Hiring The Right Front-End Developer: 15 Methods For Screening Applicants

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Expert Panel, Young Entrepreneur Council

YEC is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most successful entrepreneurs 40 and younger.">YEC is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most successful entrepreneurs 40 and younger.

Designing a good website and user experience is remarkably important for companies. Sites need to be engaging, informative, easy to search and use, and draw people easily toward the next step, whatever that step may entail.

One way to make sure what your site is offering fits you perfectly is to hire a front-end developer. To help business leaders find the right hire for their team, we asked a Young Entrepreneur Council panel to share some tools or approaches people can use to screen front-end developer candidates, as well as why the systems work.

Photos courtesy of the individual members

1. Analyze Their Portfolio

The proficiency of a front-end developer is best gauged by their portfolio. How the projects they have worked on in the past measure up in terms of usability, responsiveness and user experience is a very useful screening parameter. We also have a test that emulates the real-life projects they would be working on, designed to gauge their coding prowess. This works best to see their skills live in action. - Rahul Varshneya, CurveBreak

2. Use A Live Coding Test

Include in the interview process a live coding test. Create an issue they must solve and watch them work through the issue through live screen sharing. This illustrates their competency in solving a problem specific to your business but also provides you a front seat to view and help you understand how they identify the issue and formulate an approach to resolve it quickly. - Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

3. Have Them Create A Mini Site

I like to create a small site PSD file and ask them to code it. Usually, I tell them to limit the amount of time that they spend on the task to about 20 minutes, but I also test in house to make sure it can in fact be completed in that time. The goal is twofold: One, ascertain what they can actually do in a limited time, and two, not let them feel like they wasted time if they don't get the job. - Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

4. Talk To Former Clients

Hiring a front-end developer means you'll have to do some screening so you can make sure you're hiring the right person for the job. Looking at an employee's work history and talking to their references seems easy enough, but it's also extraordinarily effective. If you want to hire someone to do front-end work on your website, they must understand how to create and stylize for thousands of people. - Blair Williams, MemberPress

5. Get Them To Look At Your Website

It sounds obvious, but pulling out an iPad and having a front-end developer walk through the site and talk about what jumps out to them, good and bad, can be illuminating. Your website is so integral to your business, and you need to be confident that your developers are going to look after it. Even if you aren't tech savvy, you will be able to tell if they lack ideas or seem flummoxed. - Ismael Wrixen, FE International

6. Ask Them To Explain Programming Languages

Ask them to explain the difference between HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery and Java. If they give you a basic understanding of the differences with each, even though you aren't technical, that is a pass to the next round. If they confuse you, make you feel stupid or can't explain them, you should not hire them. This test lets you know if they can communicate well, which is critical for any hire. - Monica Snyder, Birdsong

7. Discuss Pain Points Of UI/UX Design

A quality front-end developer will always understand the struggles of providing a swift user interface/user experience. In the interview phase, discuss the pain points of developing and designing the front end and compare that to the pain points of your existing resources. This will give you a great assessment of the expertise and experience of the developer and help you understand if they fit your requirements. - Abeer Raza, TekRevol

8. Make Sure They Have Patience

You want your front-end developer to have patience. A good front-end developer is going to need to do a lot of cross-browser testing and bug fixing to make sure that your website performs at its best and how it should on whatever browser, tablet or phone it's being used on. - Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.

9. Use Interview Mocha

Interview Mocha is an online assessment platform you can use to test your potential front-end developer hires. It's the world's largest skills assessment library and it includes IT skills, coding languages, domain skills, next-gen skills, and more. It's easy to use and it's a great tool that lets you see the candidate's skills in action. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

10. Conduct Conversational Surveys

We use conversational surveys during our hiring process to eliminate candidates who aren't a good fit and save time vetting for those who are. It's effective because it's similar to a face-to-face conversation, which makes it easier for applicants to fill out every question and provides a positive UX. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

11. Check Their GitHub Account

Check their GitHub account which stores their code and lets you see the process they used to develop it. This will give you a solid idea of how they formulate their code and if it meets your company standards or not. It's perhaps the most popular platform developers use, so it's worth looking into if other sources don't suffice. - Jared Atchison, WPForms

12. Use CodeSignal

There's a lot of bias in hiring technical talent, often because we are all biased, consciously or unconsciously. In addition, resumes are an ancient way to vet anyone. Criteria such as the college an applicant went to is not correlated to technical chops. CodeSignal eliminates this bias in several ways, offering standardized tests that can show applicants' scores on objective tasks. - Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications

13. Use TestDome

TestDome is an online platform you can use to test the skills of front-end developers. With TestDome you can create a test using the prebuilt questions they offer and invite candidates to take the test online. Then, you'll receive results to help you choose which candidates to interview or hire. They offer HTML, CSS and JavaScript online tests. - John Turner, SeedProd LLC

14. Send Them Desktop Designs

Contrary to the "mobile-first" design methods, one way that we test front-end developers is to send them desktop designs without the mobile designs or guidelines. We want to see their interpretation of how to best optimize the design for mobile and tablet. If they require guidelines to complete the job, I find that they almost always require a lot of QA and micromanagement. - Jinny Hyojin Oh, WANDR

15. Ask Open-Ended Questions

The most effective approach I've found is to ask questions that demonstrate some amount of ability (a la FizzBuzz) but are not easily "googleable." Something that's sufficiently open ended will generally enable this well. The goal is to test general knowledge rather than something application-specific—it's amazing at how well this filters people since most can't answer these questions. - Constantin Schreiber, Blair

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Designing a good website and user experience is remarkably important for companies. Sites need to be engaging, informative, easy to search and use, and draw people easily toward the next step, whatever that step may entail.

One way to make sure what your site is offering fits you perfectly is to hire a front-end developer. To help business leaders find the right hire for their team, we asked a Young Entrepreneur Council panel to share some tools or approaches people can use to screen front-end developer candidates, as well as why the systems work.

Photos courtesy of the individual members

1. Analyze Their Portfolio

The proficiency of a front-end developer is best gauged by their portfolio. How the projects they have worked on in the past measure up in terms of usability, responsiveness and user experience is a very useful screening parameter. We also have a test that emulates the real-life projects they would be working on, designed to gauge their coding prowess. This works best to see their skills live in action. - Rahul Varshneya, CurveBreak

2. Use A Live Coding Test

Include in the interview process a live coding test. Create an issue they must solve and watch them work through the issue through live screen sharing. This illustrates their competency in solving a problem specific to your business but also provides you a front seat to view and help you understand how they identify the issue and formulate an approach to resolve it quickly. - Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

3. Have Them Create A Mini Site

I like to create a small site PSD file and ask them to code it. Usually, I tell them to limit the amount of time that they spend on the task to about 20 minutes, but I also test in house to make sure it can in fact be completed in that time. The goal is twofold: One, ascertain what they can actually do in a limited time, and two, not let them feel like they wasted time if they don't get the job. - Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

4. Talk To Former Clients

Hiring a front-end developer means you'll have to do some screening so you can make sure you're hiring the right person for the job. Looking at an employee's work history and talking to their references seems easy enough, but it's also extraordinarily effective. If you want to hire someone to do front-end work on your website, they must understand how to create and stylize for thousands of people. - Blair Williams, MemberPress

5. Get Them To Look At Your Website

It sounds obvious, but pulling out an iPad and having a front-end developer walk through the site and talk about what jumps out to them, good and bad, can be illuminating. Your website is so integral to your business, and you need to be confident that your developers are going to look after it. Even if you aren't tech savvy, you will be able to tell if they lack ideas or seem flummoxed. - Ismael Wrixen, FE International

6. Ask Them To Explain Programming Languages

Ask them to explain the difference between HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery and Java. If they give you a basic understanding of the differences with each, even though you aren't technical, that is a pass to the next round. If they confuse you, make you feel stupid or can't explain them, you should not hire them. This test lets you know if they can communicate well, which is critical for any hire. - Monica Snyder, Birdsong

7. Discuss Pain Points Of UI/UX Design

A quality front-end developer will always understand the struggles of providing a swift user interface/user experience. In the interview phase, discuss the pain points of developing and designing the front end and compare that to the pain points of your existing resources. This will give you a great assessment of the expertise and experience of the developer and help you understand if they fit your requirements. - Abeer Raza, TekRevol

8. Make Sure They Have Patience

You want your front-end developer to have patience. A good front-end developer is going to need to do a lot of cross-browser testing and bug fixing to make sure that your website performs at its best and how it should on whatever browser, tablet or phone it's being used on. - Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.

9. Use Interview Mocha

Interview Mocha is an online assessment platform you can use to test your potential front-end developer hires. It's the world's largest skills assessment library and it includes IT skills, coding languages, domain skills, next-gen skills, and more. It's easy to use and it's a great tool that lets you see the candidate's skills in action. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

10. Conduct Conversational Surveys

We use conversational surveys during our hiring process to eliminate candidates who aren't a good fit and save time vetting for those who are. It's effective because it's similar to a face-to-face conversation, which makes it easier for applicants to fill out every question and provides a positive UX. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

11. Check Their GitHub Account

Check their GitHub account which stores their code and lets you see the process they used to develop it. This will give you a solid idea of how they formulate their code and if it meets your company standards or not. It's perhaps the most popular platform developers use, so it's worth looking into if other sources don't suffice. - Jared Atchison, WPForms

12. Use CodeSignal

There's a lot of bias in hiring technical talent, often because we are all biased, consciously or unconsciously. In addition, resumes are an ancient way to vet anyone. Criteria such as the college an applicant went to is not correlated to technical chops. CodeSignal eliminates this bias in several ways, offering standardized tests that can show applicants' scores on objective tasks. - Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications

13. Use TestDome

TestDome is an online platform you can use to test the skills of front-end developers. With TestDome you can create a test using the prebuilt questions they offer and invite candidates to take the test online. Then, you'll receive results to help you choose which candidates to interview or hire. They offer HTML, CSS and JavaScript online tests. - John Turner, SeedProd LLC

14. Send Them Desktop Designs

Contrary to the "mobile-first" design methods, one way that we test front-end developers is to send them desktop designs without the mobile designs or guidelines. We want to see their interpretation of how to best optimize the design for mobile and tablet. If they require guidelines to complete the job, I find that they almost always require a lot of QA and micromanagement. - Jinny Hyojin Oh, WANDR

15. Ask Open-Ended Questions

The most effective approach I've found is to ask questions that demonstrate some amount of ability (a la FizzBuzz) but are not easily "googleable." Something that's sufficiently open ended will generally enable this well. The goal is to test general knowledge rather than something application-specific—it's amazing at how well this filters people since most can't answer these questions. - Constantin Schreiber, Blair

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of the world's most successful entrepreneurs 45 and younger. YEC members repre...">Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of the world's most successful entrepreneurs 45 and younger. YEC members repre...