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How not to hire too many bad iPhone app developers

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Knowing the secret to finding and hiring great iPhone app developers is the Holy Grail in terms of getting apps made. It is very hard to do.

Well It is Rocket Science

Here are a list of things that are easier:

– Rocket science
– Advanced mathematical modelling
– Riding a horse well (google Steve Halfpenny from Silversand Australia)
– Hiring great mobile artists
– Training a chocolate labrador
– Setting up iOS certs and provisioning profiles for the FIRST TIME – by YOURSELF!
– Finding your way around the rabbit warren that is the south of Dublin city when driving

So in a nutshell – find good, fast, honest, devs who can stick to budgets and schedules and who are a JOY to work with is bloody tricky. And I say this after hiring and firing many app developers over the last 10 months.

What I did right:

– Used mainly oDesk which has a great range of devs
– Tried to filter people who looked like they knew how to make an ap
– Checked they all had 5* ratings and good reviews
– Kept the post short and simple, eg. ‘dev needed to integrate ad SDKs into game app’ and a few characteristics I wanted in terms of English standard, etc…
– Got some devs to do small work samples before I hired them to prove to myself they were good and would work efficiently
– Went through oDesk using the ‘Objective C’ exam filter to find the most technically expert iPhone app developers out there
– Hired someone on a team, so when it went wrong I contacted their manager and got a newer better dev to finish the work
– Once I found some devs I liked the look of, I emailed them all asking them how long it takes to integrate chartboost and revmob. This got rid of about 80% of the shortlisted applicants who literally made up the largest figures they could think of
– I only hired using fixed price contracts
– Made sure anyone I hired had good English
– Wrote out a list of exactly what I wanted done, before the contract began, and this did not change during the project
– Answered all quickly within a few hours, or max a day so I wouldn’t be a bottleneck in the process
– Hired slowly and fired quickly
– Worked closely with all contractors, good communication regularly and motivated my team

What I did wrong:

– Nearer the start I used smaller outsourcing websites and the work standard wasn’t as high, and I didn’t have the same number of options. oDesk is definitely easier.
– Paid some upfront payments at the beginning, got useless work in and lost my deposits
– At the start, hired some devs I hadn’t worked with before for bigger projects. A Very Bad Idea. I’ve just increase by x10 the amount of money I can loose when it all goes wrong.
– At the start I was looking worldwide as I am using to managing geographically diverse teams. The more contact I personally had with devs from China, the more uneasy I got. I am suspicious there is something odd going on. A lot of the top (100% Objective C test) ranks are Chinese devs but their quotes and skills that I’ve seen do not match that. Also – purely from my experience – they are not the easiest to deal with, get a bit pushy and start to SkypeStalk you. I end up having to block them on Skype. I’m sure there are great Chinese devs out there, but I’ve been bitten a few too many times.

You're fired

What happened:

– I hired what looked like a lot of great developers, and fired what turned out to be people that just didn’t work out. Schedules went out the window, the quality of work wasn’t as agreed, they wanted more money that we can agreed to, they technically could not code what they had agreed to do, etc.
– Some devs were a little on the expensive side, but did great work so worked with them for many months. Then for some reason, they stopped adhering to any schedule, the quality went south and I had to fire them as well.
– I recently hired devs for small roles, all great reviews, answered my tech questions honestly, competitive rates, etc. Within a few days had to fire a few due to 1) constant complaining 2) issues using SDKs 3) schedule doubling from what was agreed.

I’ve been interviewing lots of devs so this is what they all want when I ask them to describe their perfect client:

– A client with technical knowledge who has some idea what they are talking about

What I learned from my experiences:

– 80% of devs who reply to your job posting will assume you have no technical knowledge and tell you crazy stuff like it’ll take 10 hours to integrate revmob and chartboost. They are only trying to fleece you. When you have educated yourself on the tech side of thing you no longer live in a lovely but useless fools paradise :)

– The more you know about the technical xCode stuff, the more difficult it is to hire good developers. This is because you are now much better at identifing the ones who are just having a laugh

– Even if you hire a few people out of the 20% of devs who look, sound, and prove themselves to be good, it can all turn out badly as well with the work just not being done to the quality and schedule agreed at the start.

– Maybe I’m the problem? No, not really :) I’ve got 5 star feedback from anyone I’ve worked with (including a lot of people I’ve had to fire, who still seem to like me!), have shipped a fair few successful games in my past.

So what next?

– First up, I’m looking for great developers who are AAA players. Love coding iPhone apps, want to work on exciting games. People who want to see apps they made rock up to the top of the charts. Can work quickly, are honest, competitively priced, can integrate SDKS in their sleep, have fun and love their job! If you know of anyone ping me.

– Any major successes I’ve had have been with Eastern European developers. They seem to have great skills, and they say what they think. If it takes 3 days, they won’t promise to do it in 1 day and then not deliver. They’re fun to work with, really talented and creative and as a bonus are in the same time zone as me which helps. So last night I was up until 2am writing job descriptions on three of the major outsourcing websites. Then I emailed every single 5* Eastern European developer I could find. Will it work? I don’t know yet but I’m definitely hopeful :)

Chocaholics – Thanks for reading this far! If you found this useful please do share this blog with your friends who could need help to find great developers.

PS: Big announcement coming soon to all Chocaholics on the Express – Sign up today and make sure you don’t miss out on the BIG NEWS!!

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Elaine Heney is an online entrepreneur, triple #1 best selling author and international keynote speaker. Elaine is an Amazon FBA ecommerce advisor, investor, Hollywood movie producer, online business consultant and CEO of Chocolate Lab Cashflow. Elaine has also published over 300 mobile apps across Amazon, Apple & Google, and enjoyed over 20 million app downloads and over 50 #1 apps worldwide.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Joe Monaghan April 29, 2013, 5:59 am

    Great post. I too feel like I’ve gotten lost in the whole process, I’ve also gotten lost driving in south city Dublin too many times, since they put the new bus lanes in!!!!!!!
    I am working with a guy from China at present on an app and I don’t think his graphics designer is up to the job.
    On what grounds do I get rid of him? He has been trying hard but I’ll swear he thinks I’m thick. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know how to code but I’m learning the basics of Xcode, how to check and install SDK’s etc which I’ve noticed he gets tetchy about.

    Any suggestions appreciated.


  • admin April 29, 2013, 2:13 pm

    Follow your gut. Always works for me.

  • Daniel June 27, 2013, 9:34 pm

    What kind of hours would qualify as an honest integration and what kind of fixed rate would you generally set to integrate SDK’s?

  • Elaine Heney August 18, 2013, 5:00 pm

    Rule of thumb for ad networks, about 1 hour max. Other SDKs (multiplayer, etc) can take a bit longer.

  • Michael September 29, 2013, 5:38 am

    I’m putting together a development team. I have design experience, not much code. Is there anything you would suggest as must-haves for a successful development team?

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