How to Test for 4 Qualities Every Great Programmer Must Have


How to Test for 4 Qualities Every Great Programmer Must Have

Most startups live and die by their product, and the product is as good as the team that builds it. For this reason, it’s important that you build a team of programmers that will help you create and innovate. But technical skills aren’t the only thing you should test for. Great programmers have qualities that go beyond their industry know-how.

At Bolton Remote, we help companies find offshore talent for various roles, including those crucial tech roles. Of all the developers and programmers our clients have taken on board, we’ve found some of the stand-out qualities that make them great at what they do—and not all of them are hard skills.

Top-notch communication abilities.

All your employees should be fantastic communicators, remote or in-house. It’s not just the sales, marketing, or customer support guys that should be screened for communication skills. You need to know exactly what’s going on with your product, and hiring a programmer who is a supreme communicator will enable you to understand, regardless of your own expertise in coding.

When looking outside your zip code or even outside the country for a programmer, keep in mind that “In the world of technology, English is the defacto language of most documentation and developer interactions.” says Damien Filiatrault, CEO of Scalable Path. When you need a translator to communicate with your programmer, all info between you two will be second-hand, which could affect how your product works.

You can test for this during an interview with the candidate. Sara McCord of The Muse suggests these questions:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you worked as part of a group?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to ask for help?

A collaborative mindset.

“Agile software development is highly collaborative, incremental, and iterative in its approach.” says John Freeman of Segue Technologies. Your relationship with your programmers won’t be as simple as you delegating tasks while they accomplish them individually. They will need to work together and work quickly to meet tight deadlines of 1 to 4 weeks, as is the usual product development cycle in startups.

Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, suggests to ask candidates for an overview of their biggest team project they were a part of, what went down, and the results that was achieved. Include these questions during the interview:

  • Summarize your personal successes and failures as part of this team project.
  • How did you grow as a person as a result of being on this team?
  • Did you receive any personal recognition from others as part of being on this team?

Above average problem solving skills.

In order for your product to have market value, it should address a problem or pain point for your target market. Your product exists to solve a problem. “A software developer is more than the sum of the technologies that have worked with.” says software developer Chris Mauzy. The technical know-how your programmer has won’t be of much help if they don’t think critically enough to apply interesting solutions to interesting problems.

John Sonmez, founder of Simple Programmer, succinctly shares why programmers need to be problem solvers: “All software is designed to solve some user problem and within that general solution is a wide array of smaller problems that make it up.” You need someone who can both innovate without losing sight of what’s important: making sure your products work like a charm.

While you can test for problem solving with skills tests, Pamela Skillings, co-founder of Big Interview, urges a few behavioral questions that may be just as important:

  • Tell me about a time when you came up with a new approach to a problem.
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  • What was the best idea you came up with at your last job?

Motivation and quick learning.

Knowing how to solve a problem is important in programming, but so is knowing how to find solutions. Programmers won’t always immediately know how to solve new problems. Great programmers, however, can process information very quickly and is agile enough to self-learn new language and apply it to the problem at hand.

Job Bank USA has a few great questions you can ask to test for learning ability and interest:

  • When was the last time that you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so?
  • In which specific areas of your work are you really interested in expanding your knowledge of? How do you intend to achieve this?
  • When was the last occasion you asked for direct feedback from a superior or a customer? How did you then use this knowledge to improve your personal performance?

According to a CB Insights Analysis, 17% of startups fail because of a poor product. You can ensure that you won’t be part of this statistic by focusing on your product and find great programmers that won’t just keep things running, but help you innovate, grow, and keep your company competitive.

Make sure you get top talent to fill your most crucial roles. Expand your search and tap into the global talent pool. Visit our website at and we’ll help you hire skilled and self-motivated offshore staff for your team.

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Bolton Remote

Bolton Remote helps businesses grow with dedicated remote teams. To find out more about remote staffing, visit
Bolton Remote
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About Bolton Remote

Bolton Remote helps businesses grow with dedicated remote teams. To find out more about remote staffing, visit