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Hiring Drupal professionals, part 2: Know who they are

(This is the second installment of a multipart series. The first installment was Hiring Drupal professionals, part 1: Know what you need.)

So, you're advertising/searching for the kind of Drupaller you need, now what? How can you know if you've found them?

This can be quite a challenge if you aren't very familiar with Drupal yourself. But the general principles are the same as for hiring any other kind of professional outside your own sphere of expertise. You want to look at their reputation, talk to references, check out their prior work, and watch for warning signs. Of course, there are some Drupal specific details for doing these things, too.

But before you can look at their reputation, prior work, and the like, first you need to know who they are. 

Who are they?

If they are an individual freelancer, do they use their own name in advertisements and on their website? If they use a company name, can you easily find out their real name on their website?

For a company, do they advertise under their company name? Can you easily find out the real names of those working for the company on their website? When checking reputations, you need to consider not only the reputation of the company as a whole, but also the reputation of the individuals associated with the company, especially those running the company and the individuals assigned to your project.

In short, you need to know who you're dealing with, and so should avoid any freelancer or company who is reluctant to let you know.

Who are they online?

If you haven't already found their professional or company website, ask for the URL. Ask if they have LinkedIn profiles, and if so, ask to see it. (If you can't see it without being in their network, ask to be connected, if only temporarily.) Ask if they have a professional Twitter account, and if so, what their Twitter handle/username is.

There are lots of good Drupallers who don't have LinkedIn profiles and/or professional Twitter accounts, but for those who do, checking them can help you confirm a positive impression (or improve a negative impression). 

Note that a pitiful website isn't necessarily a warning sign —the cobbler's children have no shoes and all that— but no website at all is strange for people who build websites for a living.

Who are they to Drupal?

Ask for their user number or a link to their user profile. (For example, my user number is 237528 and my profile can be found at It is okay if they give you their username instead, though it requires more work on your part. (You can find a user's profile by searching for their username on and then, on the results page, clicking the "Users" link under "Or search for…".)

Not having a lot of activity on their account isn't necessarily a warning sign, but not having a account at all is strange for a professional Drupaller.

Warning signs

  • Advertising semi-anonymously, with only a phone number or first name and phone number. (For example, on Craig's List, stay away from ads that don't include either a company name or an individual freelancer's full name in the ad.)
  • No website. 
  • Website doesn't list any real names.
  • (Drupal specific) Won't tell you user number/profile link
  • (Drupal specific) Doesn't have a account

Now what?

So, you've advertised/searched for the kind of Drupaller you need and you know who the people who've responded are, now what? How can you know if any of these people are who you want? Stay tuned for the next installment in this series! (And I promise there won't be as big a gap between Part 2 and Part 3 as there was between Part 1 and Part 2!)

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Too restrictive

You didn't explain why you think knowing so much about a person is important or what purpose it serves.  I for one wish to be anonymous on the web, so I never use my real name, and do not have any social networking accounts.  I use only my company name.  The only thing that's really important in the final analysis is the quality of work and reputation (references).  If you intend to hire someone either as a temporary or permanent employee, then obviously you need to know their name at some point.  Most companies will perform a background check before hiring, as well.

As a freelancer however, it's nobody's business who I am, or what my Drupal account name is.  I could just as easily use an alias - how would you know?  I could have multiple Drupal accounts in fact (one where I sound like I know what I'm talking about, and another for stupid questions).  Are you going to spend the time and money to do a background check before you have me work on your website or help out on your team for a few months? Of course not, so of what importance is my real name?  None.

Neither is it anyone's business if I hire subcontractors (would you expect to know their names and Drupal accounts too?)  Seriously - real identities are not important and people need to respect other's privacy.  Not all of us are so naive to have Facebook accounts and the like. Look at the portfolio, and ask for references. Privacy is something we've forgotten about these days and that's a bad thing.  Some companies are even demanding employees surrender passwords to their social networking accounts. RUN away from employers like that.

In my case, it's particularly important as I live in a country where I'm required to have a work permit, but getting one is no picnic, so most people who live here live on tourist visas, or retirement visas, and fly under the radar.  Immigration would be banging on my door if I advertised my identity.

I think the current crop of genX and genY people don't understand privacy and why it's important. I'm from the era where "Loose lips sink ships" was the watchword.

I've read other articles on how to hire the very best Drupallers and the best analogy I can come up with is having a Views exposed filter set with too many options.  The user might apply them all only to get zero results.  Most companies are far too selective these days and expect workers to hit the ground running (which is partially why the likes of MS perenially complain about the lack of talent).  There's no longer any on the job training or leeway - you're expected to perform like a robot. One headhunter once told me it used to take him a month to fill the average programming job, but today it's more like 3 to 4 months because companies are looking for very specific experience.  It's a disturbing trend because it treats humans like prized thoroghbreds.  What happens is that your career lasts only about 20 years and then your experience is no longer relevant and you cannot compete with twenty-somethings on salary, energy, time, brainpower, or drive.  It's a quick burn and then you're left smoldering in the ditch.

Once you hit 40, you start dropping off experience in the first 5 years of your career on your resume, and leaving off the graduation date from your university, but it's a losing battle.  Age discrimination is illegal, but there's no teeth to the law and it's essentially unenforceable.

If you're in the tech biz these days, save your pennies and plan on retiring before 50 in a lower cost country, because it's a losing battle after that.

Not at all

Well, I give some indication of the purpose for getting this information: "But before you can look at their reputation, prior work, and the like, first you need to know who they are." And as I note under "Now what?", Part 3 of this series will be addressing "How can you know if any of these people are who you want?", which is not unrelated.

In any case, I do agree with you that employers who demand passwords to social networking accounts should be shunned. And note that I do not suggest that employers should check out applicants personal twitter or other social networking accounts, or even suggest there is anything wrong or strange if an applicant doesn't have a professional Twitter or LinkedIn account. (A Drupal professional not having a account is strange, but more on that in a future Drupallet.)

I also agree that many who advertise seeking Drupal professionals are asking for unreasonable or, in many cases, simply irrelevant skills and experience levels. This problem is a good part of what inspired this series in the first place!

However, wanting to know a professional's real name is neither unreasonable nor irrelevant, let alone too restrictive. If nothing else, it is a basic first step toward avoiding fraud. Those hiring Drupal freelancers, just like any other employer, need to know who they are hiring, for their project's and their own protection.


Hire Drupal Dev

Well! It's not easy to hire a good Drupal web designer. I have written some value articles on my blog to suggest helpful tips for hiring good web developers. In my experience, I always look at the applicant's education. A computer science degree from a reputable college or university is hard to replace. Even though most Drupal developers won't spend a lot of their time thinking about design patterns, writing machine code, or doing calculations in binary, they will have to consider things like orthogonality, decoupling, OO principles, etc., if they're going to ascend to the level of an architect.