Want to Hire the Best Developers in Silicon Valley? Here’s How.

So you’re hiring a new employee to build your dream app. You need a candidate who is authoritative, yet understands direction. Someone who writes life-altering code, but understands the simplicity needed to make it work. Basically, you need a superhero.

It turns out, when you’re interviewing Clark Kent or Diana Prince, their real identities are hidden. You can’t see their earth-shattering powers upon looking at their resumes or shaking their hands. To draw them out, you have to get creative with your technique.

We’ve gone through a recent growth spurt at Kiip, hiring quite a few new members on our engineering and sales teams. There are some vital tactics we’ve learned along the way about how to discern the ideal candidate. Below are our tips.

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Image source: Death to the Stock Photo

1. Determine the metric of success for the role. Look at the level of the role for which you’re hiring and set different expectations based on its seniority. For a junior hire, look for someone who can learn, as opposed to someone who already has a specific breadth of knowledge. Setting expectations in advance will avoid confusion as to whether the whenever the interviewee is a good fit.

2. Write a 30-60-90 day plan. Figure out what you want your future employee to accomplish within one to three months. This discerns the capabilities you need most, rather than a laundry list of generic qualities (smart! talented! gives 110 percent!) While the hiring manager must expend extra effort, it ensures a proper fit and simplifies the training process upon employment.

3. Filter with phone screens. Don’t waste time interviewing someone in-office when you can nix the wrong hires over the phone. Set up a short phone call first (15-45 minutes), to determine their experience and attitude. Next, sell them on your company culture. Get them excited about what makes the company so great and the role so challenging. Perhaps it’s working with a top team or dealing with a large infrastructure. Call it out and let them know. If they seem right for the job at the end of the call, set up an in-person interview or let them know the next steps. If not, your goal is to be honest and let them down gently. Even if you don’t find the perfect hire, you can still create a company evangelist.

4. Build your interview team. Create a team of interviewers from employees who have grown out of that role. If this is not a replacement position, include employees who have interacted with the role at previous jobs. For front-facing roles, bring on members from other teams so they can weigh in on the type of person who will work best. Separate these employees into teams of two to four people.

5. Train your interview team. Spend a few minutes before the interview going over questions with each team. For instance, team one discusses candidate ability, team two discusses problem solving and so on. The teams shouldn’t repeat questions, but cover separate points. When the interview is over, teams should discuss the results amongst each other to fill in the gaps.

6. Break the interview into five steps. Don’t jump into the interview unprepared and without pointed questions. Instead, teach your team to break up the process into these steps for the best results.

  • Build rapport. Ask general questions about their experience to help them relax.
  • Discuss the company and role. Give them an overview of the company’s foundation and how this role will push the business forward.
  • Ask behavioral questions. Ask open-ended questions that focus on ability. You can start by asking about a problem they’ve faced, inquiring how they handled it and learning the results. These include questions about project management, people skills, problem solving and more.
  • Answer their questions. A great candidate has a handful of questions pertaining to the company’s future and their role in it.
  • Close. Ask them where they stand in their interview process to gauge how seriously they’re considering the role. Follow up with the next steps, whether that’s speaking with another team or letting them know the final decision.

7. Keep the interview relevant to real-life skills. Many managers ask developers to code on the spot. However, for a nervous candidate, this isn’t a strong interview tactic. Having a flustered developer shakily write code on a white board with a group watching is not an accurate measure of their skills. If you must ask them for code – and a previous sample won’t do – give them overnight homework. Allowing them to take their time and code in a pressure-free environment is much more akin to how they’ll work at your company.

8. View differences as strengths. Working well in a team is a necessary skill no matter what an employee’s title. However, this doesn’t mean you need to hire carbon copies of your existing employees. Many companies risk losing new employees because they feel alienated from the rest of the team. Solve this by hiring a diverse team with differing professional expertise. This builds a team that approaches problems from a variety of perspectives, and encourages mentoring, team bonding and a friendly workforce.

9. Value perseverance. This quality is relevant to any profession, but is truest here. Scout an employee who is dedicated, patient and meticulous. They should love complex challenges and dive deep to find the solution, never giving up if it’s shrouded between lines of code. Asking about a candidate’s previous failures is a good way to measure this in an interview. Don’t dock them for being earnest, but listened for how they handled a situation and what they learned.

10. Recap with your interview team. When the interview is over, a decision to hire should be unanimous. If the team is divided, discuss the candidate’s strengths and weakness and come to a decision together.

Keeping the team in the loop throughout the process is vital for your current employees’ growth. As you climb up the company ladder, they’ll take your place as hiring managers. Train them as the next generation of leaders to ensure the company only hires the cream of the crop.

Do you have any other tips for hiring great developers? Shout out in the comments below to tweet your thoughts to us.


Rewards lead to higher engagement among users and better monetization for developers. 84 percent of mobile users say they prefer mobile rewards vs. ads, and over 3,000 games and apps already use Kiip to monetize. Learn more about Kiip at kiip.me/developers.

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