I did a lot of hiring in my career, but most of that during the last two years when I was almost constantly looking for people to fill different positions. Now I’m looking for programmers for my development company I co-founded with a friend, so almost every week I’m interviewing someone, reading CVs etc. Here is what I think about it.

In a nutshell: I’m just looking for people who are passionate about the work they do. I deeply believe than to do a job right, any job, one has to like it. Better even – love it. Not all jobs are lovable, that’s true, but I think almost all jobs can bring satisfaction, can be liked.

In any case software development surely is a job that can be loved. And if I want to have a great team it must be made of people who just love to code. That’s what sets apart mere craftsmen from artists – a passion for what they do. That passion brings the desire to do things well, to care about the code they write – and to develop themselves.

That’s another important point I always look for: I look for people who want to grow and evolve. It brings me deep satisfaction if I can help someone grow. Even if they’ll leave my team some day I want to be the bright point in their career, someone who helped them reach new heights and abilities.

People I look for have to be highly intelligent and good in abstract thinking. However, I view pure intelligence as something akin to raw CPU power – intelligence is not enough. It needs passion and willingness to learn and grow to be a really good developer – or in fact any knowledge worker.

And I don’t look for narrow-minded specialists, who just can code but you can’t talk with them intelligently about anything else. Surprisingly, I haven’t yet met a good developer (or any knowledge worker) who would not have broad interests, would not read some kind of literature or do something besides just computers. Having other interests doesn’t just show one’s mind is capable of handling more than just one narrow specialty, it also helps in our work. If one thinks broadly one perceives more.

So, when I talk to people on interviews I try to feel them, to understand what drives them, what is their passion – and how ready they are to learn something new. I don’t care about formal recognitions – university diplomas & other similar paperwork doesn’t impress me. I’m just looking for this spark of interest, for this passion for what they want to do, for a bright, willing mind I can communicate with. I think this can make up for any formal training or experience. Someone capable and willing can always learn a technique, algorithm, language, theory, methodology, practice – anything.

Granted, someone who is young, never had a job and is a student won’t be immediately as productive as a seasoned pro. But he might be much more willing to learn, he might be ready to try much harder. And he’ll catch up pretty quick.

To sum it all up: I think there is too much theorizing about hiring. For me it boils down to looking for the best or those who want to be the best and are ready to put in the sweat needed to become the best.