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How do I find good PHP developers?

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Dear Reader,

Twice this week I got asked a similar question, “How do I find good PHP developers to hire?” The first one was a recruiter who had originally tried to hire me because she “read my resume”. (Obviously, she skipped over the part where I’ve not written any serious code in several years) Since she didn’t bother to really read my resume to begin with, I’m pretty sure she won’t bother to read this post.

The second one, however, was a just someone trying to find PHP developers for his team. Since he wrote me a nice email asking advice, I decided to reply in kind. Three pages and one thousand words later, he had my answer. (Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be this long) I share it here with you – slightly edited to remove some geographically specific advice that probably won’t apply to you – in hopes that when you are in the same position you can get a head start in finding good developers.

—– Begin Letter Here —–

Hi [redacted]!

That is a very interesting question. I’m happy to share what I know. Let me start with a bit of disclosure. One of my side gigs is helping companies find and screen PHP developers. I’ll try not to make this a self-serving answer though. :)

  1. phpdeveloper.org

    Chris Cornutt runs it and he will post your jobs for free. This is a well respected site in the PHP community and it’s also picked up by a lot of other sites so your posting will have legs.

  2. PUGs

    Find your local PHP User Group. (I am always surprised at the people who don’t do this.) First, find out what their policies are about posting job notices on their mailing list. It’s better to ask first than be banned later. Most User Groups are happy to have job postings as long as they are not too frequent. Those that are on the fence can usually be swayed by offering to buy beer/pizza at the next meeting. (Do the math here, major job boards charge $400-$500 for a posting that goes to the entire world. $75 worth of pizza and beer will get your message out to the 20-30 people to whom you really want to talk.) Another tip, offer to host the groups meeting one month. This is a great way to get 20+ developers to drop by your office, drink a beer with you, talk shop and maybe even give you their email address so you can “discuss opportunities” with them.

  3. Community

    This one is a bit of a longer play but it will pay off. Get involved in the community. If you are already, great, keep it up; if not, start now. As the great salesman Harvey Mackay said “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty“. Hang out in irc, look for people looking for jobs, figure out who is who and keep a list of people you want to hire. The same applies to mailing lists. Most PUGs have mailing lists. Join, lurk, answer questions when you can, post when appropriate and take notes on who is answering questions and who is asking them.(Both are good things, by the way.) On your who’s who list, make note of the stars and the up and comers. When you need talent fast that can hit the ground running, you go to your stars list. When you have a slot open that isn’t urgent, dip into you ” up and comers” list to fill it.

    One word of warning. I’ve seen companies hire from the community and not realize the responsibility they are taking on. Community members are great employees because they have learned to help and where to get help. You have to let them continue with this practice though. This means you will get several requests a year from each member to attend conferences; possibly even speak at them. You have to be prepared to allow and even encourage this behavior. It is part of what you are buying.

  4. Consider Telecommuters

    [Again, a bit of disclosure, I speak a lot about telecommuting and help companies figure out how to setup telecommuting programs that work.]
    If you can’t find talent or you can’t find talent in your price range, consider hiring someone from another area. I got an email from a guy yesterday that is looking but only for telecommute jobs. This guy is a heavy lifter when it comes to coding but he can’t move though for family reasons. If it weren’t for the location restriction any team would be lucky to have him but so many companies pass him (and others like him) over because of the short-sightedness of “If I can’t see them, how do I know they are working?” Telecommuting opens up your potential talent pool 100 fold.

    Telecommuting also does away with the unfunded mandate of commuting to work.

    Sure, telecommuting not for everyone but I’ve managed entire teams where no two people lived within 150 miles of each other and with the right program and the right people, it works great. You get the talent you need to get your project out the door. The developers gets the freedom to work where they want…as long as they work.

  5. Attend Conferences

    There is a reason that major companies host afterhours events at conferences. They are looking for the same thing you are, access to talent they can hire. You don’t have to be a sponsor though to scout for talent at a conference. Buy a ticket, attend, and hang out. There is usually a “hang out” place where those who don’t want to attend a session park themselves. Park yourself there with a T-Shirt that has “I AM HIRING PHP DEVELOPERS” on the back. (and have a stack of business cards, note pad and pen handy.)

    Currently, ZendCon, CodeWorks and php|tek are the conferences that I am personally involved with, we are happy to have you at any of them. If you are unsure which is best for you, contact your local PUG and ask them.

    Oh and I am organizing DayCamp4Developers.com an on-line conference, and I encourage you to become a sponsor! :)

  6. Get your developers to write about your company/work environment

    Have you got a company blog? Are your developers regularly posting on it? Does each of your developers have a “special story” about something cool the company did that touched their lives? Get these stories on a blog somewhere, preferably on the corporate blog. When you approach a potential candidate, the first thing the smart ones are going to do is Google you and your company. Make sure that what they see excites them.

  7. Do things that make your developers want to sing your praises

    Find something each month that you can do for your developers that makes them stop and think “Damn, I am glad I work here.” A paycheck is not enough these days. You want to use their talents for your benefit so you’ve got to woo them. Dinner, dancing, chocolates, bling, you know how to woo a mate, put the same effort into attracting developers. Side Note: I am not saying we need to return to the days of Limo Recruiting or Foosball tables. However, if you provide Dual-Screen, quad-core machines with 8GB of RAM and 1TB of HD for every developer, that is a selling point! Tell people. More importantly, actually deploy machines like that for your developers and THEY will tell people.

It boils down to this. There is a talent war going on for PHP developers. Promising a regular paycheck won’t do it anymore. Developers need to feel respected, empowered, and engaged. If you want them to use their talents for you, you have to show them that you and the company respect them, that your project has interesting technical challenges for them to overcome, and that you are willing to let them solve them in their way.

I hope this has helped,
—– End Letter Here —–

Until next time,
I <3 |<

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Published at DZone with permission of Cal Evans, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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