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The Most Important Traits to Look for When Hiring a Programmer

Programmers include people from many different cultures, with differing professional backgrounds and a wide range of skill sets.

Even though there are programmers of all stripes, particular attributes can mean the difference between an average programmer and a highly talented one. Here are a handful of qualities to try to find in candidates when hiring a programmer.

(Technical) Reading comprehension

A considerable part of a programmer’s day is spent reading code, paperwork or project specifications. Programmers who have difficulty comprehending what they’re reading will be less efficient than those who do. In fact, someone with poor reading comprehension could be a liability if they misread important specs and cause delays or allow for a major security breach.

It can be difficult to gauge reading comprehension abilities during the candidate selection process, unless you administer a formal reading comprehension test.


Great programmers are always looking at their systems, even if they seem to be working fine, to learn as much as possible. This kind of active curiosity is how issues can be addressed before they become massive problems. A programmer who is not actively curious risks falling into the trap of not knowing why they are doing something, essentially working with blinders on.

Detail oriented

For obvious reasons, a programmer who is detail oriented will be considerably more effective than a programmer who isn’t. One tiny bug could set back a project for weeks if it isn’t caught. Also, a detail-oriented programmer who doesn’t write buggy code has to spend less time debugging.

Hiring managers should have serious doubts about applicants who submit a resume and other application materials with typos and grammatical errors.

An ability to learn

Programmers often do work on projects that function outside the world of programming, and good programmers are capable of finding out about the ecosystem in which their software will operate. While a programmer doesn’t need a CPA to code accounting software, for instance, they should be able to learn about the basic math and business principles involved in the project.

Look for candidates who have shown a progression of learning, even after their formal education years.

A desire to learn

After their formal education is over, programmers typically learn additional skills and languages on their own. Applicants who aren’t just able but willing to learn continuously are more valuable employees than those don’t learn outside formal training situations.

Simply put, these programmers will be better at programming over the long haul.

Good communication

Programmers who find it difficult expressing their thoughts or picking up on what others are attempting to tell them will not the best employees, as they are expected to be able to give and receive highly technical information. Many programmers work remotely, and communication skills are even more important in these roles.

An applicant’s performance throughout the interview process can be strong indicator of overall communication ability.

At Thompson Technologies, we have years of experience sourcing programming talent for our clients. If your company is currently in need of tech talent, please contact us today.

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© 2016 Thompson Technologies.


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