Most Chief Technology Officers would agree that the fight for technical talent – specifically software developers and engineers – is fierce in today’s job market. Moreover, there’s no shortage of best HR practices on how to interview and hire these coveted employees.

Like jobseekers who formulate a strategy for finding their dream position, you’ll need to employ a solid recruitment strategy to hire the ideal developers and engineers for the job. Having the best programmers is critical for any e-commerce site or online business to outperform their competitors.

Step 1. Know What Skills You’re Looking For

Before starting your search for developers, know who you’re hiring and why. Developers are often grouped under the same job category, and the titles “developer,” “programmer” and “engineer” can usually be used interchangeably. Other companies view software development and software engineering as distinct disciplines that require different skill sets.

Software developers focus on doing what their title implies: developing software code and guiding it successfully from the research and design phases through testing and implementation. Companies typically search for candidates who can write code as well as prepare product requirements and objectives. Developers also design software and confirm whether the code has met objectives.

Whereas developers may be more involved during the design phase of software development, other firms look to software engineers for the creation of actual products. Due to this added emphasis on building rather than designing software, some job descriptions refer to “engineers” synonymously as both software architects and developers.

Whether you separate the two functions or group them together depends on your company’s structure, product offering and overall business needs. Regardless of the nomenclature used in your internal organization, developer or engineer candidates should have strong computer programming skills, including the ability to code in languages such as C++, JavaScript and Python (for a full list of common programming languages, click here). Designing algorithms, the mathematical calculations used for data processing, is also a necessary skill for software developers and engineers in today’s highly technical job market.

Step 2. Hire People with Skills and Talent

From the Silicon Valley to New York City, companies are constantly hunting for the best talent to fill the increasing number of software developer and engineer positions. Technology behemoths ranging from Google to Facebook bemoan the low supply of highly skilled professionals to fill these vacancies. According to a CNNMoney article, technology companies have offered as much as $12,000 to employees who refer candidates leading to a hire.

Even with a robust employee referral program, you must have multiple channels for hiring candidates with both technical skills and programming talent. While hiring developers and engineers versed in mobile application development may be important, less-experienced candidates with a lot of raw talent may be a better fit due to their ability to quickly adapt to fast-changing environments and to learn new programming languages on the job.

Step 3. Use Recruiters with Industry Experience

If you don’t have an in-house HR team to help with the recruitment process, reach out to recruitment firms that specialize in the information technology industries. Find recruitment and executive search firms such as Cybercoders that have a successful track record matching candidates with jobs in software development and engineering. Choose staffing agencies that are experienced in writing captivating job descriptions, screening qualified applicants and funneling competitive candidates who turn from leads into real hires.

Step 4. Leverage Industry Events, Internships and Your Network

Finally, don’t be afraid to leverage your personal network to find your dream developer or engineer. Consider gently asking your board members, current and former colleagues, friends or relatives to reach out to their personal networks to seek top talent.

Attending industry conferences can also be a fruitful avenue for finding talent. If you’re looking for an experienced Windows programmer, then they’ll likely be at conferences sponsored or hosted by Microsoft. Search for early adopters who are curious or already using the latest technologies and are looking to improve their skills. It also gives you a chance to speak to other employers in the field and observe what similar companies are looking for in top-notch candidates.

Finally, running an internship program for college students is an excellent way to gauge future potential for full-time employment. Check with local universities or even your own alumni network to see if you can post job descriptions in their career center and on job boards. If you’re looking to recruit the cream of the crop, check out this list of the best engineering schools in the country.

Hiring interns places you ahead of your competition since you’re able to scout young talent before they enter the job market. Although you have to invest more training into interns, the long-term payoff can be significant if your intern eventually turns into one of your best developers or engineers.

Step 5. Focus on Behavioral Questions During the Interview

Once you’ve recruited some promising candidates, it’s time to evaluate them through a series of interviews. As mentioned, you’ll want to hire developers and engineers who are flexible, adapt quickly in fast-changing industries and work environments and, above all, perform well under intense pressure and tight deadlines. You can better pinpoint these candidates during the interview process by using open-ended questions.

When prompted with a question that examines their behavior at a past job, interviewees can explain how they performed in given situations, what they achieved in their previous roles and how they measured the results. If a candidate claims they worked on a project that boosted revenue by 20%, push them to explain their path toward reaching that goal.

During the interview, try the following tactics to identify your shortlist of top candidates for developer and engineer positions:

  • Conduct timed tests during the interview. For example, ask candidates to write a piece of code or solve a problem that relates to the job’s qualifications and main responsibilities, and give them an hour to tackle the task.
  • Delve into questions related to algorithms, data structures and code organization.
  • Pose design questions where you can observe how candidates think about large, complex problems. Do they approach the issue from a strategic level? Can they look at the “bigger picture?”
  • Allow other engineers at the company to interview and evaluate them as well; their future colleagues will be the most qualified to determine whether or not they’ll be a good fit for the team.
  • If you are asked to interview a developer and are not as tech-savvy yourself, you can memorize this list of terms you should know when speaking with programmers, but try to focus more on the candidate’s work style, personality and culture fit rather than attempting to ask technical questions.

When asking candidates to write code on the spot, review how it’s structured and whether it’s readable. Although some may not perform well in spontaneous, timed tests, it can reveal the candidates who quickly and simply solve given problems. Whiteboarding in particular is a common interviewing tool for software developers and engineers; it has been shown to:

  • Prove that the candidate understands the given problem and can break it down into a plausible solution.
  • Display the candidate’s basic understanding of programming language and libraries.
  • Highlight candidates’ understanding of concepts, including hash tables and network sockets, and how to apply them in work scenarios.

Once you have built a solid engineering team, be sure to make the most of working with your developers. Developers are more heavily recruited than other professionals, so it will be important to balance your strict requirements with benefits and professional development opportunities that will incentivize them to stay.