Joel on Software writes an interesting piece in Hitting the High Notes. Through examples in college coding classes and the entertainment he makes a good case for hiring the best programmers, not merely those that can code.
Here’s why: duplication of software is free. That means that the cost of programmers is spread out over all the copies of the software you sell. With software, you can improve quality without adding to the incremental cost of each unit sold.
Essentially, design adds value faster than it adds cost.
Or, to put it another way, it’s worth hiring Angelina Jolie for your latest blockbuster movie, even though she demands a high salary, because that salary can be divided by all the millions of people who see the movie solely because Angelina is so damn hot.