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The 12 Traits of Great Software Developers

software developers

Hiring the right software developer for your business or organization can be a difficult task. In today’s digital world, software development is one of the most critical aspects of any business and therefore, hiring the wrong person for this job could cost you dearly, both in terms of money and reputation.

So, what makes a great developer?

Well, in short, a great developer will write clean & functional code in a manner that it can be easily enhanced and maintained, test it thoroughly for correctness, stay within the allocated time-frame, follow accepted best practices, collaborate with their team, and continuously improve their knowledge and skills throughout their career.

However, the truth is that hiring managers can’t always check all these attributes. Even with a clear definition, it can be difficult to tell whether a developer is right for you or your organization.

12 Attributes of a Great Software Developer

To help you get it right we’ve put together a list of twelve attributes to look for while hiring a Software Developer:

1) Passion

Passion gives us energy. Passion produces amazing outcomes. One thing all Great software developers have in common is the love for their work. You will recognize this love when you hear them express their ideas with great enthusiasm, or when you see them plug-in and code long hours of the day with no breaks.

They also have a passion for learning and take a proactive approach in keeping their skills up to date because new technologies are being introduced every now and then which means staying on top is an on-going challenge!

2) Initiative

The best software developers are natural self-starters. They thrive in unstructured environments and work best when they drive their own agenda. They don’t wait for anyone to assign them a task or direct what they do next. Software developers will handle problems on their own initiative using skills they’ve gained over time.

This quality has its drawbacks, though, especially when a project requires high levels of collaboration (see #10). However, any software developer worth his salt knows when to take a step back.

3) Tenacity

Like most rewarding things in life, software development isn’t always easy. In fact, most of the time it’s quite the opposite. Great software developers, however, love a challenge and often work on multiple tasks at once. They are quick to learn and adapt when things don’t go according to plan and they don’t let assignments overwhelm them.

4) Humility

Successful developers don’t bring their egos to work. No matter how good they are at what they do, they know that they’re not always going to be right. A good software developer will readily accept constructive criticism and feedback and use to their benefit by working even harder to succeed.

5) Focus

Great software developers love coding and once they get in the zone, it’s difficult to break them out of their focus. Average software developers, on the other hand, are easily distracted by shiny objects like emails or tweets. However, a developer who’s true to his craft will never let anything get in the way of task completion.

The ability to filter out unnecessary “noise” and be solution-focused is essential, as many developers fall into unproductive cycles, and occupy themselves with needless “drama”, rather than being solution-focused, having a plan, and resolving issues effectively.

6) Curiosity

Great software development requires great problem solvers. And great problem solving requires developers who are curious and have the ability and desire to solve problems that matter. What makes life difficult for people? What’s missing from their lives or society? What would make things easier for them? What can make a real impact or bring a real change? These are the kinds of questions great developers ask themselves to ensure that their work is full of meaning and impact.

7) Teachability

It’s not enough to be an expert in only one aspect of software development. The best developers are always branching out and adding more to their stack, skillset and knowledge base. They never stop asking questions because they’re genuinely interested in how things work. They have a firm understanding of how technology is evolving and are aware of how particular business needs could be met by fit-for-purpose technological solutions, but they never stop learning!

8) Adaptability

Regardless of which programming language a developer specializes in, the truth is that code can be unpredictable. A good developer has the ability to switch tasks, contexts or the scope of a project at the drop of a hat, and then go back to pick up where they left off. A great developer must be able to adapt and respond to issues as soon as they arise.

The tech industry is in constant flux, with changing trends and emerging technologies, so it’s important to hire talent that’s willing to make the necessary adjustments to keep up with the changes.

9) Positivity

As we’ve mentioned before, when it comes to software development, things don’t always go according to plan. That’s why it’s important for a developer to have a positive attitude. Setbacks and failures are inevitable since troubleshooting is a significant part of the development process. A developer with a positive mindset wouldn’t let their initial failures discourage them from achieving their goals.

10) Team Spirit

Software engineers are far less likely to succeed if they do not enjoy working with others. They must have the ability to work well in a team as well as work independently when necessary. This may sound easy but it can be challenging especially for teams made up of people from different technical backgrounds. A good team player will be willing to set aside differences to work toward a common goal.

For a team to function properly, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined so that productive discussions can take place with minimal friction or conflict. The ideal developer will be proactive at collaborating with their peers.

11) Pragmatism

The best developers have the ability to balance pragmatism with the integrity of a software solution. It’s not always easy, but it can be done!

This is a bit of a gray area – you have to be pragmatic to deliver what the users require, but you also have to maintain the integrity of the solution by establishing clear boundaries and a clean architecture. In some cases, these may be mutually exclusive – for example, it’s impractical to have a real-time application go through five different web services for a simple business function. While this may help maintain the purity of the solution, in practice, it’s unworkable and a pain to support.

12) No fear to fail

This last trait is absolutely crucial for great software engineers. They need to have the courage to experiment and the confidence to demonstrate their abilities. Engineers who are afraid of failure won’t take chances or innovate and this will seriously cripple their professional growth. They will also find it difficult to deal with criticism from their peers, and learn from their mistakes.


Finding the right developer for your company is challenging, and can be a time-consuming process. We hope that this article has given you some insight into what to look out for when hiring one so that you can make smarter decisions in the future. Did we miss anything? Let us know!

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