is compatible with existing employees on a personal level. Certain qualities cannot be assessed by reviewing a resume and carrying out an interview, and require an on-the-job trial.

Bit Zesty’s Hiring Practices

Google’s Lake Wobegon strategy is sound in its analytic nature, but the reality of applying a check-list approach can be a little difficult in practice. Though our hiring method borrows some principles from Google’s, it is one that has evolved naturally with influence from 37signals and is a more personal and workable form of assessment.

The crux of the matter is that we will hire someone better than ourselves. By adhering to this simple principle we not only spend less time instructing the new recruit, but we can put more trust in their initiative, which leads to a freer exchange of ideas and encourages innovation. Also, we don’t just recruit very experienced Ruby on Rails developers, we make sure that they bring other technical skills that the team does not have yet – ensuring that our skill base keeps expanding. This way, everyone keeps improving and learning.

We feel strongly about attracting a worldwide pool of potential candidates, so that we are not limited by location. We hire based on candidates skills rather than where they are based. This of course presents some challenges when recruiting. The candidates go through a rigorous selection process, which includes pair-programming using screen-sharing, where we can see the approach the developer takes, the tools they use and their knowledge. We also have 3 stage interview process,  in order to establish candidate’s motivation and whether he or she will be a good fit for our team.

While the selection process can help us to identify the best people in terms of technical skill, the successful candidate will have to be a natural fit for the company with regard to interaction with other team members and our work methods. The best way to assess this is through the on-the-job trial. We typically agree on a trial period of at least one month, which enables us to determine if the candidate will be suitable as well as giving them a chance to see if they like working with us.

In conclusion, while technical skills and experience are important, we also consider attributes such as dedication, attitude and the ability to perform well in a real working situation.