How to spot fake software developers

Yes, software is eating the world and software developers are in demand. Startups and established tech companies are fighting over the scarce resource known as programmers. Some are lucky to hire competent programmers that can plug-n-play instantly. Some ended up hiring incompetent or "fake" programmers that good at talking but are utterly useless at coding and thus wasted many man hours.

During the interview process, the smart "fakers" can be difficult to detect as they memorized enough technical jargon to impress the interviewer.....even to some experienced coder.

What can you do to unmask incompetent programmers and avoid hiring them?

1. Give programming test to the interviewee.

If you're a non-technical person, get a friend or co-worker help in coming up with a test paper to gauge the potential hire technical skill. Avoid questions that can be easily answered by memorized answers. The best test is to have the prospective candidates to write codes with pen and paper. Doesn't have to be the perfect answer.... missing semicolons or some minor programming "grammar" is acceptable.

In this way, action speaks louder than words. Remember to take away any devices that will allow them to access the internet to seek answers.

pen and paper programming test

Image credit: by @helloquence

2. Ask real life problem-solving questions

No point being able to write code that is pretty to look at or talk about how good your programming skills are but useless in solving the real-life problem. For example, ask the prospect to write a simple number guessing game program. If you want to make it easier for the prospective hires, give them some pseudo code or some formula and get them to write a program on how to use the formula - such as calculating half-life decay.

The art of programming is all about practicality. Period.

3. Scan their resume for instant gotchas.

Now, this requires the interviewer to be knowledgeable. Back in 2015, I spotted a resume that stated the person has more than 10-years of Swift and Golang programming experience. This is either obviously fake or genuine innocent mistake. Golang was created in 2007 and was less than 10 years in 2015. The math will help in exposing fakes.

Summary. It is all about passion.

Now, this is not really about spotting fake, but getting the best if possible. Good software developers tend to show passion in what they do and if their interest aligned with your company mission.... that's a real bonus. After the practical test, probe them to see what will inspire them and which buttons they have that your company can push to motivate them.

Programming and problem-solving is about passion. Not about college degree or certificates.

programming is about passion

Image credit: by @quesada179

The good ones usually will describe their past projects or what they have built during their college or coding school days vividly. The average ones will have a hard time relating to their past projects and the fake ones will avoid the question totally or try to divert the question to irrelevant matter.


As a matter of helping the next generations, sometimes I do make some exception to candidates that I feel that they have the potential to be brought up to speed with on the job training.

That is provided you or your company have the luxury to do so. It is always the chicken-and-egg situation. Most companies want candidates that are perfect and experienced, but not being able to give on the job training to the new generation of software developers.

So, how it is possible for the candidates to claim that they have practical experience? Internship? Come on. You can do better.

Preview image credit: by @ismaelnieto

  See also : Guide to identify the types of software developers

By AdamNg

IF you gain some knowledge or the information here solved your programming problem. Please consider donating to the less fortunate or some charities that you like. Apart from donation, planting trees, volunteering or reducing your carbon footprint will be great too.