François is a seasoned leader with experience building data platforms and machine learning solutions at major technology companies and startups in B2C and B2B settings. François has spent seven years at Spotify building data infrastructure teams as a manager and leveraging machine learning techniques to improve the music catalog as a staff engineer.
Sam is a bilingual senior machine learning engineer with a background in AI and robotics and a passion for driving innovation. She dedicated the past five years to exploring the best ways to build, optimize, and automate ML pipelines, with a specialization in Google Cloud Platform and TensorFlow. During this journey, she has also had the opportunity to experience many aspects of a business outside of technical, from line management and recruiting to marketing, thought leadership, and pre-sales.
With a master's degree in ML from UT Austin and a decade of experience working for large companies like Microsoft and ServiceNow as well as small, successful startups like Passage AI and Adometry, Srivatsava has a proven track record of delivering successful products at scale. With multiple patents and peer-reviewed publications, he''s comfortable with both software engineering and machine learning. Srivatsava excels at solving challenges and mapping client requirements to practical solutions.
United StatesToptal Member Since December 12, 2017
Robby is a machine learning expert with 10+ years of experience in research and back-end software development for machine learning solutions. With master's degrees in computer science and artificial intelligence in addition to his Ph.D. in computer science, Robby is well equipped to provide solutions to a variety of issues in companies of all sizes.
Abhimanyu is a machine learning expert with 15 years of experience creating predictive solutions for business and scientific applications. He’s a cross-functional technology leader, experienced in building teams and working with C-level executives. Abhimanyu has a proven technical background in computer science and software engineering with expertise in high-performance computing, big data, algorithms, databases, and distributed systems.
United KingdomToptal Member Since October 18, 2018
Vince is an accomplished engineer specializing in machine learning and robotics. He excels in designing autonomous systems, leveraging AI to enhance perception and control. Fluent in Python and C++, Vince has a successful track record as a consultant, turning client goals into results. His passion for innovation drives him to continuously explore new technologies.
Dan is a software architect and technology professional focusing on applications of blockchain technologies. He has years of experience providing professional consulting services to clients ranging from startups to global corporations. He specializes in bringing rigorous testing and bulletproof code to tough engineering challenges. He has deep expertise in many aspects of artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, and automation.
Matias is a machine learning engineer who’s delivered creative solutions for social impact projects. Matias's past experience includes working at IBM research as a machine learning engineer (collaborating with IBM’s Yorktown Heights research lab), co-founding a startup that develops research-backed cognitive games for the elderly (which was a provider for an Uruguayan government program), and working on several projects that use machine learning to innovate in the healthcare sector.
Along with earning a PhD in computer science and engineering, Dilip has over a decade of experience in the industry. Since 2015, he's been focusing on projects related to machine learning and deep learning. Dilip has an eye for detail which helps in working closely with domain scientists and improving the accuracy and reliability of models for fine-grained image classification, object detection and segmentation, natural language processing, time-series forecasting, and generative AI.
Rajeev is passionate about data and machine learning and has more than five years of experience in data science projects across numerous industries and applications. He's currently focused on cutting-edge technologies such as TensorFlow, Keras, deep learning, and most of the Python data science stack. Rajeev has used these skills to solve many real business problems in NLP, image processing, and time series domains.
Miguel plans and implements full-stack solutions, focusing on solving problems and maximizing users' and other stakeholders' value through a pragmatic and technology-agnostic approach. He leans into his scientific research background, where he developed complex systems such as robotic simulation platforms and distributed computing systems, to learn and apply new technologies quickly.
AI developers are versatile experts who improve business systems and processes, automate tasks, build AI models, and perform statistical analyses. Pinpoint the top candidates for your business with this guide to hiring AI developers, including skill requirements, job description tips, and sample interview questions.
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Tripcents wouldn't exist without Toptal. Toptal Projects enabled us to rapidly develop our foundation with a product manager, lead developer, and senior designer. In just over 60 days we went from concept to Alpha. The speed, knowledge, expertise, and flexibility is second to none. The Toptal team were as part of tripcents as any in-house team member of tripcents. They contributed and took ownership of the development just like everyone else. We will continue to use Toptal. As a startup, they are our secret weapon.
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I am more than pleased with our experience with Toptal. The professional I got to work with was on the phone with me within a couple of hours. I knew after discussing my project with him that he was the candidate I wanted. I hired him immediately and he wasted no time in getting to my project, even going the extra mile by adding some great design elements that enhanced our overall look.
Paul Fenley, Director
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The developers I was paired with were incredible -- smart, driven, and responsive. It used to be hard to find quality engineers and consultants. Now it isn't.
Ryan Rockefeller, CEO
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Abner Guzmán Rivera, CTO and Chief Scientist
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Dennis Baldwin, Chief Technologist and Co-Founder
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André Fischer, CTO
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Jeremy Wessels, CEO
We had a great experience with Toptal. They paired us with the perfect developer for our application and made the process very easy. It was also easy to extend beyond the initial time frame, and we were able to keep the same contractor throughout our project. We definitely recommend Toptal for finding high quality talent quickly and seamlessly.
Ryan Morrissey, CTO
Applied Business Technologies, LLC
I'm incredibly impressed with Toptal. Our developer communicates with me every day, and is a very powerful coder. He's a true professional and his work is just excellent. 5 stars for Toptal.
Pietro Casoar, CEO
Ronin Play Pty Ltd
Working with Toptal has been a great experience. Prior to using them, I had spent quite some time interviewing other freelancers and wasn't finding what I needed. After engaging with Toptal, they matched me up with the perfect developer in a matter of days. The developer I'm working with not only delivers quality code, but he also makes suggestions on things that I hadn't thought of. It's clear to me that Amaury knows what he is doing. Highly recommended!
George Cheng, CEO
As a Toptal qualified front-end developer, I also run my own consulting practice. When clients come to me for help filling key roles on their team, Toptal is the only place I feel comfortable recommending. Toptal's entire candidate pool is the best of the best. Toptal is the best value for money I've found in nearly half a decade of professional online work.
Ethan Brooks, CTO
Langlotz Patent & Trademark Works, Inc.
In Higgle's early days, we needed the best-in-class developers, at affordable rates, in a timely fashion. Toptal delivered!
Lara Aldag, CEO
Toptal makes finding a candidate extremely easy and gives you peace-of-mind that they have the skills to deliver. I would definitely recommend their services to anyone looking for highly-skilled developers.
Michael Gluckman, Data Manager
Toptal’s ability to rapidly match our project with the best developers was just superb. The developers have become part of our team, and I’m amazed at the level of professional commitment each of them has demonstrated. For those looking to work remotely with the best engineers, look no further than Toptal.
Laurent Alis, Founder
Toptal makes finding qualified engineers a breeze. We needed an experienced ASP.NET MVC architect to guide the development of our start-up app, and Toptal had three great candidates for us in less than a week. After making our selection, the engineer was online immediately and hit the ground running. It was so much faster and easier than having to discover and vet candidates ourselves.
Jeff Kelly, Co-Founder
We needed some short-term work in Scala, and Toptal found us a great developer within 24 hours. This simply would not have been possible via any other platform.
Franco Arda, Co-Founder
Toptal offers a no-compromise solution to businesses undergoing rapid development and scale. Every engineer we've contracted through Toptal has quickly integrated into our team and held their work to the highest standard of quality while maintaining blazing development speed.
Greg Kimball, Co-Founder
How to Hire AI Engineers through Toptal
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How much does it cost to hire an artificial intelligence engineer?
The overall cost of an AI solution can vary depending on the industry and the problem at hand. While integrating an existing model into your application ecosystem may be fast and relatively cheap, custom-built systems are more expensive but will give you a competitive advantage. Hourly rates of AI engineers can range from tens to hundreds of dollars per hour, but hiring a more experienced and skilled engineer often pays off in the long term. As one point of reference, Glassdoor lists the average annual pay for an artificial intelligence engineer in the United States to be $160,813 as of August 4, 2023.
How do I hire AI developers?
To hire artificial intelligence engineers, you should identify your organization’s needs and project requirements. Next, define the budget and timeline. With these attributes in mind, write an AI job description focusing on the technical and soft skills needed to achieve your project goals. Tailor your job description toward the specialized AI expert (e.g., an ML or data analysis specialist) required for your project. Select the most qualified AI candidates based on relevant industry and project experience. Finally, interview candidates to assess their fit with the team.
How high is the demand for AI developers?
The demand for talent skilled in AI is surging, as 77% of consumer services or devices are powered by AI, according to Pega AI’s global consumer survey. With the increasing scope and accuracy of models, the proliferation of generative AI, and advances in natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision (CV), it is pertinent, if not urgent, to have an AI engineer on your team. The field of AI only continues to grow—with global AI spending expected to surpass $300 billion by 2026, according to IDC—and AI developers will help businesses remain competitive.
How to choose the best AI developers for your project?
To choose the best AI expert for your project, you should assess a candidate’s proficiency in programming, data science, mathematics, deep learning frameworks, and cloud computing. They should possess a mastery of one or more programming languages (e.g., Python, R, Java, or C++) and a solid understanding of computer science fundamentals. The required data science skills include knowledge of data structures, algorithms, and ML models, and the necessary mathematical background includes knowledge of linear algebra, calculus, and statistics. Finally, AI experts should have experience with the top deep learning frameworks (e.g., TensorFlow, PyTorch, Keras) and cloud computing platforms (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform) to deploy AI models at scale.
How quickly can you hire with Toptal?
Typically, you can hire an AI engineer with Toptal in about 48 hours. Our talent matchers are experts in the same fields they’re matching in—they’re not recruiters or HR reps. They’ll work with you to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics, and match you with ideal candidates from our vetted global talent network.
Once you select your AI expert, you’ll have a no-risk trial period to ensure they’re the perfect fit. Our matching process has a 98% trial-to-hire rate, so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best fit every time.
Why do we need artificial intelligence?
AI has become increasingly important in recent years and has various real-world applications. It can be used for chatbots, fraud detection, risk assessments, medical diagnoses, personalized marketing and customer services, image recognition, autonomous vehicles, customized learning experiences, and video games. Across most industries, AI can accelerate and optimize business processes and automate tasks with the help of an experienced AI consultant.
Tetyana is an AI expert who has served as a founder, chief data scientist, and consultant for clients in several countries. She has worked on projects for large companies like MultiChoice Group and Control Risks in industries including energy, government, education, and biotechnology. Tetyana has built systems for finance and accounting purposes, ML-powered NLP, forecasting, and anomaly detection.
Companies Clamor to Hire AI Experts As Demand Surges
Today, 77% of consumer services or devices are powered by artificial intelligence. AI applications include chatbots, video surveillance tools, object detection applications, and autonomous systems (e.g., humanoid robots and self-driving cars). AI can help us make more sensible financial decisions and improve our health and wellness. This is just the start: As AI use cases expand and automate repetitive tasks, global AI spending is projected to surpass $300 billion by 2026. In this surge, practically all businesses can benefit from hiring the right AI engineers.
With AI courses and terminology becoming more commonplace among professionals, you may assume that hiring an AI engineer is easy. It is not. There’s a big difference between the many software engineers who list AI as a skill on their résumés and capable AI engineers who can add value to a company by building sophisticated AI systems, integrating them into existing company infrastructure, and guaranteeing they work efficiently.
So, how should you hire artificial intelligence developers who will give your enterprise an AI advantage? Read on to discover the critical skill requirements, job description tips, and interview questions that will help you pinpoint exceptional candidates.
What attributes distinguish quality AI Developers from others?
Strong candidates are well-versed in the required core technical skills for AI development:
They have experience developing machine learning (ML) or AI models from scratch.
They provide scalable solutions with API development (i.e., turning models into APIs).
They automate ML and AI processes, and deploy models in a continuous learning pipeline.
They maintain ML and AI systems infrastructure.
They can work with big data and perform statistical analysis of data.
Proficiency in at least one programming language (e.g., Python, R, MATLAB) is a must when working with AI. Python is particularly popular for AI development due to its many libraries and ease of use. Strong programming skills will allow engineers to collaborate effectively with teams and implement solutions with the reliability and accuracy required for a production environment.
Additionally, artificial intelligence experts should be familiar with modern deep learning frameworks (e.g., TensorFlow, PyTorch, and Keras) and cloud computing platforms (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform). This will ensure that they can deploy AI models at scale and serve enterprise-level projects.
The best AI engineers combine their technical abilities with soft skills—specifically, the ability to evaluate and solve critical business problems. Experts who can speak to experience in this area (e.g., designing or contributing to an AI strategy) are top candidates. These engineers recognize AI tools’ potential to bring unprecedented progress and massive cost savings to organizations.
Look for seasoned AI professionals with experience in your industry or across multiple sectors. Review the projects they have worked on and completed to confirm their fit. Many candidates list their portfolio projects on their résumés, though you may also request that they provide GitHub links with their application or in a cover letter. Publicly available portfolio projects highlight the experience and accomplishments of top AI engineers.
How can you identify the ideal AI developer for you?
AI engineers often focus on different specialization areas, and you should choose a developer whose skill set aligns with your project goals.
Individual candidates may have varying levels of expertise across each specialization area. Still, overall, an AI engineer should possess most of these skills and be an expert in at least one area:
Mathematics and statistics
Comprehension of core mathematical concepts such as linear algebra, calculus, probability, and statistics
Designing an AI system
Improving an out-of-the-box model’s performance for your particular problem
Knowledge of ML algorithms (e.g., decision trees, random forests, neural networks, and deep learning)
Experience with ML libraries (e.g., scikit-learn, TensorFlow, and PyTorch)
Building efficient models
Making appropriate decisions when choosing the tools and algorithms to solve the problem at hand
Data structures and algorithms
Solid understanding of fundamental data structures (e.g., arrays, linked lists, and trees)
Experience with standard algorithms (e.g., sorting, searching, and optimization algorithms)
Extracting relevant features from data
Feeding the most important features in the model to ensure the model’s performance
Experience with data analysis techniques (e.g., data cleaning, normalization, and feature extraction) and tools (e.g., pandas and NumPy)
Extracting insights from data
Presenting problems and solutions to stakeholders
Translating real-world problems into mathematical representations
Familiarity with SQL databases and NoSQL databases (e.g., MongoDB and Cassandra)
Experience managing and storing large data sets
Handling data efficiently
Ensuring the transparency of AI algorithms
Presenting project results and intermediate stages effectively
Integrating with upstream and downstream systems
What is the difference between AI and ML developers?
One common challenge for hiring managers is understanding the difference between AI and ML engineers, especially since AI engineers need various ML skills and may specialize in this area. How do artificial intelligence versus machine learning developers compare? The two professions require similar training, aptitudes, and academic backgrounds (typically in statistics, mathematics, computer science, or engineering). Both of these types of experts may build ML models, analyze data, and build ML pipelines.
However, the role of an AI engineer is broader than that of an ML engineer. It can require the ability to build automated systems based on ML models, and AI engineers may be more involved in computer engineering tasks. AI engineers may also be responsible for setting the direction of a corporation’s AI strategy and managing the AI infrastructure. Unless you are looking to hire machine learning engineers, you should target AI developers for hire who possess the specialization that matches your requirements.
How to Write an AI Developer Job Description for Your Project
You’ll need to be clear on your organization’s needs to attract skilled developers with your job description. Some companies want engineers who can optimize their organization’s use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, while others look for experts to design and implement AI solutions from scratch. Consider whether you need an AI consultant to define a new strategy or a full-time staff member who will be deeply involved in all aspects of your corporate operations.
Next, write your job description with critical project details in mind. Describe the project’s budget, timeline, relevant business context, and existing software technologies. Identify the desired outcomes you want from the AI engineer’s work, and provide an overview of the team the new employee will join.
With a comprehensive job description complete, review and select the best candidate profiles and conduct interviews to assess their fit with the team.
What are the most important AI Developer interview questions?
To conduct an effective interview, focus on the questions relevant to your business industry and those testing the applicant’s knowledge of the AI ecosystem and processes your project will use.
Regardless of project or industry needs, AI experts should be able to enunciate the core value provided by AI and how it works, as these skills are crucial to convincing stakeholders of the importance of AI solutions. The following examples provide a model for these types of questions and how you might expect experienced developers to approach interview answers:
How does AI work?
In general, AI can be defined as software that mimics human thinking and decision-making. It works by using actual or artificially created data to match questions to potential answers based on ML and statistical algorithms. These questions and answers include both those posed in natural language and a wider set of questions like determining the next location of a vehicle or recognizing objects in a video clip. In the past, AI was used to create expert systems by assembling all possible answers to all possible questions, a method with storage and time constraints. But new ML advances have allowed for a strategy that provides questions and answers that are not an exact match but a probabilistic pair, allowing AI to answer a broader range of questions—albeit with varying accuracy.
What are the main applications of AI?
While the range of AI capabilities is limited in specific ways compared to human intelligence, AI solutions are highly efficient in natural language processing (NLP), computer vision (CV), and classical simulation and optimization problems. Experienced developers should understand the best ways to help your organization optimize processes and build AI solutions based on your industry and products.
Why is AI important?
AI can potentially add up to a 14% GDP boost globally by 2030. It is already widely used by many businesses in healthcare, crime systems, knowledge synthesis, transportation, security, and finance. Artificial intelligence experts who will spearhead new AI initiatives should be able to speak to existing AI uses and benefits to convince stakeholders of its importance.
Since AI solutions vary across industries and project needs, it is vital to ask a developer how they plan to address your specific problems:
What type of model would you recommend for our business needs?
An engineer should choose an algorithm and appropriate tools based on a company’s specific problem and data. For instance, certain models (e.g., decision trees) are suitable for handling tabular data resembling spreadsheets, while others (e.g., deep neural networks) excel at processing unstructured data like images or audio.
How would you measure the performance of your AI solution?
Candidates must always keep in mind the objective of delivering tangible business value and establish a means of quantifying that value. Look for developers who provide a specific plan for measuring the performance of machine learning models with business-relevant metrics. For instance, when predicting customers at risk of churn, it is essential to involve subject matter experts from the business domain. Their insights can help identify client segments that generate higher revenue, ensuring that the model excels at detecting such valuable customers. Merely detecting at-risk clients with low value would not prove useful in this scenario.
How will you ensure your model’s quality over time?
The performance of artificial intelligence and machine learning models can vary over time as the underlying context and circumstances for which the models were trained evolve. For example, a revenue prediction model may have experienced a significant increase in errors during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Candidates should outline a clear monitoring plan to track the performance of ML models over time and promptly identify any degradation in their performance.
After assessing a developer’s understanding of broader and project-specific AI topics, you should supplement these questions with additional ones that are specific to your desired AI specialization:
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how to prepare your interview questions, especially when hiring AI experts. Tailoring your topics to your specific project requirements will go a long way in ensuring you hire a quality engineer.
Why do companies hire AI Developers?
AI will undoubtedly change the future. It has the potential to automate routine manual tasks and help with strategic decision-making, saving companies considerable money. AI may disrupt key industries like consumer marketing, finance, and healthcare: It can personalize consumer products, power financial algorithms impacting markets and risk management, and improve healthcare diagnoses (e.g., AI-powered personal wellness assistants that monitor our health or computer vision systems that assist with surgery and disease diagnosis).
The increasing use of AI—and the resulting demand for talent—is clear, but what does an artificial intelligence engineer do, exactly? AI developers are the force behind a growing variety of real-world AI applications: task automation, chatbots, fraud detection, risk assessments, medical diagnoses, personalized marketing and customer services, image recognition, autonomous vehicles, customized learning experiences, video games, and more.
AI engineers stay at the forefront of research developments to advise organizations on AI strategy. They may create entire AI processes and strategies, oversee data collection and processing, perform statistical analysis of the data, build and update models, and integrate results into the company’s processes, applications, and systems.
With the increasing scope and accuracy of models and recent developments in NLP and CV, having an AI engineer on your team is pertinent—if not essential—to keep your business competitive.
If you aren’t sure how AI fits into your business, hiring an experienced AI engineer in a consulting role can help you identify the systems that can be optimized with AI.
If you already have ML engineers and data scientists on staff, an AI expert can maximize the efficiency of ML model integrations, AI strategy, and processes.
Securing the right AI engineer to address company goals is vital to an organization’s present and future success. With the selection criteria and practical hiring tips covered in this guide, you’ll be prepared to select a new employee for various AI specializations.
The technical content presented in this article was reviewed by Matias Aiskovich.
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