Finding a programmer can be tough. Really tough. I’ve spent the past 4 months trying to find what I deem to be the best programmer in the world. I’ve literally posed ads on almost every major site that I can find. I would say that I’ve spend around $4-$6k doing this.

Today that search is over and I’m ecstatic about it. Toptal was the place I found the most brilliant programmer in the world because this online site that matches companies and programmers and developers only works with the top 3% of all freelance developers in the world. It’s also the source other well-known companies have used to find their developers, including Airbnb, Zendesk, Pfizer, and more.

The Stringent Screening Process

This network uses a rigorous screening process to narrow down what averages to be thousands of applications each month to identify the best talent to be found out there. The process includes a language, communication, and personality interview to ensure the candidates speak, read, and write English as well – as have certain personality traits that align with the definition of an ideal programmer. Of those that apply, less than 27% pass this first part of the screening process.

From this point forward, the number of passes for each portion of the screening process drops significantly, starting with the timed algorithm testing for computer science fundamentals and problem solving ability of which only 7.4% pass. Next, only 3.6% pass the technical screenings, which include two certified Toptal engineers who look at, and take into account the candidate’s ability to be creative, communicate, and solve problems.

The next part of the screening process is test projects to see how these candidate’s can demonstrate their competence, integrity, thoroughness and knowledge by participating in a test project that lasts between one and three weeks. Here, only 3.2% move onto the next part of the screening. Beyond that, the Toptal developers are continually monitored to make sure they maintain their high quality of work and communication while working with clients – only 3% pass this final part of the test.

The result is an extremely talented team of senior developers who have come from the likes of Google, MIT, and CERN. No other firm goes through this much effort to pick through the available programming and developer talent that is available throughout the world like Toptal does.

What To Do Before Going to Toptal

However, while this is reassuring that you will get to pick from the cream of the crop, before you even start your search at Toptal there are some things you need to know – especially be aware that the battle over programming talent is heated right now:

  • Define what you need the developer talent for in terms of coding for a mobile app, business application, or user experience on your website so you can narrow down the type of programmer you are looking for in terms of their specialty. More programmers are beginning to specialize in certain areas so it is important to know if you want someone who has specific types of knowledge and experience.
  • Know the length of time and project scope you need so that you can discuss these expectations with your programmer prospects. While you don’t know coding, you at least have an idea of the big picture needs and wants that go along with the project. This can be helpful when you speak to the candidates so you can hear directly from them what or how they can help you complete your project.
  • Determine how much you have to spend on hiring a freelance programmer so you don’t waste everyone’s time hoping for that champagne programmer but only offering the beer budget of compensation, to him/her. Of course, not every programmer is simply going to go with the big name company that has the six-figure salary and cool perks because some are interested in focusing on a new challenge and making a name for themselves in an up-and-coming company. Even if you don’t have a lot to spend, don’t think you are only going to get that last person standing there that no one wanted on their P.E. team. There are many developers who prefer small companies because they can just simply do what they love – code – without having to get caught up in the bureaucracy of a larger firm.
  • Decide on how big of a developer team you need. You will need a team rather than just one superhero programmer. Instead, your project is bound to be that much better if you put together a cadre of talent that can each bring something to the table. Plus you can’t depend on just one or two people to handle all the work. Situations change and many developers like to switch companies frequently, so have those Plan B, C, and D people in place or nearby to ensure programming project continuity.
  • Figure out what your culture is within your company so you can share this with programming candidates, and also use this conversation as a frame to shape how everyone works on a daily basis. Anyone who works for you inside the company or as a freelancer wants to have an idea of the values and principles that guide operations and underscore how decisions are made in your company, how people are treated, and how work is approached. This culture also includes the type of work environment you have built in both the physical and virtual environments. You will need to communicate this culture to anyone new that comes on board, including a programmer.

Final Thoughts

Start with what you know you want in a candidate that fits your culture, project, and budget. Then, once you have that information, it’s time to go to a source like Toptal to find that top talent you need to get the technical programmer expertise necessary to fill your coding needs.


Special Note: I was never paid to write this. There are a few people that hate on me for writing about Toptal all the time. I seriously love them and you should try them out. I’ll tout them till the end of time.