Staff augmentation firms are a handy way of filling out the talented team you already have. You don’t need to worry about hiring full-time developers, or outsourcing work to an outside company where you’ll have little say over the day-to-day development of the product.
So, what should you look for in a staff augmentation firm? What are the right questions to ask to ensure you find the development talent you’re looking for? Here are 3 questions to start thinking about as you evaluate your options:
1. What does their vetting process look like?
This is a great question to immediately get a sense for what kind of a firm you’re working with, and whether or not they’ll be the right fit. If you’re considering working with a larger staff augmentation firm, odds are, their vetting process probably isn’t as thorough as a smaller firm’s would be. At scale, most recruiting teams look for enticing resumes. That means they don’t often take a closer look into the quality of the candidate. In order to understand the thoroughness of the technical screen, dig in on some of the following:
- Were they evaluated by senior technical staff?
- Did anyone check that they actually understand how to participate in a production grade software development project, not just answer interview questions?
- Do they understand how their past projects were deployed and scaled in production or did they just understand their small module?
- Do they plan for logging and debugging needs when projects are live?
Larger firms can afford to hire mid-level developers who have a certain (though perhaps limited) set of skills, because they have huge teams of engineers to staff where attitude, completeness, and ownership are less important. Smaller firms, on the other hand, are much pickier. Each client matters, and each team member and project deliverable is critical.
We all know that technical interviews are hard to do well, but at the very least you want to thoroughly understand the screening process so you know the kind of quality you might be dealing with.
Read about our screening process here at Admios.
2. What specific contributions did these team members make to prior projects?
Ask for specific guidance on why the candidate is a match for your effort. “You need a JS developer, we have a JS developer” is not the answer you are looking for. Broad answers like these are easy to fake and allow large firms to slip low quality developers onto teams, something you want to avoid.
Smaller, boutique software development firms tend to have software developers who can answer specific technical questions. They are directly accountable for their work, and accordingly, have deeper skill sets in the tech stack like devops or integration skills.
Every software project has unknown aspects and surprises. Developers who have had to take more responsibility and have broader skill sets are better able to handle those changes - either through adapting existing code or suggesting new and different technologies, or both.
Higher quality developers also understand the development processes and communication principles necessary for higher-level engagement with projects. Smaller firms will know the developer’s prior work and performance intimately and can describe why the candidate is a good fit for your specific project. Thus, their engineers may be better versed in project specifics relevant to your effort.
3. What will the relationship with the developers look like?
Great development teams happen when there is an intersection of high quality technical skills with a hardworking, transparent culture. You need to make sure your developers match both whether they are outsourced or internal. It is crucial to ask questions about culture and relationship during the vetting process.
We recommend that you vet and interview the candidate exactly like you might an internal developer, so that once they arrive on the team you not only better understand them, but other team members know they have earned their spot and are qualified.
If a team member’s language or communication abilities aren’t up par with the team, it will quickly present as misunderstood requirements, stories, and delayed features.
We would recommend asking up front what the communication ecosystem is like. Will your augmented team be using the exact same tools? What is their availability like? Will they work the same hours and attend the same scrum meetings and retrospectives?
If you are looking to learn more about staff augmentation firms, feel free to reach out to us and we’d be happy to chat to learn more about your business and challenges.