Have you been burned by app developers who couldn’t see your vision? Don’t get burned by outsourcing to a developer or development team who are only OK. Find superior service capabilities using these 5 Easy Steps for how NOT to get burned by outsourcing app development in 2019:

Step 1: Validate with Scope and Clarity in Mind
Step 2: Consider Additional Cost Variables
Step 3: Choose the Right Partner
Step 4: Cut Your Search Time in Half
Step 5: Conduct An Interpersonal Interview

 Step 5: Conduct An Interpersonal Interview

Conduct An Interpersonal Interview

If you’ve interviewed for a job in a business sector before, you know what I’m talking about.  There’s usually an interpersonal interview as well as a technical interview, with the former focusing entirely on the person behind the skills.  This is nothing new. The reason why I’m giving this an entire section is that many entrepreneurs think that because you’re hiring a developer, the bottom line is whether they can code.  The complete opposite is true.

The same mentality should be taken whether you’re looking for a technical cofounder, hiring freelancers, or hiring an agency.  When you’re looking for a TC, the first thing most people will tell you is that it’s like a marriage. Things will get hairy inevitably in a startup, and you should have a strong interpersonal dynamic that can weather the storm, and a strong interpersonal bond that keeps you invested in each other and not just the pay or the product.  You also don’t pick a technical cofounder just to tell them what to do right? You expect them to not be yes-men or yes-women, to be proactive and bring up innovative ideas, and to be undaunted by those inevitable unprecedented technical roadblocks.

If you take this exact same mentality to hiring freelancers or agencies, you’ll have a lot more success.  I guarantee it.

Don’t believe me?  Think about this. From a great freelancer’s perspective, are you offering the best pay they can possibly get?  Probably not. There has to be something besides pay to keep them retained. As someone that’s probably hired 100+ designers and developers in my lifetime I can tell you there are far more people that are technically proficient than there are people that are great fits.  (I’m sure you’ll find that’s generally true in any profession). The ones that are just technically proficient but not great fits never last long. The ones that hit that sweet spot of the venn diagram by being both technical and people fits are the ones that are likeliest to stick with you the longest, long after the pay is negotiated.  

A confession: Until a year into my current company, I straight up ignored the importance of interpersonal fit.  I didn’t think we were large enough to care when we were so busy just delivering products and finding developers that could build in the stack that clients needed.  But I wasted so much time on hiring because even when I found strong developers, they didn’t last long. These days, if I can’t find a developer that’s a strong interpersonal but fits our technical needs, I would rather turn down a project to avoid the imminent churn.

Remember: fit is about longevity and saving yourself from wasting time hiring and re-hiring, and no matter your budget, you should always be thinking about this from day one.  

Now, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of the actual interview.  I’m not going to go through the full list of questions that you should ask, because fit is about what fits with you and not me.  Instead, I’ll offer a framework and some examples that I believe can set you on a good path:


If you’ve been reading closely, you probably realize that “communication” has been the most omnipresent keyword and theme so far (SEO fail!). Think of it:   

    • Validate The Design Before Coding
    • Understand Software Estimates
    • Understand The Tradeoff of Hourly versus Fixed Price
    • Local or Overseas? Wrong Question
    • Should I Look On Upwork or Clutch?  

Even though communication isn’t explicitly mentioned in these titles, it provides the foundation for each.  I truly believe communication is really at the heart of every successful hire I’ve made. Without this solid base, I don’t move forward.  And with this solid base, a lot of so-called deficiencies can be overcome. I’ve seen junior developers that are great communicators quickly rise up to be leaders.  So what I try to do in an interview is to assess how well they articulate, as well as their actual approach toward communication in times of stress.  

What type of response time can I expect to my questions?

If they say “asap”, you can pretty much discount them now.  It’s either a lie or means that the developer is not focused enough on the actual work.  A strong communicator will set reasonable expectations such as “within 2 hours” (This is an example, not a hard number).  

How do you communicate when you run into estimate overruns?  

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If they say “I don’t exceed estimates” or “I will honor my estimates so don’t worry,” I would also remove them from contention.  Even the best developers run into unforeseen difficulties, and how they approach communicating these should be a multi-layered answer.  Even if they nobly honor the cost estimates, they should communicate about the impact of overruns in terms of timelines. They should be open to collaborating and asking other experts when they run into difficulties (which also shows that they’re ego-less), and they should voice a willingness to discuss proactively with you about estimate overruns before they exceed the estimates.  


After you find the right communicator, it’s about finding the right fit in terms of values and motivation.  First, clearly define what your values are. Do not make up this exercise or fluff your way through. Think about what matters most to you as a person as well as why you chose to do this thing (your startup) and not that thing.  Do you value collaboration, strong communication, dropping egos at the door, and contributing ideas for growth regardless of specific role on the team?  Then don’t be afraid to seek people that fit this mold.

Tell me about a time when you made a difference in your previous job besides coding. 

What I’m usually looking for are stories about ideas contributed to ways to improve a product, contributions they made to rapid prototyping processes, leadership of a team through willing mentorship of other developers, contributions to the design process.  All of these demonstrate that they care and that they step up in ways that exceed their obligations.

So why you want to work with us?

Do they want to work on your healthcare app because they want to improve patient care?  Do they want to use your company as a stepping stone to somewhere else? Do they want to learn more and improve their skills?  In my experience, all of these are worthy and believable motivations. The key here is not to find the perfect motivation – don’t use your personal moral compass.  It’s about finding out whether they have a believable motivation that will lead to them investing in your company for at least 2 years.

Lastly, understand that the interview is meant to set expectations.  If someone passes your smell test during an interview, the next step is always to start with a trial period with a small number of tasks and aggressively test out these expectations in a real-world setting.  You don’t know this person yet – all you have now is some data to form an educated guess that they’ll be great. So it’s ok to try to throw curveballs by changing up the scope and asking them questions when they’re in the middle of a sprint.  Finally, if they pass your trial work period, then pat yourself on the back. You’ve done all your homework and you’ve followed a systematic approach to finding the right app developer. By no means does this mean things will always work out forever, but chances are, things will work out more often than they don’t.  And that’s nothing short of a coup in the wild west of app development.

Some additional tips on hiring and interview tactics:

Missed the first steps and want to learn more? Start with Step 1 here.

Looking to get started today? At Topflight Apps, we are ready to help you streamline an existing app, or even elevate an idea that’s been floating in your head for a while. We’re an excellent team of developer-founders who boast a record for superior customer service, and a 100% product launch success rate, and we’re always looking for inspiration for new projects. And we definitely wouldn’t let you burn!

Request a proposal, and we can get the ball rolling before tomorrow’s emails start pouring in.

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