There are a few gems in this post by Chris Zacharias, formerly of YouTube, on the topic of finding quality front-end engineers:
4. Good front-end engineers are artists. Nearly every first rate web developer I have worked with had some kind of extracurricular, no matter how casual, that focused around some form of art. I have worked with painters, photographers, singers, writers, actors, musicians, sculptors, printmakers, and graffiti artists. One question I started to ask candidates was “Do you play an instrument?” If they did, it was usually a good sign. (Disclosure: I do not play any instruments and was not looking to start a band) My thought on this is that artistically-minded individuals derive personal value from expressing themselves through their work. Consequently, they become much more entwined in what they create and its success. They are often emotionally tethered to the product and will surface gripes long before they echo back from your users.
Count me among the musician/photographer/front-end engineers who struggle to enjoy their “hobbies” because of a keen awareness of the flaws in every frame and every measure. I love music and photography, and I hate them. I love the process of creating something in any of these mediums. I hate that the creation is never perfectly realized. Chris’ analysis of how this spills into the work of a front-end engineer is spot on.
5. If you want to find good front-end engineers, look to the newspaper and print industry. People who work in print media make excellent potential web developers as long as they have at least some technical skill to expand on. Consider the general environment of the print world and what is required of its workers. Workers often work on tight schedules, with very sharp deadlines that mean last-minute cuts may have to be made in order to ship their product.
From his mouth to God’s ears. Working for a newspaper means I understand that web design is 95% typography and that we live and die by our deadlines.
/via Cameron Moll