How to Identify Key Projects in Developer Portfolios when Hiring

When recruiting technical talent, identifying experience that is related to your specific job opening is one of the most important, and hardest things to do. Many developers stuff their resumes with keywords and project lists, creating an unfollowable 10 page VC. This is why many engineering leaders turn to portfolios to review their experience and see real examples of their relevant work.  

As a hiring manager you don’t always have hands-on experience working in the specific roles that you’re recruiting for, but you still need to perform an initial candidate assessment to determine who is most likely to succeed in the position before the interview process even begins.

At Techtrust, we have a system for evaluating technical skills that allows us to review and qualify developer portfolios quickly and efficiently by pre-vetting their skills through a partnership with CodeSignal. But not everyone has access to tools like this, so how should you approach finding the right technical talent for your open role when reviewing their profile? Here are the key elements that our head of recruiting, Jeremy Zadek, says to keep in mind. 

Relevance of projects

As you look through the projects the developer chose to showcase in their portfolio, note how relevant they are to the role you’re hiring for. Are the candidate’s current skills transferable, or will they need more training to get up to speed on your company’s particular tech stack and languages used? If they have solid experience writing code and developing projects that align with the skills needed for the job, that’s a good indication you should proceed with an interview.   

Technical proficiency

The developer’s portfolio should demonstrate their technical expertise beyond just an exhaustive list of skills. Within the scope of the projects you should be able to get a sense of their proficiency in specific languages, tools, and frameworks they’ve used in their past roles or on independent projects. They should also show any relevant APIs, databases, and libraries they utilized for each project in their portfolio.

Code structure and readability

One aspect of the portfolio review that you’ll probably spend the most time on is in analyzing the code itself for each project to ensure that it’s readable and properly structured. The developer may highlight unique or particularly robust architecture choices for more comprehensive projects. You can also note their ability to follow best practices in formatting and adding comments or revisions to the code.  

Communication and collaboration

Other strengths you can evaluate when reviewing a developer’s portfolio are their ability to communicate and how they work in a collaborative environment. The description of each project should outline their thought process from the initial stages through to completion. You can also see the results of key decisions or other contributions they made to collaborative projects, leadership skills they demonstrated, and other skills that helped them overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.  

Presentation and professionalism 

The way a developer presents their portfolio can give you a lot of information about their presentation skills and overall professionalism. The complexity of their projects won’t be nearly as impressive if their portfolio isn’t visually appealing or easy to navigate. One of the best ways to showcase their talents and communicate the breadth of their experience is by using a simple, user-friendly platform for their portfolio (like GitHub) that’s accessible to anyone involved in the recruiting process. 

The bottom line

You’re a technologist, not a recruiter. In fact, only 20 of the top US based business schools even offer courses on how to properly recruit and staff for your business. Understanding you’re not an expert, that’s why many teams lean on technical recruiters to evaluate the basic elements of applicant portfolios. Working with a hiring expert can also reduce the number of hours you need to spend reviewing portfolios and screening talent. For example, Techtrust can help you identify the best candidate because they pre-vet their technical talent to provide you with only the top 1% to fill your roles. 

Whether you use a technical recruiter or source talent yourself, identifying the skills you must-have in applicant portfolios will help you reduce the amount of time you spend interviewing, and ultimately, away from building your next product launch.