10 Tips for Hiring a Junior Developer

Hiring junior software developers can be tricky, especially when you’re not an experienced dev yourself. But your new hire could really make or break your website – or even your business. 

When hiring for a technical role like this it’s easy to get bogged down in programming languages and ignore soft skills – and vice versa. But this list will help you ensure that you’ve made the right junior developer hire to help your company thrive.


1 – Know What you Need

Now the first mistake hiring managers and founders can make comes from a lack of understanding. And this is no one’s fault – the world of software development is vast. It covers hundreds of different technologies, techniques and uses. 

So the first thing you need to do is figure out what – or who – you’re looking for. You might want to build an app, automate your processes, work on your database or maintain a website and its updates. Whatever you need, give it a good researching and discover the technologies and programming languages you’re looking for.

There’s no use copying any old junior developer job description if you’re looking for a backend expert and it’s tailored for a front-end whizz.

Look out for existing programming languages that your site uses and go from there.

And when in doubt, ask an expert for some help.


2 – Look for the Evidence

Now that we’ve mastered our job description… how do you know if all of your applicants are qualified? When looking at junior software developer CVs it can be hard to get around the jargon and into the evidence of their skills.

But the best way to find your perfect hire is to look for links. GitHub, Bitbucket, LinkedIn profiles and portfolio site links can be treasure troves for sifting through applications. 

You’re going to want to find as many examples of their work as possible. But keep an eye out for the quality of their work too.


3 – You Need Passion

The world of software development is constantly evolving. There are new technologies and languages coming out all the time. And your business needs to stay up-to-date to keep your customers happy.

But you’re going to fall behind if you accidentally choose a developer that’s stuck on one language and isn’t interested in learning any more.

A passion for learning comes hand in hand with industry knowledge and often humility. So if you spot an applicant with a good number of qualifications and certifications, you’ve found a good one!


4 – Take it Home!

Now that you know how to sift through applications, let’s move on to the next stage of hiring: the test. Application tests are vital when it comes to hiring developers. The last things you want to do is employ someone who can’t do the job properly – and with juniors, this is a big risk.

A simple ‘HackerRank’-style take home code test is a simple way to weed out the weak. You could even challenge your applicants to fix a broken bit of code, or code you something small.

Give this test to your top 20 applicants and get rid of the low scorers, then take them to the interview stage.


5 – Interview like a Pro

Get your questions ready! The interview stage is the best place to figure out if your shortlist is up to scratch.

I’d recommend going back to your job description – particularly the part about the daily responsibilities of your new developer – and write some questions around this first.

Then, think about the kind of person you want to hire. Here’s where you can indulge yourself, so write some questions that focus on soft skills and culture fit too. Competency questions (where you ask someone how they’ve tackled a certain thing in the past) work wonders here.

One thing to remember is that you might want your applicants to walk you through their portfolio. This is a great way to get some insight into their previous projects and roles within different teams. It’s also a great way to get familiar with their personality, work style and attitude.


6 – Whiteboard Tests

If you haven’t heard of whiteboard tests before, that’s probably because they’re quite unique to these kinds of roles. 

A whiteboard test is where you literally hand your applicant a whiteboard mid-interview. You give them a task – maybe a piece of code to complete – and sit back and watch them work through it.

The idea of this is to really see first-hand how your applicants cope under pressure. If they approach it with an open mind, ask questions and talk through their process out loud, you’re looking at a good candidate. 

If your candidate struggles under this pressure and can’t communicate while they work, you might have a problem.

With whiteboard tests you’re not looking for the person that can fix your issue in the quickest time. You’re looking for the calm problem-solver that works well under pressure.


7 – Get Some Help

Now you might be an interview expert, but if you know less about the role than your applicants, you could risk being fooled by a winning personality. 

Always ask for a second opinion when it comes to making a hire. Whether this means you have someone more developer-y sit in on the interview with you, or you pass them your notes after, it’s always good to have someone catch your mistakes and give a second opinion.


8 – Don’t Wait Around

Developers are incredibly valuable employees – that’s why they get paid the big bucks. So if you’ve found a real gem that you want to hire, don’t wait around to make your offer. 

Odds are, they’re already considering offers from other companies just like yours.

Saying this, I would still try to stick to process. After you’ve tested them and reaffirmed their skills in an interview or two, you can feel confident enough to offer them the role.


9 – Make it Competitive

Speaking of the fact that your top applicant could be considering other offers, you should maybe consider making a competitive one.

I’m talking about salary. If you’re offering National Minimum Wage, you can’t be too surprised if you get let down.


10 – Have a Backup

And finally, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. As I’ve already said, you could be turned down at the end of this process. If you’ve already rejected your other applicants at this point, you’re going to be sorry.

When it comes to hiring, anything can happen. The last thing you need is to be let down and have to start sourcing candidates from scratch.


The writer of this blog; Daisy Hanson creates content for DigitalGrads, the graduate training and recruitment platform for the tech industry. To view their junior roles, check out their website.