6 Red Flags(That Are Actually Green Flags)When Hiring a Programmer

January 8, 2019 Posted by Recruiting 0 thoughts on “6 Red Flags(That Are Actually Green Flags)When Hiring a Programmer”

I recently came across a post on Dev.to that listed red flags to watch out for before you hire a programmer. Though some of the points seemed reasonable, others were, at best, questionable. We will go through each point while providing reasons why these red flags are actually green flags.

Programming is only a day job

As more and more millennials join the workforce, selling your soul to a company becomes less and less of a selling point. Of course, this potential red flag assumes that programmers who are actually passionate about their craft will “Always Be Coding.”

Though the idea of a programmer toiling his free time away working on the next Facebook may seem appealing to hiring managers, finding these “gems” can’t replace the practical task of finding a competent developer. This Medium article details the hidden cost of hiring developers. The question HR has to ask is, how many man hours do we want to waste looking for the 24/7 coder?

You can argue that a programmer who spends his hours away from work pursuing hobbies like swimming, fishing, and writing will be more productive when it comes time to work.

Don’t really want to “talk shop”, even when encouraged to.

This point implies that coders who don’t talk shop aren’t skilled in their area of expertise. This is a narrow way of viewing a candidate, focusing only on the bubble of engineers. But engineers don’t code in a closet. They often have to interact with other members of the company, like UX and UI designers, technical writers, and project managers. Someone who doesn’t really want to “talk shop” may be able to communicate better with other members. The developer also may have a different method of problem solving that involves mentally removing himself from the development process to refresh his or her insight.

Learns new technologies only in company-sponsored courses

This potential red flag ignores the possibility that the developer’s learning style is suited to a sponsored classroom environment, free from the burden of having to pay for an expensive course.

Admittedly, a developer should constantly keep up with trends, but if the company is willing to foot the bill and the developer is able to learn new technologies that benefits the company, then this should be a bonus to an employer. The developer is willing to advance his career, and the employer can then market that his company is a hub for career growth. Who’s the loser here?

Started programming at university

This was one of the most questionable red flags. I doubt a Hiring Manager will ever care about when you started the skill they’re looking for. They usually want to know how much years of experience you have and how that reflects in whatever projects you may have in your portfolio.

Like the first red flag, this red flag assumes that child prodigies are readily available. Sure, someone who started coding at thirteen would have a better Tell Me About Yourself  answer than someone who learned to print “Hello World” to a console in her Computer Science 101 class. Still, if the developer has grasped the relevant languages needed to succeed on the job during her four years, this should be a plus on his resume. It shows that she’s a quick learner.

All programming experience is on the CV

This red flag would make sense for a developer with 20+ years of experience. But with many engineering roles demanding 5-10 years of experience with a certain technology stack, a developer who lists all of their experience would save you the trouble of having to pry that information out of them. The true red flag would be experience where the developer’s role does not include detailed, actionable responsibilities.

Focused mainly on one or two technology stacks (e.g. everything to do with developing a java application), with no experience outside of it.

One of the most baffling aspects of the recruiting process is the regurgitation of every technology stack known to man on a job board. The idea is to attract as many prospects as possible, of course. But, ideally, you want a developer to be an expert at at least one stack. That’s what you’re hiring them for.

Specialization is becoming more and more necessary in the field of IT as products become increasingly complex. The notion of a polyglot is akin to Silicon Valley’s unicorns. They are few and far in between.  It’s better to be an iOS expert than a general app developer who can’t delve into the nuances of both Android and iOS.


What we should take away from these red flags is that the hiring process can be highly subjective. Some companies love white boarding while others prefer to highlight soft skills in the recruitment process. Some may take non CS degrees, others may shun them. Some value experience, while others value raw talent. Oftentimes, developers aren’t one-dimensional–you can’t place them in a color coded box. There is no perfect candidate.

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