How to Find & Hire PHP Developers

Hiring tech talent is extremely competitive in today’s talent market. Almost all the best developers are already employed or engaged with freelance projects.

Great PHP developers are particularly scarce, and the PHP talent pool is shrinking further. Fewer new developers are learning the programming language because many people believe that PHP is dying.

This article answers whether PHP is truly dying and explores your options to find PHP developers.

Who is a PHP developer?

The definition of a PHP developer is a software engineer who develops software applications using the PHP programming language.

PHP is best suited for creating the back ends of websites and web applications. Therefore, PHP developers are classified as a type of web developer.

PHP is a server-side language, which means that it runs on a server rather than on a website visitor’s computer. PHP developers aren’t usually front-end specialists. They work best with behind-the-scenes functionality that makes websites and web apps dynamic, rather than just static content.

What do PHP developers need to know?

PHP programming language

A PHP developer must know the core PHP programming language inside out.

Many PHP developers only know the basics, so make sure to ask some difficult questions when screening candidates.

Use CodinGame Assessment to test your PHP developer candidates with complex PHP problems and exercises. Or if you’re in a hurry, check out some of our PHP interview questions.

Front-end web development

An expert PHP developer probably won’t also be a talented front-end developer. However, they should know the basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and JavaScript libraries like jQuery. These languages and libraries are what the front ends of websites are made from.

The front end of a website communicates with the back end to send and receive data. When something isn’t working in a web application, front-end and back-end developers need to work together to find and solve the problem.

Your team of developers will identify the causes of problems faster if they can understand all of the code.

Databases

PHP brings dynamic functionality to websites primarily by accessing and processing data fetched from a database. Every PHP developer must know how to query a database using SQL.

A PHP developer should also know how to work with at least one database management system, such as MySQL, SQL Server, MS SQL, Oracle, Postgres, MongoDB, Redis, Gremlin, or Cassandra.

PHP testing

A PHP developer should know how to use at least one type of unit testing framework.

Unit tests are tests written by a developer that run automatically each time the developer makes changes to their code. Unit tests should always pass when an application is working as expected. A developer knows that their code changes have caused unintended results when any of their unit tests fail.

The most popular PHP unit testing frameworks are PHPUnit, Codeception, and PHPSpec.

PHP application frameworks

Any PHP developer should be familiar with at least one PHP framework.

A framework provides prewritten code for common functionality and saves developers from having to reinvent the wheel each time they start a new project.

The top three PHP frameworks are Laravel, Symfony, and CodeIgniter

Laravel is the most popular PHP framework with 50% of PHP developers using it regularly, according to JetBrains. It’s arguably the most straightforward PHP framework to grasp. A huge selling point of Laravel is its integration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which allows for easy creation of cloud-based, scalable PHP software.

Laravel also has great developer communities. Below, we will explore how you can use them to find PHP developers.

CodeIgniter is great for creating PHP applications of small size. However, security vulnerabilities are an issue because the team behind the framework releases updates irregularly.

Symfony has excellent testing mechanisms, so bugs are easy to find. However, application performance often lags behind Laravel and CodeIgniter.

Is PHP dying (2020)?

PHP usage statistics show that PHP isn’t dying. PHP is still widely used today.

PHP is used in one way or another by around 80% of all websites whose server-side programming language is publicly known. Not all websites broadcast the programming language used on their back ends.

Popular websites that use PHP include Facebook, Microsoft, WordPress, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Zoom, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

WordPress
Major websites such as WordPress are still using PHP

We know that PHP is widely used, but is its usage declining? Was it used by more than 80% of websites in the past?

As far back as November 2017, PHP was used by 80% of websites, just as it is today. It’s usage does not seem to be declining.

The common belief that PHP is dying comes from developers leaning towards newer web development frameworks, like Node.js and React. These frameworks are based on the JavaScript programming language. They can create both the front end and back end of a web application, whereas PHP is only a back-end language. So, a developer only needs to know JavaScript to create a full web application.

While JavaScript frameworks have become more popular, PHP is still more suitable for certain functionalities. So, it has remained in use.

How do I find a PHP developer?

Here are a bunch of great places to look for top PHP developers.

CodinGame Sourcing

Start your PHP developer search with CodinGame Sourcing. Powerful matching algorithms will find PHP developers of the highest standard who meet your search criteria. You can try CodinGame Sourcing for free with no risk.

Freelancer platforms

You can find PHP developers on freelance job platforms. Here are some of the best freelance sites for you to check out.

Upwork and Freelancer are two of the largest freelance platforms out there. While these websites have a seemingly endless supply of developers, many of the developers will be unqualified. You’ll need to spend more time vetting candidates from these platforms.

TopCoder and Toptal are freelance platforms with more experienced developers. You pay more to hire on these websites, but you benefit from reduced risk and effort.

You can also try some of the other top freelance platforms, such as Codeable, WeWorkRemotely, Guru, 10X Management, Gun.io, and YouTeam.

PHP developer communities

Developer communities contribute to the knowledge base of a programming language or framework. New developers can learn from developer community posts and ask questions of their own.

Some of the best PHP communities are centered around the Laravel framework. These are Laracasts, Laravel.io, Cloudways, and the Reddit thread called laravel.

Go to the discussion forums of these websites where experienced PHP developers answer PHP-related questions. You can try reaching out to these top developers with your job opportunities.

Generic programming Q&A websites

Check out the PHP sections of some generic programming question-and-answer websites, like StackOverflow. These sections are filled with PHP experts.

Check who writes the most-voted-for answers to PHP questions and reach out to them. These experts most probably receive a lot of messages and requests, so get straight to the point, personalize your message and clearly present your offer.

Code repositories

GitHub, the public repository of code, is a fantastic place to scout out PHP talent. Both hobbyist and professional PHP developers publish their projects on GitHub for the benefit of the public.

Browse Github’s trending page, filtering by the PHP programming language. You will see which developers are most popular among enthusiasts.

Social media

LinkedIn is one of the best social media platforms to find any type of developer. Developers list their skills on LinkedIn which other developers can endorse.

PHP developers whose skills have been heavily endorsed by other developers are likely to have worked with those developers, giving you a good idea of their experience level.

In-person and remote networking

You can attract the interest of top PHP developers at computer-related networking events if you know how to stand out from the crowd. Put on a bit of a show at in-person networking events. You might feel silly but doing the unusual attracts attention.

Chet Holmes, known as America’s top marketing executive, explains how to stand out at trade shows and conferences in his book ‘The Ultimate Sales Machine’. The advice is applicable to any industry, including tech. Holmes suggests hiring actors dressed in relevant costumes to walk around and tell people to go talk to you (Steve Jobs, perhaps).

Holmes also recommends that you offer an engaging activity or challenge rather than offering information like everyone else. For example, you could host batches of super-short hackathons, or VR experiences. Anything to get developers to remember you.

Attend university and college career events to speak to up-and-coming PHP developers. You can secure student developers who don’t yet know how in-demand they are.

In-person events are halted during the COVID-19 pandemic but you can still source developers remotely with recruitment webinars, virtual information sessions, virtual career fairs, and online coding competitions such as CodinGame’s Clash of Code.

The 5 best places to find PHP developers

  1. Laracasts

Laracasts is one of the most active PHP developer communities. Laracasts is a place for PHP learning and discussion.

Some of the questions on Laracasts have been viewed by tens of thousands of PHP developers. Whoever writes the best answers for these questions probably knows a thing or two about PHP.

Laptop
Many PHP developers will spend their spare time on discussion sites
  1. CodinGame Sourcing

The best PHP developers don’t apply for jobs. They wait for job offers to come to them. CodinGame Sourcing uses your PHP developer requirements to match you with suitable top developers.

Try CodinGame Sourcing today for free to find PHP developers of the highest standard.

  1. Laravel.io

Just like Laracasts, Laravel.io is a popular PHP developer community.

Browse the questions in the discussion forums and look out for highly upvoted answers. Whoever writes the most widely accepted answers are likely to be highly knowledgeable in PHP.

  1. StackOverflow

Every developer of any experience level will have visited StackOverflow at some point in their career. It’s no wonder that StackOverflow has so many active PHP contributors.

Just like with the other developer communities, look out for top answers and they’ll lead you to the top developers.

We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but huge communities of PHP developers are (unsurprisingly) the best places to find PHP developers who are passionate and highly knowledgeable.

  1. Toptal

Toptal only accepts the top 3% of freelance PHP developers. PHP developers have to pass a set of tests to check their problem-solving and technical communication skills.

Developers have to jump through hoops to get accepted by Toptal. They must deliver a full PHP project set by Toptal which must meet Toptal’s strict acceptance criteria.

You can save a lot of time by using Toptal because you don’t have to do much screening yourself. You can even try out a freelancer for a trial period and only pay them if you’re happy with their work.

Conclusion

Good PHP developers are a rare find. Their numbers are dwindling due to common belief that PHP is a dying programming language. Yet the same number of websites today use PHP as they did in 2017.

A decreasing supply of PHP developers is resulting in increased demand and fewer available developers. With that said, there are plenty of excellent PHP developers out there if you know where they spend their time.

Search in the places we suggest in this article. Once you attract the attention of a seemingly suitable PHP developer, make sure to read how to screen developers remotely.

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Jon Holstead

Jon Holstead

Jon Holstead is a writer at CodinGame. Jon has previously worked as a software developer and CTO for both SaaS startups and larger tech organizations. He started his career in technology by earning a computer science Bachelor of Science degree from Durham University, UK. Jon has since built a multitude of ventures, including a property investment company and a business blog. Outside of work, Jon enjoys eating "pain au chocolat" and is a sucker for golden retrievers.