Full-stack developer 101: a guide to hiring and retaining the best talent
February 11, 2024
A full-stack software developer with their all-round expertise in front-end, back-end and database layer expertise can be an invaluable addition to your software development team. This is why leading software companies in Sri Lanka are always hiring full-stack software developers for both local and international projects, as they can assist, lead and thereby contribute to software development teams across the spectrum.
In this article, we break down what a full-stack software developer can do, as well as how you can hire the right one for your project. Read on to know more!
Who is a full-stack developer?
A full-stack developer is a software developer that has skills in building both the front-end and back-end of a software or application. Front-end elements include all areas that an end user is able to see, such as the user interface. On the other hand, back-end counterparts include areas such as servers and web browsers. Owing to their all-round expertise, full-stack developers also have experience in database administration and management, as this is what determines how data flows across the entire architecture.
Technology stacks, which are combinations of multiple programming frameworks, are often used to determine the areas that a full-stack developer is best adept in. For example, the MEAN stack (which combines MongoDB, Express, Angular and Node) is a popular tech stack that software developers use to build web applications in Java. Such technology stacks can enable hiring teams, which include both in-house as well as software outsourcing companies to discern which full-stack developers are best suited to the unique needs of a project.
What skills and characteristics should you expect in a full-stack developer?
All-round expertise, in front-end, back-end and database layers
A full-stack software developer’s knowledge and experience in building front-end, back-end and database layers is the first quality that is assessed, especially during the hiring phase. Technologies surrounding these layers (and across the software development industry in general) are always evolving – and staying in lockstep with changing trends is another quality that separates great full-stack developers from the rest, while also determining their aptitude with soft skills such as communication and leadership.
The ability to lead and provide advice
Owing to their holistic specialisation, full-stack developers also have the capabilities to lead a software development project. This is especially ideal when your software development team functions virtually, and is composed mainly of remote developers who may be located throughout a specific region, or even across the world. Even if your full-stack developer may not have granular expertise in a certain area (such as different testing types, for example), they can still lead teams to constructively break problems down and subsequently identify solutions – akin to a project manager.
The ability to attend to emergencies at a moment’s notice
Although software development teams have predictable schedules, things can change especially in the wake of a cyber breach. Your full-stack developer of choice should be aware of this, and also be willing to take control whenever needed to help companies mitigate damage as best as possible. Fluctuations are also susceptible to happening when there are phases of high demand, or when something breaks down.
A full-stack developer who is able to address such emergencies and scale up or down when needed displays true competency – something that only time will usually tell lest a problem happens.
Full-stack developer hire checklist
If you’re looking to hire a full-stack developer for your software development project, the following steps should serve as a blueprint to hire the right candidate – no matter how complex your project is, and what special requirements you may have depending on industry or compliance.
If your software development project is run by an IT outsourcing company, they should be able to attend to most of the steps mentioned here, leaving you to only interview suitable candidates one-on-one, while taking the final call on who should be eventually recruited.
Start with a set of criteria
You know you need to hire a full-stack developer, but what skills and qualities do you expect them to have? This question will always offer different answers for every project, so ensure it is addressed well before any headhunting takes place. To get started, gather your software development team to identify what is lacking, as well as identify what skills are required to rectify what’s problematic.
Questions that are asked can first revolve around existing roles and responsibilities of each team member, while subsequent discussions can take place around tasks that are unable to be executed due to skill deficiencies or bottlenecks. A set of roles and responsibilities can then be built for your future full-stack software developer, which can be placed into the final job ad to begin the headhunting process.
Assess applications holistically
Applications to your full-stack developer vacancy need to be assessed for both hard and soft skills; this applies to the initial interview round as well as the assignment stage. This is especially crucial, since the full-stack developer role has potential for leadership – and you’re best hiring someone who can exhibit such traits in the future, in order to maximise your ROI on hiring them in the first place.
Conduct performance evaluations regularly
Once the ideal candidate is hired, the initial recruitment process may conclude, but managing and evaluating the performance of your full-stack developer is a continuous process for as long as they are employed on your team. For this, identifying their KPIs and measuring their performance against those KPIs can provide senior management and other high-level stakeholders clarity on how reliable and competent your full-stack hire is – including how much value they are adding to your organisation by meeting key business objectives.
Full-stack developers are in high demand thanks to their all-rounder qualities of being adept at both front-end and back-end software development. This makes them qualified to also lead entire software development projects as a result, thereby making them versatile additions to any team.
However, identifying the right candidate during the hiring process can be tedious, especially as no two projects are identical, and unique business objectives are bound to be baked into the whole process. Irrespective of how specific your business requirements are, the right candidate can be sourced by making sure that:
Your team has a clear idea on what exactly a full-stack developer should be attending to within your software development project. This could mean working on the whole stack from the get-go, or focusing only on problem areas,
Assessing candidates for both technical expertise and soft skills, which include (but aren’t limited to) attention to detail, communication and leadership,
Evaluating performance regularly once hired, to ensure KPIs are being met and business objectives are being fulfilled.
If your software development operations are outsourced, your software outsourcing partner should be able to handle the bulk of this process – so your team can focus on other pressing duties instead.
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Q1: What is the difference between a full-stack developer and a front-end or back-end developer?
A: A full-stack developer is skilled at working on both front and back ends of a software development project, while a front-end and back-end developer (as their titles suggest) only work on one end of the project. This makes full-stack developers all-round software development professionals, and having one on your team is bound to be highly valuable as they can be consulted for any technical matters when required.
Q2: Is it better to hire a full-stack developer or project manager to lead your software development project?
A: Whether a full-stack developer or project manager is more relevant for your unique project depends on a number of factors, but can be summed up through two steps in order to make an informed decision:
1. To start off, it’s important to clearly understand what each does as part of their roles and responsibilities; while a full-stack developer has all-round technical knowledge regarding software development, a project manager may or may not have technical expertise.
2. If you already have a full-stack developer and/or project manager in your existing software development team, it then helps to understand what your software development needs truly are; do you need someone with deep technical skills at the forefront to run your project, or will a project manager with minimal technical skills do?
No matter how niche your software development project is, the above steps should serve as a blueprint to address the full-stack developer vs project manager dilemma. If you’re partnered with a software outsourcing company, they shall be able to lead and advise on what can be done, thereby conveniently helping you decide who’s ideal to lead your software development project.
Q3: Can full-stack developers also do UI/UX design?
A: Since full-stack developers are all-rounders in what they do, they are bound to have at least some baseline knowledge regarding UI and UX - even if they don’t have deep technical expertise on building and testing user interfaces. Nonetheless, with their suite of varied technical skills, full-stack developers can still effectively advise and lead software development projects, including supervising dedicated UI/UX designers in their work.