How to Hire a PHP Developer

September 10, 2015

7:00 pm

PHP is used in more than 80 percent of all web projects as a server side language. Although many “experts” keep saying that it will die soon, it is still standing strong as one of the most important web languages there is. And with the PHP 7 coming out soon, the prevalence of this language will only increase.

PHP can be used together with any common fronted language like JS, HTML and other frameworks. There are also a lot of PHP frameworks that are trying to make development easier and safer. After all, PHP is an easy language to learn but a hard one to actually master. But if you’re on the lookout to hire a PHP developer, it’s the masters that you’re going to want to find. Luckily, this guide is here to help.

The Interview

Job Description

You will need a really nice and thorough job advertisement in order to attract the right candidates. PHP frameworks are growing like mushrooms after the rain, so it is especially important to advertise all the specific skills that you need and mention all the frameworks that you intend to use. The best way to make sure that you don’t forget anything is to use a PHP job description template. Copying a simple structure while tailoring the details to your open position will keep you on track in the easiest way possible.

Structure

Finding a run-of-the-mill PHP developer is easy. Finding an elite PHP developer requires a well-planned and flawlessly executed hiring process. Therefore, you should decide on a few things before you begin. First, you need a way to filter out the unfit candidates before the interview even starts in order to avoid wasting the time of you and your interviewer. Codility is a filter that works especially well. Second, you will want to decide how many technical interviews you want to have for each candidate. Finally, you need to set up a tie breaking system to determine who will have the ultimate decision power if two or more candidates pass through every stage of the process.

Questions

Interview questions are a balancing act: you will want to test the candidate’s problem solving ability, but not drive him or her away with long-winded, boring questions. The best way to test a candidate’s potential is to repurpose a problem from a current project you are working on and see if they can solve it. Look at the way they are trying to solve the problem, and what tools they propose using. Alternatively, you can give a couple of problems that won’t take long to solve, but require some logic and problem-solving ability, like these sample PHP interview questions.

Do not ask them to tell you definitions of certain things, or ask specific nuanced questions like, “What was new in version 5.x (here)?”

Search PHP Playgrounds

You will be most successful in your search for the best PHP developers if you look for them in places where those who are passionate about PHP programming spend time. Some options to consider are conferences and meetups. Luckily, since there are many PHP developers, there is no shortage of PHP conferences and meetups to choose from. Many top developers will be there, because they are interested in learning what’s new and seeing people like them. If you can’t make it to a conference yourself because of travel or your work schedule, try getting in touch with the program’s speakers. Even if they are tied up with their own projects, they may be able to recommend some solid PHP developers for you. Another alternative that does not require any travel is the option to search online communities, such as freelance sites, Q&A sites (e.g. Stack Exchange), and technical blogs. For PHP developers specifically, also check out http://phpcommunity.org/.

On the Job

Just because you’ve made a hire does not mean your evaluation process is over. During the first couple weeks of working with your new PHP developer, you will want to be especially vigilant to make sure  that person doesn’t fall trap to common PHP mistakes and instead see that they adhere to PHP best practices.

Follow Best Practices

As with experts in any field, top PHP developers are expected to command their skill better than anybody else. If you are using one of many PHP frameworks, make sure that your developers use the full potential of the framework and read up on the documentation of that framework in order to keep the code easily maintainable and secure.

Ask your new hires to tell you how they think the teams should be organized, what they think the best workflow is, and what they would recommend as the latest technology to use. Always check their knowledge of the latest standard tools as well. By bringing in a new hire, your whole team could get an update you didn’t even know it needed.

Check for Common Mistakes

PHP is a easy language to learn but a hard one to master, so you will find many PHP developers who continue to make beginner mistakes. For example, beware of developers who do not use OOP advantages of PHP. This always leads to a lot of spaghetti code that will be nearly impossible to maintain later. If you are working with a team of developers, you should make sure everyone is aware of common PHP mistakes. That way the team can help you by holding each other accountable for the quality of their code.

Conclusion

Since PHP is so popular, almost everyone is hiring for it, which can make it really hard for you to find the perfect PHP developer. Make sure you know exactly what you need, what framework you are using, and what the final goal of the project is. Once you identify all of these moving parts, it should be at least a little easier to find the PHP developer that you need.

The best PHP developers will bring extensive proficiency in PHP and its frameworks. They will have extraordinary problem solving skills and a high ability to communicate with you and your clients. So what are you waiting for? Get searching.

Featured Image Credit: Paul Downey

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Josh has over 12 years of experience in the tech industry. His interests include data visualization, big data, and analysis as well as the intersection of journalism and technology.

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