An experienced PHP developer is invaluable for crafting performant and secure PHP-based solutions. But what specifically makes a great PHP developer, and how should you thoroughly assess both technical expertise and soft skills during the hiring process?

With over 5.5 million developers in the market and 77.4% of websites leveraging PHP, the demand for skilled PHP developers continues to grow rapidly.

In this blog post, we'll explore the crucial roles and responsibilities of PHP developers in the web development life cycle. We'll discuss the technical and soft skills that set exceptional candidates apart. Plus, we'll provide tips for evaluating developer skills during the hiring process, helping you find the ideal PHP professionals for your tech team.

To begin, let's delve into the primary roles and responsibilities of a PHP developer.

Roles and Responsibilities of a PHP Developer

A skilled PHP developer plays a pivotal role in building robust, functional web applications and websites. They are the architect behind the scenes, responsible for coding the brains that power dynamic front-end experiences.

As a key member of the web development team, the role of a PHP developer includes:


Crafting Clean, Structured Code

A top priority for any PHP dev is writing reusable, readable code following best practices like proper namespacing, comments, and consistent conventions. This creates maintainable foundations, so features can be added without destabilizing your tech stack down the road. Well-structured code ensures smooth hand-off to future engineering teams.

Building Secure Backend Logic

PHP developers are responsible for implementing bulletproof backend logic - validating forms, encrypting data, controlling access, and preventing attacks like SQL injection. Every line of code must hold up against malicious threats. A single vulnerability could crater your web application.

Fluent Collaboration Across Teams

While their hands do the coding, communication is equally important. PHP developers work closely with designers, front-end engineers, and stakeholders to bring ideas to life. They need to translate broad visions into technical specifics efficiently. Seamless collaboration is vital for coordinating the integration of the frontend UI with backend databases and APIs.

Relentless Testing and Troubleshooting

Before any code ships, PHP devs rigorously test for functionality, usability, security and performance issues. They debug heads-down, ensuring each component works as intended. Meticulous testing and a tenacious spirit for diagnosing elusive bugs are mandatory for the role.

Essential Technical Skills for a PHP Developer

For PHP developers, their technical prowess makes or breaks their ability to deliver robust, high-performing web applications. While knowledge of PHP itself creates the necessary baseline, truly skilled developers possess a diverse array of complementary coding abilities.

When evaluating PHP developer candidates, here are some of the most vital technical PHP developers' skills to look for.

Proficiency in Core PHP and Web Development Fundamentals

A concrete grasp of PHP itself is the foundation. Developers should demonstrate in-depth knowledge of language syntax, variables, data types, operators, arrays, conditional statements, loops, functions, and object-oriented programming basics like classes, inheritance, and interfaces. Understanding core language constructs allows deft manipulation of PHP to program custom application logic.

Additionally, PHP developers must be well-versed in foundational web development technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL.

  • HTML and CSS skills let developers structure and style responsive frontend interfaces.
  • JavaScript's proficiency enables client-side interactivity, validations, and AJAX requests.
  • SQL knowledge is critical for interfacing with databases to store, manipulate, and retrieve data efficiently.

Expertise with PHP Frameworks and Libraries

While fundamental PHP skills establish a strong base, frameworks significantly accelerate the development process for large, complex web apps. Popular options like Laravel, Symfony, CodeIgniter, and CakePHP provide libraries of pre-built components, common conventions, and organizational structures to streamline coding.


Prior experience using frameworks to build real-world web apps displays a developer's ability to quickly deliver solutions leveraging existing architecture versus coding everything from scratch. Understanding common frameworks also makes it easier to decipher and upgrade legacy codebases.

Beyond top PHP frameworks, knowledge of useful PHP libraries and tools like Composer, PHPUnit, Twig, and Phing is advantageous to enhance workflows for dependency management, testing, templating, and deployments.

Database Management System Implementation

The ability to model data structures and implement CRUD operations forms a core PHP developer responsibility. A developer should demonstrate hands-on expertise integrating MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL and other relational and non-relational databases to create dynamic, responsive web apps.

Key skills include designing normalized schemas, writing and optimizing queries, stored procedures, transaction processing, sharding strategies, replication, and troubleshooting performance bottlenecks. For non-relational systems, understanding horizontal scalability, denormalization, and NoSQL-specific languages like MongoDB Query Language is valuable.

Version Control System Usage

Version control systems like Git enable developers to effectively track code changes, foster collaboration, and streamline software development workflows. PHP developers should showcase fluency using Git workflows encompassing branching strategies, merging, committing code, resolving merge conflicts, creating pull requests, and reviewing changes.

Knowledge of Git hosting platforms like GitHub, GitLab, and BitBucket is also useful for managing and sharing repositories. Overall, competent version control usage maintains code integrity and allows streamlined onboarding of new developers.

Security Best Practices

With web security threats like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and unauthorized access on the rise, PHP developers must demonstrate diligence implementing security best practices.

Key areas of knowledge include authentication mechanisms, access controls, input validation and sanitization, prepared statements, encryption for sensitive data, password salting and hashing, CORS configuration, and mitigating common web vulnerabilities through secure coding practices.

A well-designed security architecture is imperative for any robust enterprise web application. Testing skills using tools like Burp Suite to identify vulnerabilities are also advantageous.

Key Soft Skills to Look for in a PHP Developer

In addition to technical capabilities, soft skills greatly impact a PHP developer's ability to thrive on the job. Here are some of the most important soft skills of PHP developers to evaluate in candidates:

Communication Abilities

PHP developers collaborate heavily with cross-functional teams like designers, front-end devs, QA, product managers, and stakeholders. Strong verbal and written communication skills are essential for clearly conveying technical details, requirements, and solutions.

Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills

Developers need to methodically analyze ambiguous issues to uncover root causes. Sharp problem-solving skills, structured debugging processes, and persistence to resolve complicated bugs are valued.

Diligent Attention to Detail

Keen attention to detail is critical for writing bug-free code. Developers must rigorously vet specifications, implement features precisely, review code, test extensively, and ensure stringent quality standards.

Project Time Management

PHP developers must seamlessly juggle priorities and schedules to deliver work on time. Sound organization, top-notch focus, and adaptability to changing priorities drive productivity.

Self-Motivated Learning

Due to rapidly evolving technologies, PHP developers must self-direct their continuous learning. Proactively mastering emerging languages, frameworks, and best practices demonstrates passion.

How to Assess PHP Developer Skills in the Hiring Process

When hiring dedicated developers, recruiters should utilize a combination of technical and soft skills assessments to evaluate PHP developer candidates thoroughly.


Conducting Technical Interviews and Practical Coding Challenges

Holding comprehensive technical interviews that incorporate practical coding challenges allows employers to evaluate problem-solving abilities and hands-on coding proficiency in PHP.

Ask candidates to diagram solutions, write actual code snippets, implement functionality, optimize code, and discuss technical decisions. This provides insight into both hard skills and approach.

Reviewing Past Projects and Code Samples

Rather than relying solely on demo projects, thoroughly review a developer's previous real-world code samples to assess strengths and gaps. Analyze code quality, architecture and design choices, coding practices, documentation, efficiency, security implementation, and overall maintainability.

Read more: How to hire dedicated PHP developers in 2023

Behavioral and Situational Interview Questions

Supplement technical interviews with structured behavioral questions tailored to soft skills critical for the role like communication, collaboration, problem-solving and analytical thinking. Situational questions also reveal thought processes.

Skill Assessments and Online Coding Tests

Have candidates complete timed coding tests on online platforms like HackerRank to examine abilities across languages, frameworks and scenarios commonly faced on the job under pressure.

Collaborative Team Exercises

Small group exercises with 2-3 developers working together on a mini-project can demonstrate communication skills, teamwork, technical discussion and conflict resolution capabilities in a real-world pairing.

So, finding and hiring PHP developers with the optimal blend of technical expertise and soft skills is crucial for building robust web applications.

This guide covered key competencies, responsibilities, and effective evaluation tactics during the hiring process. Implement these tips to hire PHP developers who will drive innovation and bolster your digital capabilities.

Ultimately, the right PHP talent will catalyze success for your tech teams and business.

Why Hire PHP Developers from ThinkODC?

At ThinkODC, we offer top-notch PHP developers for hire to cater to your specific business needs. Our skilled PHP developers possess extensive experience in developing robust and dynamic web applications, ensuring seamless functionality and exceptional user experience.

By choosing ThinkODC - A PHP development company, you gain access to a talented pool of professionals committed to delivering high-quality solutions, on time and within budget. Collaborate with us and take your web development projects to new heights with our dedicated PHP developers.


Arshad Shaikh

Arshad Shaikh is a seasoned Sr. Software Engineer with more than 8 years of experience in managing and developing both frontend and backend using a diverse range of technologies including PHP, Symfony, and Laravel. With a proven track record of delivering high-quality software solutions, he is committed to leveraging his skills to drive innovation and help businesses achieve their goals.