A 9-Step Guide to Hire a Great Mobile App Developer

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Smartphones are everywhere and creating apps for them is big business. Many companies need apps built and don’t have the specialist knowledge or expertise to build them themselves. If you’re in the tech recruitment industry, you will often be asked to source mobile app developers. You may get a colleague to approach you saying, “We need an app developer for our team” or “Which local app developers would you recommend?”

We’ve created a simple, step-by-step guide to help you find the right app developer for you. We will look into the costs involved in hiring an app developer and whether there is a difference between iOS and Android developers.

Follow these 9 steps to hire a mobile app developer:

Let’s get started.

  1. Essential questions to ask yourself before you hire a mobile app developer
  2. How to write the mobile app developer job description
  3. Where to find iOS and Android app developers
  4. How expensive is it to hire a mobile app developer?
  5. Agree to a benchmark for coding skills
  6. Shortlisting your mobile app developer candidates
  7. Technical skills test
  8. The soft-skills interview
  9. The technical interview

1.  Essential questions to ask yourself before you hire a mobile app developer

  1. Are you looking for an iPhone app developer or an Android app developer – or do you need someone who can do both?
  2. Which languages will the app developer be using? (Java, Objective-C, X-code, Swift, Kotlin?) Do you need a specialist in one or more of these areas?
  3. Which tech stack should they be able to use?
  4. Would it be useful if the candidate has the ability to program in C++, or is that not essential?
  5. Will they need experience of cross-platform development (for example, React Native)?
  6. What type of mobile app or apps do you need to create?
  7. Are you creating a mobile version of your current desktop or web-based software? Or is this simply going to be a mobile version of a website?
  8. Do you need the app to integrate with GPS or an alternative mobile technology?
  9. What is the nature of the work which you need help with and how technically complicated is it?
  10. Do you work in a specialist industry like the financial or legal sectors? If so, would it be useful if the new developer has background knowledge in these areas?
  11. What is your budget and is it reasonable in the current market? We suggest you compare your proposed budget with current mobile developer salaries. (See our section below entitled “How much are app developers paid?”)
  12. What is your project deadline?
  13. Are there any other specific developer skills and experience required for the position? For example:
    1. Knowledge regarding a specific build system (i.e. Gradle)
    1. Prior experience with continuous integration
    1. Understanding of particular testing approaches
    1. Familiarity with specific libraries and components (MVC, Dependency Injection, Observer)
    1. Understand the Android open source ecosystem? 
    1. Experience of any particular platform, such as Apple TV?
  1. Which Android/ iPhone version(s) do candidates need experience with? And which APIs?
  2. Will the candidate need to be familiar with the process of publishing an app to Google Play or submitting an app to the App Store?

Domain-specific requirements

Bear in mind, developing for mobile apps is very different from developing for other devices.  Users have increasingly high expectations of apps, even though mobiles have a limited screen size. It takes considerable skill to create an app that lives up to user expectations.

Seek advice from your own tech team about how well developed your candidates’ knowledge and expertise in the fields of UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) design needs to be. Remember, that, for Android, there are official Design Guidelines and User Interface Guidelines, whereas Apple has its own Human Interface Guidelines. In addition, how much knowledge will candidates need to have well-known design processes like Design Thinking?

Paying attention to UX/UI

Getting UX/UI right in developing a mobile app, is half the battle.

But creating a successful mobile application is more than just coding. Smartphone users can download an app in seconds from a choice of millions of other apps, so a big challenge and the number one priority is how to draw users’ attention to your app. The second priority is that the app must function correctly. You don’t want any negative reviews. The third priority is that users need to have a positive experience when using the app. If they think it’s “useless” they will just delete it in an instant instantly from their mobile.

In short, this means that the app should be easy to use, well designed and stand out because of its usefulness. It should be intuitive and fast. If not, it will be lost in the midst of other, similar apps and forgotten about. It is the role of a mobile app developer to design an app that meets the above criteria and you should bear this in mind throughout the hiring process.

2. How to write the mobile app developer job description

When writing the job description, it is important to make both the job and the possibility of working for your company sound as attractive and interesting as possible. Be as clear as you can about what you expect from a candidate and if there are any project-specific skills required, you should state them up-front.

The job description is the first contact that potential candidates have with you and your company and it is important to create a good impression. We would suggest asking your tech team to review your job description as it is important that it is technically correct, clear and accurate.

3. Where to find iOS and Android app developers

Now you have written your job description, it’s time to post it. It is important to get your job advert seen by the right people with the relevant skills. Below, we offer some suggestions on the best places to post your job description. Remember that as you’re mostly targeting passive candidates, we suggest that you are as creative as possible in coming up with your own, possibly better, places to post.

So, here are a few ideas to get you started:

Referrals 
Never underestimate your own connections. For example, you can:

  • Ask your current team to share the job description with their friends and family
  • Share the link to the job description on your social media with your family and friends

Recruitment marketing

  • Search local Facebook groups, and advertise your job there
  • Research the LinkedIn profiles of mobile app developers, and contact them directly
  • Look for potential candidates on job boards like Angel.co and workinstartups.com
  • Attend any local Android conferences, hackathons or meetups 
  • If there is potential for the job to be carried out remotely, post your job description on freelance sites such as weworkremotely.com, workingnomads.com, and upwork.com

Dig deeper in App stores & GitHub

Alternatively, you could:

  • Research mobile apps which are similar in style to the one you want to develop, and then directly approach the developers who made those apps. 
  • Carry out a key-word searches in either or GitLab or GitHub. Look for the mobile app projects or code samples uploaded by developers who could potentially be suitable candidates. 

    4. How expensive is it to hire a mobile app developer?

PayScale states that the salary levels of both Android and iOS developers in the US are on average $82,000 per annum.

However, iOS app developers can be harder to source. According to Evans Data Corporation, “the number of mobile developers who target Android first is 5.9M vs 2.8M that target iOS as a first platform” this means that there seem to be fewer iOS mobile developers available for hire than Android developers.

From a business point of view, it makes sense to hire iOS developers for apps only (or mainly) aimed at the Apple market and Android developers if you are intending to build an Android app

5. Agree on a benchmark for coding skills

You will need to find a way to test candidates’ coding skills to see if they will capable of carrying out the job.  If you invite a current internal developer who has similar skills to the ones specified in the job description to take a test, you can set a benchmark, specific to your company.

6. Shortlisting your mobile app developer candidates

As applications come in, you need to create an objective shortlist of the most suitable candidates.  You need to check out the candidate’s prior experience to ensure that you hire a mobile app developer who is up to the job.  Given that the cost of hiring a bad developer can reach anything up to $485,371.38, the last thing that you want to do is hire someone who doesn’t have the skills to do a good job.

 Reviewing the CVs

When looking through a candidate’s CV, question whether they have enough experience in the relevant fields?

Are they a specialist in this field, or are they more of a ‘jack of all trades’?

 The interview

You can conduct this in person, on Skype or by phone.

  • Do they have a great portfolio?
    It’s always a good idea to ask to see examples of a candidate’s past work.  Is the candidate able to give links to Google or Apple’s app stores so that you can see examples of any real apps which they have worked on?

Regardless of whether the candidate can give such links, it is important to discuss the details of the projects which the developer took part in – what did they contribute to the projects? Did they provide any creative input to the app design during the initial stages?
Test any apps which the candidate has created from a user experience perspective – How appealing is the app visually? How engaging is it? 

  • How does the candidate come across in the interview?  Do they communicate well?
    Candidates for mobile app development roles need good communication and team working skills. During the interview, try to test these out and look for strengths and weaknesses in both areas.  Ask questions about how they cooperate with team members in their current position. Not just with the other developers, but the graphic designers and other staff.
  • Do they learn quickly?
    Ideally, you would be better off hiring someone who already has some knowledge about the relevant business sector (or at least shows an aptitude and an interest in learning about it). 

These are a few pointers to help you, but to truly judge a mobile app developer’s skill, talent, and personality, you’ll need to actually test their programming skills.

7. Technical skills test

It’s common in interviews for candidates to make out they can do things better than they really can. How do you know whether a candidate can actually code? And how well can they do it? It’s a good idea to ask candidates to take a technical test so you can filter out those who can actually walk the walk from those who can only talk the talk.  By asking candidates to take relevant online iOS and Android coding tests, you’ll get a much more thorough idea of a candidate’s skills and technical abilities than either by talking to them or asking them to complete a written test.

Remember, if you’re looking for a Mid-level Android Developer to work with machine-learning you need a different test than for an iOS developer, who needs to understand Objective-C and Swift.

8. The soft-skills interview

This part of the recruitment process tends to be overlooked by developers. It shouldn’t be, as it’s a valuable source of information about the candidate.

This part of the interview really allows you to get to know your candidate.

An experienced HR team will able able to evaluate a candidate’s prior experiences and behavior patterns in order to predict their potential benefit to your company. 

Typical behavioral interview questions are open-ended and follow a similar structure:

  • Tell me about a time when you … 
  • Describe a situation when you … 

This non-technical part of the interview gives you a real opportunity chance to predict how well a candidate will fit into your company and whether they will make a good team player.

Good examples of iOS developer behavioral questions include: 

  • Do you have any prior experience of tutoring and mentoring someone in Swift?
  • Which of previous projects or solutions are you most proud of and why?

9. The technical interview

Ensure technical interviews are carried out by experienced members of your developer team. They would be the best-placed people to evaluate whether a candidate actually has the required technical skills and level of experience.

Technical interview questions for a mobile app developer: 

  • I understand that you are a skilled programmer for both the Android and iOS platforms.  Which is your preferred platform and why?
  • Please compare Swift and Objective-C and note any important advantages and disadvantages.
  • Which iOS technologies are the most frequently used at present?  What are your predictions for the future?

It is important for the technical interview to focus on the practical skills and resources the candidate would normally use to do their job. You could even invite candidates to carry out remote live coding interviews. These don’t even require the candidate to travel to your location.

Next steps

Hopefully, now you have a thorough and in-depth understanding of every suitable candidate. It’s time to make that important decision about who is on your final shortlist.

Then, all you need to do is send out the job offers to the lucky ones.

Good luck with your new hire!