In any field, experience is one of the main deciding factors used by hiring managers to pick the right candidate. Each field has its own system for how many years a person has to spend working in that field to qualify as “experienced.” In tech, what qualifies as experienced can vary, depending on the candidate in question and the needs of the company. However, one very general guideline of requirements for a candidate to be considered “experienced” is five years of experience as a software developer (including back-end web development), two or more years of professional software development experience (ideally with exposure to the full software lifecycle, from requirements through production), and/or five+ years of development testing experience. For some tech hiring managers, a developer is generally only considered “senior” after ten years of similar experience.
Many hiring managers tend to focus on candidates who are senior or at least mid-range in experience and pay less attention to developers with less experience—junior developers. Hiring mid-range and senior developers has obvious advantages: they can bring their many years of experience and knowledge to the table, as well as potential high-level industry connections. However, junior developers also offer unique advantages that are often overlooked, and therefore represent a large untapped well of potential for tech companies. Here are ten reasons why companies should consider hiring junior developers.
- It is easier to find and hire good junior developers. Put simply, experienced developers are in much higher demand than junior developers. A talented senior developer with significant experience and a good reputation essentially has their pick of lucrative, perk-heavy positions. However, there are many more junior developers than senior developers, and it is much easier to find and negotiate a reasonable hiring package for a talented junior developer than a talented senior developer.
- Junior developers learn to work with your methodology. In some ways, a junior developer’s lack of experience is actually an asset. Senior developers may have developed bad habits, or habits contrary to your methodology, which they need to be trained out of. Because junior developers are less experienced, they have had less time to develop those ingrained habits and ways of developing software and are often more amenable to adapt to your company’s house style. Though some companies are more attached to their house style and workplace protocol and habits than others, it is definitely a plus if a developer enters a company culture with more of a blank slate when it comes to how things are done.
- With the right treatment, junior developers will develop company loyalty. When you show your junior employees enthusiasm and dedication, they will often respond positively. Junior developers are generally aware of their lack of experience and the associated assumptions about what they are bringing—or aren’t bringing—to the table. They therefore tend to appreciate the chance a company takes on them and the time and attention it invests in them. This is much more likely to lead to company loyalty and a desire to see the company succeed. Having a personal stake in project outcomes and the success of the company as a whole is an invaluable motivator and can foster a healthy enthusiasm about daily work.
- Junior developers can spot new solutions to old problems. Even the best companies and teams sometimes come to a dead end on certain projects. There are times when developers encounter problems that seem difficult to work around, even insurmountable. Sometimes, this is simply because the same people have been looking at the same problem or the same type of problem for too long, and/or because they have grown accustomed to using a specific tool to solve a specific type of problem. A junior developer can bring a pair of fresh eyes to tech roadblocks and can help spot solutions and workarounds that may have been hiding in plain sight.
- Junior developers bring passion and curiosity to the workplace. In addition to providing a fresh pair of eyes to specific projects, junior developers bring a fresh pair of eyes to the entire industry. Because they have spent less time focused on the same issues, they may be crucial in coming up with new ways to approach the field as a whole. In addition, the passion, enthusiasm, and general energy that a person just like that brings to their work is an absolute boon, both in terms of the eagerness they bring to their own work and in the ways their excitement about the work may inspire others on your team.
- Junior developers are likely to be connected to newer trends and younger, more innovative networks. Though more senior developers may have more experience and a well-curated network of other senior-level developers, junior developers tend to have their finger on the pulse of what’s new in the field, which is a major advantage. In terms of education, a junior developer will have just been exposed to the most recent and up-to-date modalities, case studies, pedagogies, and theory, which they can use to help update people who have been working in the field for longer. In addition, junior developers are more likely to be connected to networks of their peers and to the burgeoning developments that young innovators are coming up with on a regular basis.
- Junior developers are more flexible. Junior developers are just starting out in their careers, so are by and large younger than mid-range or senior developers. In addition to lack of things to “unlearn,” and recent exposure to the latest tech knowledge, the (most of the time) youthfulness of junior developers as a whole means they are in a different part of their lives than their more senior counterparts and therefore have different needs and concerns. They are generally less immediately focused on issues like raising children and retirement, so they tend to be more comfortable working longer hours. Because of their relative lack of experience, they also expect to receive a lower initial salary.
- Junior developers are more likely to help out with routine tasks. Another generally expected part of the process of starting out as an inexperienced developer is working on more routine tasks, at least initially. Junior developers tend to be more amenable to working on small but essential routine tasks like debugging, which can free up time for more senior developers to work on larger structural issues. Of course, if a junior developer signs on with the express desire to work on larger-picture issues, your team should include them in that process, but they are, as a whole, more willing to help with the small stuff than senior developers.
- Mentoring is a rewarding opportunity for the mentee and the mentor. A less experienced developer often has a lot to learn from developers with more experience, so a mentor-mentee relationship can be developed fairly naturally. This relationship does not have to be specifically between one mentor and the mentee: rather, multiple team members, or even the team as a whole, can play a mentorship role. This experience will be valuable to your junior employee, which will be valuable to the company in of itself. However, it will also be valuable to more senior team members, who can learn leadership and team strengthening skills through the process of showing a newer coworker the ropes.
- It’s good for the industry and for tech culture, in general, to give newcomers a shot. Ultimately, when someone is just starting out as a developer, they need a company to give them a chance. In order to foster and support new, talented developers, those developers need to get a foot in the door. This is not only fair to the next generation of developers—after all, everyone was once a junior developer—but also keeps the general tech industry and the surrounding culture from stagnating. It is also easier to off-set diversity issues by hiring junior women and other developers from minority backgrounds. Without today’s junior developers, you cannot have tomorrow’s senior developers so you are helping maintain the health of the industry at large.