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Hiring fullstack developers - a definitive guide

Anudeep Rastogi

A great fullstack developer is critical for any software development team in today’s world. Given the competitive nature of the market, hiring a fullstack developer is also no easy feat.

Knowing what a fullstack developer does, what technologies they work with, where to look for them, and how to interview them can set you on the right path. We have compiled a comprehensive guide to recruiting fullstack engineers based on our experiences at Rocket, the largest recruiting agency focused on engineering recruiting in Silicon Valley. Let’s get started!

What is a fullstack developer?

Fullstack development (Credit: QAwithExperts.com)

Fullstack technology refers to the entire gamut of a computer system - both client-facing software (frontend) and server-facing software (backend) working in tandem for the application to function.

The frontend part consists of native iOS and Android applications, web applications, websites and hybrid applications, which are developed by combining both native and web technologies. It includes everything that a user can see and interact with. On the other hand, backend refers to what goes on behind the scenes - servers, databases, and other components that enable the client-facing application to work. The end user rarely interacts with the backend directly. Instead the frontend interacts with the backend, generally through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and Protocols (rules for communication).

The term fullstack refers to the technologies and skills needed to complete a project, with each individual component being a stack. The individual stack can be frontend or backend. Developers who work on the frontend stack of an application are called frontend developers; those who work on the backend stack are called backend developers. Those who have niche knowledge of both the frontend and the backend are called fullstack developers.

Why do I need a fullstack developer?

In the early days of the world wide web, the internet was simple enough that a single developer could build the entire application. Nowadays, applications are infinitely more complex and often require specialized frontend and backend development teams.

However, fullstack developers are still in demand and play a vital role on software development teams for a variety of reasons:

  • In a startup, it is helpful to hire fullstack developers as the first few hires as they have the capability to translate an idea into a working prototype (Minimum Viable Product, or MVP) that can be rapidly tested.
  • Developers who can switch seamlessly between backend and frontend technologies provide a lot of flexibility for companies as they can be utilized in whichever area has more needs.
  • Ideally every team should have one person who has a basic understanding of all the components - both frontend and backend - that comprise a modern application. Fullstack developers fulfill that need.
  • Fullstack developers can be invaluable in debugging problems where the source of the bug is unclear and may involve both frontend and backend technologies.   

For all these reasons, the hiring market for fullstack developers is very robust and expected to remain so.

What technologies do fullstack developers use?

Fullstack developers use a combination of frontend and backend technologies. Here we will briefly cover the various options for backend and frontend as well as the common combinations that developers often use. The goal is to give brief descriptions of each technology so that you can follow along when having conversations with developers and also translate the hiring manager’s requirements into an effective search.

Frontend technologies (not an exhaustive list):
  • HTML: HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It is used to design the frontend portion of web pages. Every browser (Safari, Chrome, etc.) decides what to display to the user based on the HTML code.
  • CSS: CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is a simply designed language intended to simplify the process of making web pages presentable.
  • JavaScript: JavaScript is a widely used scripting language used to make the site interactive for the user. Applicable to both the frontend and the backend, JavaScript is an essential skill for fullstack developers.
  • React.js: React is a flexible JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It was initially developed at Facebook. React makes frontend development significantly easier and is one of the most popular technologies for frontend development today.
  • AngularJS: AngularJs is a JavaScript open-source front-end framework that is mainly used to develop single-page web applications.
  • Bootstrap: Bootstrap is an open-source tool collection for creating responsive websites and web applications. It is the most popular HTML, CSS, and JavaScript framework for developing responsive, mobile-first websites.
  • jQuery: jQuery is an open-source JavaScript library that simplifies the interactions between an HTML/CSS document - or, more precisely, the Document Object Model (DOM) - and JavaScript. jQuery simplifies HTML document traversing and manipulation, browser event handling, DOM animations and cross-browser JavaScript development.

Backend technologies (again, not an exhaustive list):
  • PHP: PHP is a server-side scripting language designed specifically for web development. It’s a little dated now but still used extensively.
  • Laravel: Laravel is a web application framework for PHP development.
  • Java: Java is one of the most popular and widely used programming languages and platforms and is highly scalable.
  • Spring: This server-side framework provides infrastructure support for Java applications. 
  • Python: Python is a programming language that lets you work quickly and integrate systems efficiently. Very widely used with fullstack applications today.
  • Django: Django is a Python web-based framework, following the model-views-template (MVT) pattern. It is used to build large and complex web applications.
  • Node.js: Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform runtime environment for executing JavaScript code outside a browser. Developers use Node.js for building backend services like APIs. It’s very popular for developing web applications right now.
  • Express: Express is a Node.js framework used for backend development.
  • Ruby on Rails: Ruby on Rails is a server-side framework following the model-view-controller (MVC) architecture pattern. It provides default structures such as web services, web pages, and databases. Ruby on Rails is an easy language for beginner developers to get started with.

Fullstack technologies (Credit: GeeksforGeeks.org)

Now, we will briefly cover some of the most widely used combinations of frontend, backend and database technologies. Developers call these combinations “stacks.”

What are the most common “stacks” for fullstack development?

LAMP & LEMP:

LAMP and LEMP are backend “stacks.” LAMP is the oldest web server architecture stack. It works on Linux OS and uses Apache Servers for web server software; MySQL, which is a relational database storing data into tables; and PHP for the backend programming language. PHP is the topmost layer in this stack and uses SQL to get data from the databases, which is then passed to web or mobile applications. 

LAMP becomes LEMP when Apache servers are replaced with Nginx - a newer, faster and lightweight web server. A useful analogy is that Apache is like Microsoft Word, while Nginx is like Google Docs. Even though Google Docs does not have all the features of Microsoft Word, it still has the same set of essential features and is much easier to get started with.

MEAN, MERN & MEVN:

The MEAN stack is a JavaScript-based framework for developing web applications. MEAN is named after MongoDB, Express, Angular, and Node, the four key technologies that make up the layers of the stack.

  • MongoDB — document database. Unlike MySQL, MongoDB is a NoSQL database and stores data based on key value pairs like JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). This type of database is schema-less and therefore flexible and scalable, which allows it to handle large amounts of data (Big Data in developer speak).
  • Express(.js) — a Node.js web framework for building RESTful APIs with Node.js. It is popular due to its high performance and robust routing using HTTP for caching and redirection. 
  • Angular(.js) — a comprehensive frontend JavaScript framework
  • Node(.js) — the premier JavaScript web server, generally used on the backend
  • React(.js): React is a declarative, efficient, and flexible JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It was initially developed at Facebook. React makes frontend development significantly easier and is one of the most popular technologies for frontend development today.
  • Vue(.js) — an open-source, progressive, lightweight framework based on its predecessor, Angular.js. FUN FACT: all its version names are from popular anime and manga.

There are variations to the MEAN stack, such as MERN (replacing Angular.js with React.js) and MEVN (using Vue.js). The MEAN stack and its variations are among the most popular technology sets for building web applications.

Django Stack:

The components of this stack rely on Python as the programming language with Django as the key framework. Django is commonly referred to as a “battery included” framework since common functionalities needed for building web applications come with it. Because this stack is excellent for beginners to learn and quickly deploy web applications, it has become very popular. 

Ruby on Rails Stack:

This stack is complete in itself and can be used to develop and deploy web, cross-platform and native applications. The Rails environment is based on Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture and provides a built-in backend in the form of server and SQL database. JavaScript, HTML and CSS are used for building the client side of the web application. Ruby is the programming language that acts as the bridge between frontend and backend and helps in the data flow back and forth. 

Mobile Stacks:

Oftentimes, a primary requirement of any software solution includes an application running on Android and/or iOS phones. Several key technologies can assist with this development:

  • iOS Native applications are written in Swift and Objective C and have iCloud as cloud-based storage. On the other hand, Android native applications are written in Kotlin with Google Cloud taking care of cloud-based storage of user information.  
  • Fullstack developers can also use frameworks like React Native (based on React) to develop applications for the web, iOS and Android simultaneously.

While this list of technologies can seem overwhelming, hopefully having some context on them can prove useful when recruiting fullstack developers.

How popular is fullstack development?

According to StackOverflow’s 2022 developer survey, fullstack development is the most popular focus for developers, with ~46% of respondents classifying themselves as fullstack developers.

Developer skills (Credit: Stackoverflow)

A quick search shows that there are currently over 23,000 open fullstack developer positions in the US right now, according to the job site Indeed

What makes a great fullstack developer?

There are certain qualities that any good engineer needs to possess - technical excellence, obviously, but also good communication skills and the ability to work well with others.

More specifically for fullstack developers:

  • They must be proficient in both frontend (at least one of React, Angular, Vue etc.) as well as backend technologies (at least one of Python, Java, Express etc.).
  • They must be happy doing both frontend and backend work! This is often overlooked, as no fullstack developer is ever exactly equally interested in both the frontend and backend - they almost always have a slight preference for one or the other. Best to match their preference with your hiring needs!
  • Most proficient fullstack developers have a computer science background. But it is possible to learn frontend concepts through a bootcamp or through relevant work experience if one doesn’t have a traditional quantitative background. In our experience, it takes about two to four years of relevant work experience along with bootcamps at regular intervals to yield the same technical skill as a traditional computer science degree.

What’s the best way find fullstack developers?

LinkedIn remains the best place to look for fullstack developers, at least in the United States and Canada. Their Recruiter search has several fields you can use to search candidates, including title, location, current company, years of experience etc.

LinkedIn Recruiter Search (Credit: LinkedIn.com)

Here are a few tips when looking for fullstack developers specifically:

Title: Fullstack developers often have a range of titles.

  • Titles such as fullstack developer, fullstack engineer, and web developer are a surefire way to know that someone is working on the fullstack.
  • However, many backend developers/engineers can also do fullstack work and should be considered when looking for fullstack developers. There are always exceptions, but generally the converse does not hold true for frontend developers. Frontend developers usually specialize only in the frontend and mostly don’t have the skills or interest in doing fullstack work.
  • Lastly, a large majority of fullstack developers often have generic titles like software engineer, software developer or SDE. In those cases a deeper perusal of their profile is required.

Technologies: determine which technologies are acceptable to the hiring manager and construct a boolean search based on that combination. For example, if the hiring manager really wants a developer who knows Python but is okay with either React or Angular on the frontend, then your keyword search could be as follows:

  • Basic search: (Python) AND (React OR Angular) - 110k results in the US with that search for software engineers
  • Expanded search using frameworks for Python: (Python OR Django OR Flask) AND (React OR Angular) - Search results increased by 10k!
  • Even more expanded using even more terms: (Python OR Django OR Flask OR CherryPy OR web2py) AND (React OR React.js OR reactjs OR Angular OR Angular.js OR Angularjs) - Search results increased by another 10k!

Company size: LinkedIn provides a really handy feature to search by company size. This is extremely relevant when searching for fullstack developers as the type of work done by fullstack developers varies by company size.

In addition to searching yourself on LinkedIn, here are some other ways to find and engage with fullstack developers: 

  • Job boards - Careerbuilder, Upwork, LinkedIn, Dice, Monster, Workable, SimplyHired, Glassdoor, Craigslist (freelance) and Ladders, to name a few. Job boards will typically yield more active candidates vs. the higher-quality passive candidates on LinkedIn, but they can still be a good source.
  • Staffing companies - you can utilize staffing companies like Rocket, RobertHalf, Randstad and others to help you find a great fullstack developer.
  • AI sourcing - you can use tools like Hireflow or Fetcher to source fullstack developers for you to engage.

What is the typical interview process for fullstack developers?

The typical interview process for fullstack developers includes these elements:

  1. HR/recruiter screen - assessment of candidate’s background and interest and ensuring alignment with the role, compensation and other logistics.
  2. Hiring manager screen - generally a discussion with the hiring manager to go over the candidate’s background, skill sets and areas of interest. Generally, this screen is technical but will usually not require the candidate to code during the interview.
  3. Series of technical interviews - Assessment of problem-solving skills by the organization’s technical team, generally by giving a programming task to finish in an allotted time in a live exercise. Sometimes, a take-home project is used instead.
  4. Executive screen - Assessment by the organization’s executives to calibrate soft skills, motivation and interest.

What do technical interviewers look for in fullstack developers?

It is helpful to know what technical interviewers look for in fullstack developers and the most commonly asked questions. As a recruiter, you can help prepare a candidate for the screens and also get a sense of how confident they are about the subject matter.

Examples of some questions include:

Hard skills

Programming languages

  1. What are the common concepts of Object Oriented Programming (OOP)?
  2. What is encapsulation?
  3. How do you extend a class?
  4. What are abstract and interface classes, and what are their benefits?
  5. What is recursion, and what’s an example?

Frontend technologies

  1. How does JavaScript run on users’ browsers?
  2. Explain the layout of a HTML page and its different elements.
  3. How do you create a hyperlink in HTML?

Frameworks

  1. What are APIs and protocols?
  2. How do RESTful & GraphQL APIs work?
  3. What is the difference between GET and POST?

Databases and caches

  1. What are the different types of databases, and how do you choose a particular type?
  2. What is a cache, and what is a real-world example of its usage?
  3. What is a NoSQL database?
  4. What is the difference between centralized and decentralized databases?

Design ability

  1. What are prototype designs?
  2. What is multithreading?
  3. Explain Model-View-Controller (MVC) Architecture.
  4. Explain Observer Design Pattern.
  5. Explain event loop in Node.js.
  6. How do you optimize a website and make it scalable and efficient?

Client/server

  1. What are the differences between server-side scripting and client-side scripting? 
  2. What is long polling?
  3. What is tree topology?
  4. What is depth/breadth first search?
  5. What is the difference between TCP/IP and UDP protocols?

Behavioral/soft skills
  1. Why did you choose to become a fullstack developer rather than specializing in frontend or backend?
  2. How will you ensure efficiency and a bug-free codebase while working with a team of developers?
  3. How will you build native applications differently from web applications? Which programming languages, frameworks, APIs and protocols will you use?
  4. Are you a fan of pair programming? Why or why not?
  5. Give an example of any past scenario in which you struggled to debug your code.
  6. How do you keep up with the latest trends in technology?
  7. What do you do if someone gives you feedback in a code review and you disagree with it?

What is the compensation range for fullstack developers?

According to data from Indeed and Glassdoor, the average salary of a fullstack developer is around $100,000-120,000 per year in the US, with the highest salaries in the San Francisco Bay Area.

North America Fullstack developer salaries (Credit: Glassdoor)
Fullstack salaries around the world (Credit: Glassdoor)

Global data collected by Glassdoor provides an idea of the average fullstack developer salary candidates can expect to receive around the world:

  • Australia: 105,627 AUD ($81,568 USD)
  • Canada: C$86,703 ($68,743 USD)
  • Germany: €60,995 ($73,392 USD)
  • India: Rs 623,319 ($8,253 USD)
  • UK: £48,538 ($67,653 USD)
  • USA: $102,346

In our experience at Rocket, you should target a range of $135-$160k for really high-quality fullstack engineers in the US/Canada.

Should you hire a developer in-house or outsource the entire project?

Outsourcing has grown in the last decade, and recent statistics show that more than two million jobs are outsourced every year. Therefore, a common question that companies grapple with is whether instead of filling permanent or contract-to-hire positions, why not outsource the entire project to another company?

Even though outsourcing an entire product may sound optimal, it has several risks that should be considered:

  1. Cost - costs of outsourcing are higher than hiring a permanent or contract employee.
  2. Data protection & privacy - company protocols and data have to be shared in order to ensure building a competitive product, and this carries risks. 
  3. Lack of oversight and control - tracking of development progress is next to impossible, as the hiring company mostly gets to see the final product, versus each incremental version or prototype.
  4. Quality of end product - a team whose incentive is to deliver a product as quickly as possible and has no vested interests in your company will most likely deliver a subpar product at best.
  5. Maintenance - Products built using outsourcing are also harder to maintain over time as the original team that built the product isn’t around to answer questions and fix bugs on a day to day basis.

Has COVID-19 changed fullstack developer hiring?

The rise of remote and hybrid work is one of the most notable changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that is expected to continue over the long term.

Software developers in particular have increasingly demanded remote or hybrid options as their work can be done remotely without significant impact, and they have a lot of influence given the supply and demand imbalance in their occupation. Both employees and employers have reported benefits of remote or hybrid work. A recent survey of business leaders conducted by Gartner, a research and advisory firm, found that 82 percent of companies plan to let their employees work remotely at least some of the time, while 47 percent intend to let their staff work remotely full-time on a permanent basis.

Covid19 and remote work (Credit: Gartner)

What are the growth projections for fullstack developers?

Very strong!  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2020–2030 employment projections show that the fastest growing computer occupations are as follows:

  • information security analysts
  • software developers (often fullstack developers)
  • quality assurance analysts and testers
  • computer and information research scientists
  • web developers and digital interface designers (often fullstack developers)

How do I convince a fullstack developer to join my company?

Once you have found and interviewed a fullstack developer, the key is to convince them to join your company! It is important to understand what fullstack developers are motivated by:
  • Role & responsibilities: a precise explanation of the software product to be made and the developer’s responsibilities as part of that. Poorly defined or continuously changing requirements for software development are every developer’s nightmare! 
  • Growth opportunities: Most fullstack developers look for challenging work to continuously expand their knowledge. Allowing them to work with the latest technologies and to continue growing and learning is key to recruiting them.
  • Company vision: Great fullstack developers are extremely interested in the company’s vision and plans for the future. Make sure you take the time to explain your business and strategy.
  • Compensation and benefits: Of course compensation is extremely important when companies are vying for top talent. In addition to base salaries, fullstack developers often command annual performance bonuses, stock compensation, retirement benefits such as 401k plans with matching, and benefits (healthcare, dental and vision coverage are extremely standard).
  • Perks: Lastly, perks are important in this segment as fullstack developers are highly in demand. Here are some common ones: Parental leave, Budget for training and attending conferences, Commuter assistance if working from the office, and Relocation assistance.

How can I get additional help finding fullstack developers?

As mentioned, the best sources for finding fullstack developers are LinkedIn and the various job sites like Indeed, Monster and Ziprecruiter.

If you feel like you need external help to augment your capabilities, feel free to reach out to us at Rocket (info@getrocket.com). We would be happy to have an introductory call to see if the services we provide would be a good fit for your needs.

About Rocket

Rocket pairs talented recruiters with advanced AI to help companies hit their hiring goals. Rocket is headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley but has recruiters all over the US & Canada serving the needs of our growing client base across engineering, product management, data science and more.

References and additional reading:

https://www.bls.gov/

https://in.indeed.com/?r=us

https://www.cpl.com

https://www.forbes.com

https://www.atlassian.com/agile

https://blog.udemy.com/outsourcing-statistics/

https://www.tutorialspoint.com/Types-of-databases#

https://www.softwebsolutions.com/resources/full-stack-development-for-startups.html

https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/what-is-full-stack-development/

https://www.techtarget.com/searchapparchitecture/definition/object-oriented-programming-OOP

https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/difference-between-server-side-scripting-and-client-side-scripting/

https://www.mathnasium.com/bend/news/five-types-of-math-used-in-computer-science

https://dealroom.net/blog/challenges-during-m-a

https://www.sweor.com/firstimpressions

https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/web-development/full-stack-developer-skills/

https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/web-development/full-stack-developer-salary-guide/

https://www.upgrad.com/blog/full-stack-developer-demand-india/#:~:text=Full%20stack%20development%20is%20one,27%20percent%20growth%20by%202024.

https://www.fingent.com/blog/top-6-tech-stacks-that-reign-software-development-in-2022/

https://resources.workable.com/tutorial/best-job-boards#niche

https://recruitee.com/articles/best-job-boards-all-time

https://www.cybercoders.com/insights/what-hiring-managers-look-for-in-a-full-stack-developer/

https://medium.com/coderbyte/how-the-covid-19-pandemic-is-impacting-software-development-hiring-72243f41ac9e

https://www.michaelpage.com.au/advice/career-advice/productivity-and-performance/top-7-sdlc-methodologies

https://blog.edx.org/how-is-math-used-in-computer-science

https://www.javatpoint.com/html-interview-questions

https://youteam.io/blog/full-stack-software-developer-hiring/

https://www.mongodb.com/compare/cassandra-vs-mongodb

https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?cat=31&date=today%2012-m,today%2012-m,today%2012-m&geo=,,&q=Vue%20jobs,React%20jobs,Angular%20jobs

https://learndjango.com/tutorials/django-full-stack-framework

https://www.coursereport.com/blog/lamp-stack-vs-mean-stack-vs-ruby-on-rails

https://blog.railwaymen.org/ruby-on-rails-stack

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1241928/worldwide-coronavirus-impact-software-developers-work-study/

https://resources.workable.com/tutorial/cant-find-good-candidates

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