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Some background first: I have been a freelance developer for the last 5 years and I am doing very well. So well actually that I have too much work that I can handle. I have decided then to take it to the next step and hire someone. For my experience in my area of expertise, there are very few good developers and those are as overbooked as I am. There are a lot of people presenting themselves as "experts", but who produce very low quality code.
So I am thinking that it would be better to find someone who is willing to learn and that I could teach. This way I am sure he/she learns what I consider to be the right way of coding directly and I don't have to fight bad habits.

So the actual question I want to ask here is, what can I ask a non-technical candidate in order to determine if he would be a good developer

I stumbled upon this question and I really liked @Jessica Brown's answer, particularly this point (bold is mine):

ask him problem-solving skills questions. What would he do if he realized he didn't know what a piece of existing code does? Does he enjoy being a problem solver?

Indeed, in my point of view, programming is essentially solving problems.
So I'd like to expand on this and get your ideas on what kind of questions can I ask someone who has no (or very little) programming knowledge in order to determine his/her problem-solving skills.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Justin Cave, gnat, Masked Man, Lilienthal, Jim G. Feb 27 '16 at 22:51

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Unrelated to your question: How are you reconciling not having enough time with having to spend 30% of your time training someone else? – Ben Feb 27 '16 at 7:21
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    @Ben I know, I have been struggling with that exact conundrum for the last few days/weeks. The way I see it is that it is an investment: it will take some time off of me at the beginning, but after a while it will pay off, hopefully. Like they say, "you have to spend money to make money", I figure you can easily swap "money" with "time" in that phrase :-) – OSdave Feb 27 '16 at 7:27
  • In this day and age, are there really (t least in western countries) that many "non-technical" people who would have the aptitude to be good developers, but no previous exposure? Anyone with the least interest should have had plenty of opportunity to learn at least something on their own, whether Linux, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or even just web programming. – jamesqf Feb 27 '16 at 20:10
  • I'd rethink this. You can review someone's open source code to find someone close to your expectations. – jimm101 Feb 27 '16 at 21:23
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Answering from a slightly different viewpoint. Because I have had this issue time and time again.

Do NOT look for a non technical person to train, however much you like them they may just not have the aptitude for the job, and it is a talent to both develop, and improve at developing over the years. (I know plenty who never improve). I went down that path a long time ago and both times it didn't work out. You may have better luck.

I look specifically for a recent graduate, because they have a bit of theory, they know they want to be in the field, and they're keen.

So the questions I ask are mostly towards gauging how keen and intelligent they are ,and their 'fit' working under me. Because I have found that you can pretty much train anyone who has those attributes. I only tend to keep them a year or two at most though, by then they have good experience and usually one or two more qualifications (I also pay for any related materials and exams they want to take). By this time they usually go overseas and start making some 'real' money.

I benefit from having someone to do some of the drudge work, and at the same time I'm not bringing up a potential rival who might take clients in the future.

  • thank you for your answer. Maybe I'd have had to also say in my question that 10 years ago I barely know how to turn on a computer and someone gave me an opportunity to enter this field: somewhere inside of me I'd like to "return the favour". Could you expand on what kind of questions you ask to gauge how keen and intelligent they are? That would be very interesting to me. – OSdave Feb 27 '16 at 7:32
  • Qualification is the first gauge, it means that they have the perseverance to see something through. Intelligence is hard to judge, I trust my instinct on that. Keenness is a bit instinctive as well, but I find out about their outside interests, hobbies etc,. people who 'into' sports or religion etc,. tend to have many commitments outside work . I ask about their ambitions, what they want to learn, how much they know the industry in general (do they read up for themselves, or must they be taught is what I'm trying to find out). Many other things. Sorry, a comment is too short to explain in. – Kilisi Feb 27 '16 at 7:57

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