SmartRecruiters Hiring Success Journal

A 4 Step Guide to Junior Developer Recruitment

A guide to everything you need to know about finding, assessing, hiring, and retaining talented junior developers.

A recent report from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) suggests that the tech industry is on target to reach a value of $5 trillion in 2019. The tech industry continues to pick up momentum every year, spurring demand for more technical talent.

While demand grows, the pipeline for talent has a serious bottleneck – lack of teachers! Universities throughout the US struggle to adequately staff their computer science programs, with students from Haverford college publishing an open letter in the independent student newspaper, The Clerk, saying “[a] dire shortage of faculty has created what can only be described as a crisis for students interested in computer science, lotterying us out of required introductory and upper-level classes.”

Similar concerns have been echoed at other institutions, such as Bryn Mawr, Princeton University, and Harvey Mudd. So, while the number of students choosing to study computer science has been increasing since 2006, the boost in enrollment is first, inadequate to the hiring demand for skilled developers, and second, overwhelming the resources of higher education institutions.

All this to say, recruiters seeking junior developers have the cards stacked against them… and then there’s the matter of assessment and retention.

The positions for junior developers are many and varied and the methods for assessing these candidates reflect that. Hiring a junior mobile developer won’t be the same as hiring a junior front-end developer. And, after all the effort of hiring and onboarding a junior developer, recruiters will want to make sure the candidate stays with the company for a good amount of time. To keep these highly skilled and in-demand employees takes strategic planning and care.

With all these factors to consider, we thought it would be a good idea to walk through the four key phases of junior developer recruitment, with practical advice and step by step guidance.

1. Source on Purpose

Your hiring strategy should aim to diversify sourcing efforts and reach high-quality candidates in a natural way.

Deploy multiple effective methods for finding talented junior developers. Let’s dive into our top five methods:

  • On-campus recruitment improves the candidate experience because it’s more personal than sending an email. Narrow your focus to a few universities. Career fairs, meetups, and industry talks are effective ways to connect with recent grads.
  • Hackathons give junior developers a chance to show off their problem-solving skills. Utilize code testing platforms like Codility to benchmark people.
  • Job boards are used to reach a high volume of candidates. Find a job board with a pre-qualification function so that you don’t get as many unqualified leads.
  • Coding boot camps can be an effective channel to recruit talented, diverse junior developers who may not have a traditional computer science background.
  • Internships give junior candidates a chance to test their skills in a real work environment—this is also a chance for you to assess potential new developers prior to extending an actual job offer.

Use each of these methods to build a group of qualified individuals to fill future job opening – this is also known as a talent pipeline. If a candidate seemed like a good culture fit but didn’t make the final cut, maintain an open line of communication, and ensure them that they’ll be considered for future job openings. Talent pipelines are the product of trust, open communication, and excellent sourcing.

2. Screen Early

Screening candidates before inviting them for an onsite interview is a crucial step in the hiring process. You have the highest volume of candidates at this point, so the filter you have in place needs to be efficient. Always go into the screening phase with a plan to discuss:

  • Expectations around salary range
  • Professional and/or recreational coding experience
  • Whether the candidate has competing offers
  • Upfront soft skills
  • General technical skills

Effective screening creates a clearer picture of candidates’ capabilities earlier in the recruitment funnel. Use technical assessment strategies to separate the skilled junior developers from those who can’t perform at the right level for the position.

3. Deep Dive Interviews

Once screening is complete, look deeper for the candidate’s behavioral fit, technical competence, and career potential. Your goal in an interview is to determine whether this person aligns with your core company values.

Follow these interview tips and tricks to gauge candidate fit:

  • Ask behavior-based questions.
  • Quantify technical skills and benchmark against other candidates by using code assessment tools.
  • Use pair programming to test communication skills and create a casual environment for Q&A.
  • Ask candidates to share their short-term and long-term goals—this is also a chance for them to reflect on their own capabilities and future potential.

4. Think Long Term Growth

Once you’ve hired strong junior talent, think about what you can do to retain them. Research from our Developer Report shows that junior developers are looking for mentorship first and foremost and that professional development is more appealing than salary. Use this data to inform your strategy – for example, mentorship programs can help candidates reach their professional goals and also opens mentors up to new ideas.

Here are a few more ways to retain talent for the long-term:

  • Provide both positive and negative constructive feedback to ensure junior developers are growing and are in high spirits
  • Set clear performance expectations – our data suggest that a majority of developers’ jobs don’t turn out as they expect after getting hired
  • Encourage senior teams to field questions and be mentors to help candidates reach their full professional potential – they’ll open themselves up to new ideas too
  • Create a standardized way of benchmarking people—skills testing tools like Codility can quantify technical skills, making them easier to stack rank

Key Takeaways

Junior developers who experience good management and meaningful work early in their career can bring immense value to your organization. It’s important to set both yourself and junior talent up for success by having a reliable and scalable recruitment process.

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to improve recruitment for junior developers and the different tools hiring teams need to get high-quality insights without sacrificing the candidate’s experience. Check out The Complete Guide to Junior Developer Recruitment for more information.

Jeffrey Swartwout

Jeffrey Swartwout

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