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Talent Sourcing Trends

BuzzFeed’s Director Of Engineering On How He Screens Developers

PowerToFly interviewed BuzzFeed’s Director of Engineering, Clément Huyghebaert, on what to look for when hiring remote developers.


1. The main thing is good communication. If you can’t communicate with the remotes properly, it’s going to be an issue, even if they’re extremely good. How quickly can they answer simple questions? It doesn’t have to be complicated if English isn’t their first language. But, I do look for some control over the English language. That’s priority no. 1.

2. The second thing I look for is attitude. I find that I’ve often had people start complaining about other projects they’re working on, fixing other people’s code and that kind of stuff. For me, that’s a bad sign. It’s always part of the job, you’re always going to have to fix someone’s code at least once a day. It’s part of being a developer. If you’re complaining, that’s a no-no.

3. I’m looking for excitement — about our own projects at BuzzFeed, but also tech in general. I always ask, “Tell me about the project you’re most proud of, whether it’s for work or something on the side.” It gives me an idea of what they’re excited about and how to talk about it.

4. We give them homework after the interview that will introduce them to our code base so that it will give them an idea of what they’ll be working on and us an idea of how they’re working.

5. Being open to new technologies is a plus. Our backend is built in Perl, which is not a very sexy language these days, but it does great things — we’re not switching away from it. Sometimes it cools people off because it’s not the latest, bright thing. Understanding that you can make any product using any type of technology is key. It’s about how you use the technology rather than the technology itself.

6. They need to be proactive. Because I’m a manager, I have 10–15 projects going on at once. It’s better when they keep me updated on what they’re doing, rather than me having to check in.

7. Being curious, inquisitive is a good thing. I like when people like to try new things within our app. Some people will start as frontend and then they’ll want to do backend. I like that. It shows they’re interested, and they want to learn more and that they’re not bored.

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