4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Hiring an API Developer

4 Questions to Ask When Hiring an API Developer

Are you considering hiring an API developer? Well built APIs are fundamental to the success of most digital projects. It’s therefore worth considering hiring specific talent to help in this area.

APIs, to use a handy metaphor McKinsey first coined a few years back, are the connective tissue for data to flow across your organization or across the app that you are building.

Internally, they allow you to connect different applications together, so that data travels seamlessly across your organization. As well as avoiding unhelpful data silos, this unlocks powerful Big Data analytics options that transform the accuracy of your forecasts. APIs are the key to truly data-driven decision-making at all levels of your business.

Externally, APIs allow your app to connect with third-party apps to extend functionality and grow your user base. You might have seen integrations with various enterprise applications and Microsoft Teams, for example, or with exercise apps and Google Maps. These integrations – and the data transfer that underpins them – are all made possible by APIs.

Given that they are so essential for so many reasons, good API development and API lifecycle management are essential for the success of your technical projects, both internal and external. To do this, you may need the services of an API developer (also known as an ‘API engineer’ or ‘API integration developer’).

It’s unlikely, given their demand, that a developer of this kind will just walk through your door. You’ll need to invest time and resources attracting the right talent for the job. Ultimately, different developers suit different projects, so knowing what your project needs is essential to a successful hire.

Asking yourself the four questions below before you start the hiring process will bring you much closer to making that perfect hire as soon as possible.

4 Questions to Ask When Hiring an API Developer

1. What Sort of APIs Does Our Project Need?

There are many types of APIs, and many different ways of building them. Understanding what sort of APIs your project needs is essential in hiring an API developer with the right skills and experience.

Your project might need:

  • Open APIs: Open APIs (also known as ‘external’ or ‘public’ APIs) are APIs which third-party developers can access for their own solutions, sometimes via registration or use of an API key.
  • Partner APIs: Similar to open APIs, partner APIs are external. The difference, however, is that they restrict access to specific partners, often via a third-party API gateway.
  • Internal APIs: Internal APIs are restricted to use inside an organization, and allow different teams to share tools and data seamlessly. Advantages over traditional integration techniques include enhanced security and access controls, and an audit trail of system access.

You can also combine multiple web APIs into a single, composite API. These are super useful in microservice design, as they reduce server load and make it much easier to draw from several data sources to complete a request.

To (briefly) get more technical, you should also be aware of different API protocols and architectures, and how these might affect your project.

You don’t necessarily need to decide which of these is the best fit for your project ahead of time – that’s likely why you’re hiring an API developer, after all. Equally, having some idea of what you might need will help you hire the API with the right experience.

  • REST APIs: REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs are designed to make optimal use of HTTP architecture – in other words, they are a ‘web API’. Their scalability, cacheability, statelessness and client-server structure have made them extremely popular for web services.
  • RPC (Remote Procedure Call) APIs are method-based (as opposed to the more resource-oriented REST architecture) and designed for distributed systems. Procedures can run as easily on a remote machine within the distributed system as they can on a local machine.
  • SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) APIs are designed to be extensible and neutral, whilst allowing for any programming style. One of the most popular API architectures for web services, SOAP APIs are used mostly for internal or trusted partner APIs.
  • GraphQL is a developer-friendly query language and server-side runtime environment that can be used either as an alternative to or alongside REST APIs. Fast and flexible, GraphQL APIs

The most established type of web API is the REST (or RESTful) API – but in recent years GraphQL has been rapidly gaining popularity. Read more in our in-depth GraphQL article.

2. Do We Need This Level of Specificity All the Time?

If you’ve read the section above, and find yourself thinking “this seems like a very specific area of development to hire a full-time position for”, don’t worry – many people feel similarly.

You don’t necessarily need an API developer to create APIs. Basic to intermediate API creation is a skill that most backend developers or software engineers should possess in some capacity. If you don’t need anything too complex, you might consider delegating to your existing team.

How To Tell You Need a Full-Time API Developer

That said, building and maintaining APIs requires a time commitment on the part of your developers. And, whether you run a busy team of developers or you’re a single dev at a startup, that’s sometimes difficult to achieve.

If you have a constant stream of API-related tasks on your to-do list that aren’t prioritized, that’s a sure sign that more hands are needed on deck.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my existing team lack the time to create and upkeep APIs as needed?
  • Does my existing team lack the skill to create and upkeep APIs as needed?
  • Is API lifecycle management turning into an extensive job where it wasn’t previously?
  • Are we saddled with legacy APIs that need extensive upkeep, or being completely replaced from the ground up?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, it might be time to consider hiring a specialist API engineer to fit alongside your current development team.

3. How Will We Compete for Top Talent?

As digitization accelerates and more organizations turn to tech-based solutions, API developers have become hugely in demand as a role.

That’s not to say that you won’t attract experienced, talented API developers to your project – but you will need to seriously consider how you’re going to get them.

Good API developers won’t be short of work, and they won’t be short of job offers if they’re out looking. This means that as well as assessing their merits as a candidate, you need to pay extra attention to demonstrating your merits as an employer.

We can take a guess at what you’re thinking right now: massive salary, right?

But whilst a good pay packet is never harmful in catching the eye of candidates, there are other things you can offer to make your proposition stand out.

Sell Your Project
Generally, software engineers are software engineers because they like building useful things. They enjoy the challenges and mental stimulation of coding. Tap into these traits and get excited about what your project could offer them.

If you’re a founder, now’s the time for your passion to shine. What are you building? How will it help people? What will it disrupt?

If you’re a CTO or similar, now’s the time to get geeky about what your project needs. What particular coding challenges do you predict? Are you doing anything that’s not been done before? How will your API developer help you overcome these challenges?

Ultimately, your API developer candidates will only be enthusiastic about your project if you are.

Demonstrate a Clear Career Development Path
Demonstrate that you’re invested in your hire’s long term success by showing a clear commitment to their personal development goals during the interview process.

Progression is a major consideration for many hires considering their career options. Obviously, you can only nail this down once you’ve made the hire. Lay the foundations by asking about long-term goals and areas of experience your candidates would like to develop – this is a strong start and looks good, from a candidate’s point of view.

Offer Other Attractive Benefits
Can’t outgun the tech giants, salary-wise? Don’t worry – few can, but they still manage to hire great API developers for their projects.

Think about what makes your organization a great place to work, besides the salary that you offer. You might want to emphasize the fantastic work-life balance your team has, or the social opportunities your workplace offers. There’s a reason that some tech giants offer their employees three chef-cooked meals a day in the office, and that’s because they are working all the time. Not every developer wants that, and you’ll find plenty of top-of-the-range developers looking outside of Big Tech for the right trade offs.

Alternatively, you could think about offering fully remote or hybrid working to the right candidate, with many employees now stating they would trade a higher salary for the ability to work from home at least some of the time.

4. Is an Internal Hire the Right Option For Us?

Internal hires definitely have their benefits. They’re always there when you need them. They’re used to your methods of working. If you find the right one, they will be an asset to your organization and well worth the investment you put in.

Equally, they aren’t always a particularly good fit for your project. You might not need a specialist API developer on hand all the time, or struggle to attract one with the right experience. Hiring costs for API developers add up – and then you have to factor in onboarding costs and inefficiencies too.

If you need to get your app to market fast, the inefficiencies of a long candidate search and onboarding process isn’t ideal. So, what alternatives are out there?

Outsourcing API development to a third-party agency gets you instant access to great API developers, as and when you need them. You get to work with the best API developers in the business, but don’t have to pay ongoing salary costs for a specialism you won’t necessarily need 24/7.

Development agencies like Tivix have global networks of API experts in place that we can onboard immediately to help see your project through to completion.

Whether you need help smoothing out the data flow within your own organization or are building an app that requires second-to-none external connectivity with third-party apps, outsourced expertise can make it happen without the effort of finding a full-time hire.

What Could Tivix Bring to Your Project?
Aside from our global network of API developer talent, passion for all things tech and ferocious good looks (okay, so two out of three isn’t so bad), we have over a decade of experience helping top businesses create digital products that work for them.

We’ve worked with everyone from early-stage startups to the likes of the United Nations and NATO, creating fast, well-built and scalable REST APIs that are the cornerstone for innovative and successful digital projects.

If your project needs REST APIs and hiring an API developer in house isn’t for you, why not get in touch? We’d love to see how we could help.