Hiring Kick-Ass Developer

Finding people that can kick ass (if you give them the freedom to do so) is not an easy task. Kick-ass developers are not the norm. They constantly think how to improve things, they are passionate about what they’re doing and they have brilliant social skills. How can you find these special kind of people?

At Atlassian we want kick-ass developer to find us. So the first step is to raise some interest in Atlassian as developers paradise. We need to be honest when doing that. If the right candidate has found us, we don’t want to loose him again when he finds out that we didn’t tell the truth about working at Atlassian. From 77 applicants we hire one.

Navigationsgast Hauptgefreiter El Jarraz mit Fernglas (DF)

Spreading the word

We try to attract people by giving them holidays before they even have started working for us. We want people to be fresh and prepared for the job so we give them a voucher for spending a weekend in a hotel with the family. We also encourage our developers to speak at conferences and tell other developers how awesome it is to work for Atlassian. Employees should also blog about their cool framework they are working on, what they learned by using a new technology or just what fun side project they’ve created. It sounds more honest and real if our developers tells that stories to possible candidates.

It is cheaper for us to make people find us instead of trying to find talents through traditional job offers. We got the best people from recommendation from other developers. That’s why we’re giving everybody a flight to a destination of their choice for a recommendation that we have hired.

Finding the kick-ass genes

On one hand you need a system that scales, on the other hand you want to look at each candidate if they have some kick-ass genes. We have developed an online coding test for candidates. Instead of looking for right or wrong answers we’re trying to look for good potential. So if we see some innovative solution to a problem that don’t lead to the 100% right result, we are still interested in speaking to the applicant. One of the first interviews the candidate is doing is with a technical person. If we found a good developer through interviews and pair-coding sessions we are checking if the candidate fits into the Atlassian culture. This is the most important thing that differentiate between a good developer and a kick-ass developer.

Onboarding and ruining developers

Here is where most companies suck: They give you a desk and a computer, maybe a 2 day course and a monthly salary. So why should you complain?

If you have put so much effort in finding the one developer that fits into your team, you should do everything you can to bring him up to speed so he can kick-ass. At Atlassian every employee is doing a boot camp where he learns how the different teams are working, how development is organized, basics about design, testing, product management and so on. The classes are happening in the morning and the new employees are working together with their team in the afternoon. After the 4 weeks of boot camp people are ready to really kick ass. Whoot!

For graduates we have a special program: They are being send to our hack house: One week at a beach with some bootcamp classes, coding sessions and lots of fun to get to know our culture. They are learning how we collaborate, our focus on shipping and what our 5 values means for us.

developers stay


One of our goals is to ruin our developers so they don’t want to work anywhere else. We put a lot of effort in creating the best place to work. To find out the actual mood of our employees we’ve developed an iPad app. Employees can easily tell us their mood just by tapping on the screen when they leave the office. This way we can react just in time when the mood goes down. Our open culture allows everybody to blog about things that don’t went well. It’s amazing to see how people react and jump in to help, if somebody sees a problem.

It’s the people, stupid!

The secret of attracting and keeping kick-ass developer is to be picky in the hiring process. Great talents likes to work together with other cool devs, so they can keep learning from each other. You want to make their work environment as great as possible so other kick-ass developers will be attracted by that. Measure the mood of your employees constantly not only through apps but also through personal interviews. Give your employees the confident to complain, the best tools in the world to get the job done and the power to change things. That’s the only way they can really kick ass!

4 thoughts on “Hiring Kick-Ass Developer

  1. “Atlassian? – never heard…” Do you really think Atlassian is SO special? I’m shure there are the same probs as in every other copmpany: mobbing, jealousy in people and money and devs leaving the company because s.o else is paying more

    1. If people leave your company for money they don’t value the culture we have. So we wish them all the best and we must admit that we failed during the hiring process. These are not the people we are looking for. Yes, of course there are things like mobbing and jealousy in a 600 people company. But at Atlassian we have an open culture where we can talk about those things and trying as a team to tackle those. I know what I’m talking about, Ralf. I’ve seen both sides 😉 Believe me, an open company culture is essential for kicking ass!

      1. I’ve been working for more than one company, and in my opinion, the larger the org grows, the more appear those things. It is essential to look after the needs of your staff in order to bind them to their job. Unsatisfied employees can’t give 100%. I can’t believe, you’re only leaning back and waiting for experts calling you. Really good people want to be courted to leave their company and mostly well paid job. A smalltalk with one of your devs might be insufficient…

      2. Yes, the size seems to be a pattern (but don’t have to be). I’ve never said, that we’re just leaning back. The opposite is true! We have been travelling with a bus through Europe to get good talents. We want to create the best place to work to attract cool developers. Have you never heard of the great working conditions at Google? They offer free food, freedom, 20 percent time for your pet project, etc. It’s a great way to attract and (more important) keep great talents. I’ve been speaking at some dev events now about our culture. Everybody seems to be interested in the work conditions and the culture of Atlassian. Not one asked me about salary! We courte people by the challenge they get and the freedom they have.

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