Tips on Hiring Your Rails Developer

July 2, 2015 Blog

Ruby on Rails is a very powerful framework in the web application space.  It is a very popular framework that runs many current web sites and there are always new sites being built with it.  If you find yourself in need of a Ruby on Rails developer you will face stiff competition in the marketplace to hire one.  Here are some tips you can use to help find talented Rails developers to join your team.

 “Rails is opinionated software. It makes the assumption that there is the “best” way to do things, and it’s designed to encourage that way – and in some cases to discourage alternatives.”

The Rails Way

Ruby on Rails, often shortened to Rails, is a highly opinionated framework.  Arguably, it is the most opinionated web development framework being used today.  Software is said to be opinionated when it encourages specific practices by the nature of it’s design.  Opinionated software is built with
the idea that there is a right way and wrong way to write to code.  This approach can be great for rapid application development and deployment.  It also creates a community focused on solving problems the same way which makes looking for ideas to solve problems easier.

 

One negative that opinionated software can create is a lack of understanding of why things work. The how to do a thing can become a lot easier to figure out without understanding why the thing works the way it does.  Any skilled Rails developer will be able to tell you why the framework makes certain choices and how commonly used plug-ins (called gems in ruby parlance) work.  When crafting your interview plan, make sure to include some time for walking through why Rails makes some of the decisions it does.  Try to avoid deep technical discussion, instead stick to abstract concepts to see if the developer understands Rails under the covers.

 

Interview Questions

If you like to include code tests in your interview process there is a wealth of articles out there to help you find some good questions to use.  Online learning sites and independent bloggers will often post articles about great interview questions to help both candidates and employers find those who are good with Rails.  One such source is SkilledUp.com. This online learning site has great articles to look at, including 19 Ruby & Ruby on Rails Interview Questions and Answers.

 

Your technical questions should focus on common tasks.  It is true that edge cases occur all the time on developing projects, however, regardless of how talented the developer is, it is unlikely that you will get the best answers from candidates in a high pressure time limited interview.  Stick to questions about data handling, authorization operations, page building, among other potential topics.  Since Ruby is so opinionated there are going to be preferred and common approaches to most of these types of questions.

 

 “Rails has a strong and thriving community.

 

The Community

Rails has a strong and thriving community.  It is an open source framework which means people are always adding, changing, and improving it.  Rails currently stands at 3,940 contributors.  Many strong Rails developers will have helped improve the framework itself and will appear on the list.  Being a contributor displays an understanding of how Rails performs operations, not just what it does.  Check the contributor list to see if the candidate you are interviewing is one of the 3,940 displaying the moxie required to be on that list.  The contributor list is available at http://contributors.rubyonrails.org/.

 

There are also an abundance of online resources you can check to see if your candidate is an active member of the community.  Since Rails fosters a strong community, a strong Rails developer will probably have contributed to the community themselves.  Consider searching the main ruby group to see if your candidate has been giving back to the community.  The main Rails Google group is at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/rubyonrails-talk.

 

“One of the best ways to find great Rails candidates is to make your needs known directly.”

 

Talking to The Prospect Directly

One of the best ways to find great Rails candidates is to make your needs known directly. Posting job requirements to Dice.com, Monster.com, and other job sites will work.  Unfortunately, you may get overwhelmed by a barrage of candidates without the deep skill set you want to attract.  Consider posting your requirements to Ruby developers directly where they congregate.  There are job boards that focus directly on Ruby developers.  Putting a post up on a site like http://jobs.rubynow.com/ or http://jobs.rubyinside.com/a/jobs/list/ is much more likely to get you qualified candidates than a general job board.

 

Ruby Now has a great track record:

“Since 2005, RubyNow has been the trusted Ruby job board with over 5,370+ job posts. Get expert recruiting advice, email your job to our 2,000+ opt-in developer list, and broadcast it on RubyNow, Twitter, Facebook & RSS.”

 

Imagine if you could let a dedicated audience of Ruby developer intent on staying abreast of their field know that you have an open position?  Consider placing a job posting in Cooper Press’ Ruby Weekly.  Cooper Press puts out weekly newsletters that aggregate information on the most used web technologies used today.  Placing a posting in this newsletter gets you access to a wide audience of developers who care enough about Ruby to keep up to date on the developments in the field every week.  Ruby Weekly can be seen at http://rubyweekly.com/, Cooper Press can be contacted at https://cooperpress.com/contactus.html.

 

Additional Skills

Finally, make sure your Rails developer knows how to use other languages that are essential for successful web development.  All web development requires a good knowledge of JavaScript and CSS.  An online portfolio is a great first stop for this kind of information.  A strong candidate will either have online work you can look at, or samples on a site or code repository that you can review.  Make sure their use of JavaScript and CSS includes more than knowing how jQuery works.  A strong Rails developer is also going to have experience with a JavaScript framework like AngularJs, Ember, Backbone, among others.  There are lots of them out there.  Knowing how to use one is more important than which one the candidate has experience with.

 

Good Luck

Web development is a thriving segment of the IT industry.  Good developers can appear on the market and be hired within days.  The suggestions above will help you quickly focus on those Rails developers worth competing for.

 

 

 

1http://guides.rubyonrails.org/getting_started.html

2http://jobs.rubynow.com/

 

 

David Posin

Web Developer and Blogger

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