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March 24, 2017 | Rayne Fulton

There is probably no worse use of a company’s resources than hiring and investing in a new employee who either is not a good fit or turns out to be lacking in some key skills. This is especially true for software engineers.

It’s not that software engineers, who often go by the term software developers, are any more ‘important’ than other skilled employees. It’s because software engineers have the ability to impact many areas of the company through the software they develop and support.

What’s more, many companies rely on custom software to give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace. If the wrong person is hired into a company and is charged with supporting the critical software, the results could have disastrous results.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of five mistakes to avoid when hiring your next software engineer:

  1. Bad attitude: Hire an engineer with the wrong attitude and you’re bound to regret it sooner or later. Some software engineers may want to control entire projects from start to finish. They don’t work well with others and strongly resist taking suggestions from team members because they ‘are always right.’ I’ve seen more than my fair share of software engineers with this attitude and it is incredibly disruptive to the harmony of a team. It can lead to the loss of qualified team members and even result in project failures with bottom-line implications.
  2. ‘Devil’s in the details’: Avoid hiring software engineers who don’t like to document or test code. Since software engineers are in high demand, there is always the risk that one will leave for the next best offer to come across the wire. If an engineer doesn’t want to be bothered with documenting work then it could leave your team or an outside software development firm at a loss when trying to fix a problem in the code. Another detail that should never be forgotten is testing code. Not wanting to test code due to budget constraints or laziness — it happens — could be detrimental to your business in the long run. Failing to properly test new code before rolling it out to the business can impact operations and other business critical processes. It’s never a good idea to play Russian Roulette with the bottom line.
  3. Lack of desire: Always avoid hiring engineers that lack passion for the industry. It takes a great deal of passion and determination to stay up to date with the latest technology since it’s constantly evolving. An engineer who has no desire to stay current or learn the newest tricks of the trade will eventually fall behind, and drag your business with it. Software engineers should always be hungry to learn more about their craft and find ways to improve your company’s business systems. Whether it’s through continuing education courses you pay for or their own self-guided studies, software engineers need to be passionate about growing professionally.
  4. ‘Better late than never’: Another fatal flaw to avoid when hiring software engineers is a lack of basic time management skills and sense of urgency. As a project manager in the past, I encountered many engineers who could not keep up with the work schedule and project milestones the company established. By failing to create their own internal sense of urgency around their work responsibilities they allowed themselves to fall farther and farther behind on key deadlines. What’s more, they tended to ignore the mounting pressure until it got so bad they were forced to admit their problems. By that time, the project timeline itself would be put into jeopardy. “Better late than never” may work in personal relationships but it has no business putting important technology projects into a self-inflicted crisis.
  5. “Failure to communicate”: Who can forget the warden lecturing Paul Newman’s character in the movie Cool Hand Luke about the importance of communication? The same goes with software engineers. An inability to clearly communicate with a stakeholder, whether internal or external, can result in serious misunderstandings and problems later on. It’s not uncommon for software engineers to get in the technical ‘weeds’ while speaking to a client. Some may do this because they truly don’t know how to talk about technology in more understandable terms to non-technical people. If that’s the case, they should be encouraged to take a course or read a book on how to speak in plain English. Still other engineers, however, hide behind or even relish their tech speak. That’s a far worse trait as it could be difficult to change and could lead to undesired business outcomes if left unchecked.

These are just five mistakes to avoid when hiring software engineers. Of course, there are more mistakes out there, but you will do your company a world of good if you start by eliminating these from your future hiring.