Best practices in hiring software developers at different levels
For Employers

February 15, 2024

Best practices in hiring software developers at different levels

The pace of innovation is accelerating and every company becomes a software company. And this movement is only growing, and with it, the need for resources and talent to break barriers. 

While start-ups and scale-ups always look for talented software engineers to get their projects off the ground, big enterprises are continuously hunting for more tech professionals to knock out the competition. The main challenge they face is finding software engineers who can be the right fit for their projects and can add value to their teams. The wrong hiring decision can cost your company valuable time and resources, or worse it could compromise the project entirely. 

After all, there’s so much to consider when hiring new software developers. You can just plunge into hiring software specialists without preparation. The recruitment process is distinct and complex and can have potential blunders. This is why understanding the levels of tech talents and what makes an exceptional software developer is crucial to a streamlined hiring foundation. 

Recruiters should align expectations of technical expertise, problem-solving capabilities, and leadership traits with the level of software engineer they are enlisting. 

This article will help you understand how to set up a thriving recruitment process while screening software candidates at different levels - juniors, mids, and seniors. 

Let’s dig in.

What should you consider before kicking off the hiring process?

Before kicking off the recruitment process, define your needs:

  • Impact: Do I need to hire a developer? You have to know exactly why you need a new developer in your team and determine how they can add value to your software development lifecycle.
  • The complexity of scope: How difficult will their work be and what tasks does it require?
  • Communication: What are your expectations in terms of communication and teamwork?
  • Expertise: Generally speaking, how much should they know regarding the tech stack and frameworks used by your organization?
  • Leadership traits: Who will they be in charge of? For both juniors and mids, it’s probably just themselves.

Having identified your needs, you can set specific expectations for your candidates right from the start:

  • What projects will they be working on? 
  • What role will they serve on the team? 

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Beyond needing just another developer, determine if you either need a specialist or a leader:

  • A specialist fits a certain role, knowledge, or know-how. A programmer experienced with a particular framework such as Django or Flask, someone who is well-versed in Ruby on Rails, or a machine learning expert. 
  • A leader who knows the ins and outs of both coding and technical requirements and has the right personality to lead others and make sure the software development process runs smoothly. 

Once you’ve addressed the preliminary questions, it’s also important to define skills within your organization. Although software developers have different levels of expertise, there are some fundamental skills that all developers should have along with programming languages and frameworks. These include:

  • Communication. Tech-aware recruiters should prioritize the evaluation of communication skills during the job interviews, as they are vital to teamwork. 
  • Problem-solving. Software engineering involves a great deal of problem-solving and requires a knack for out-of-the-box thinking. The ability to identify problem points and a proactive approach to problem-solving are key to such development processes as planning, debugging, or testing.
  • Conceptual understanding. To create programs that are efficient and reliable, software developers must thoroughly understand object orientation principles and foundational concepts like data structures, algorithms, and operating systems. 
  • Grasp of cloud services. Since companies move to the cloud, software developers need to keep up with cloud platforms like AWS and Azure. 
  • Knowledge of big data. Developers should be able to implement projects where large amounts of data are systematically processed. 
  • Good command of English. Software developers usually work as part of a team, with product managers, designers, QA testers, etc. That's why a common language is a must. 

Levels of software development

Software engineers are typically classified into three levels: junior, mid-level, and senior. In the tech industry, these devs are screened based on their qualifications, experience, skills, and responsibilities.

Hiring junior developers 

Key requirements for the role 

  • Years of experience: 1-3
  • Knowledge: Good grasp of one programming language and several frameworks, and an initial level of understanding of databases 
  • Tasks that can be performed: 

           ✅ Simple bug fixing 

           ✅ Work on internal or “admin-side” tools/features 

           ✅ Assist in initial project planning

  • Work speed: Below average - faster than a fresher, but two times slower than a mid-level developer
  • Independence: Low - control, and teaching are required 

Things to keep in mind while hiring junior developers

Companies tend to hire junior devs to work on short-term or freelance projects and to save on costs. Assigned to the least complex tasks in a project, junior developers are also unaware of best practices in coding and often write bug-infested code. And that’s why they require training and closer monitoring. 

However, they make up for their lack of experience with their energy, drive, and passion for work, which can enable them to expand their skill set quickly and move on to the next level. 

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Skills to look for in junior developers

IDE: Junior software developers navigate the interface and operate the Integrated Development Environment efficiently using the taskbar. 

API: Junior devs have a working knowledge of commonly used APIs.

Programming languages: A good knowledge of popular programming languages is a must at every level of software development. Juniors, however, are expected to know at least one or two programming languages. 

Frameworks: Junior software engineers have experience with several frameworks and know about the most popular ones they use within their language stack. 

Database development: Junior programmers know basic database design techniques, ACID properties, and transactions. 

Day-to-day duties: Junior software developers usually take on the least complex tasks during the development process, those with little impact on the final product. 

Teamwork: Junior technologists need close supervision and strong mentoring to expand their knowledge and skills. 

Vision: The main issue with junior devs is that they are focused on coding, rather than on the development process. 

5 traits of a high-performing junior developer 

1. Basic technical knowledge: Knowing the basics is 90% of the job. 

2. Ability to learn: Junior developers should seek mentorship from experienced developers. 

3. Know how to debug: Juniors should be able to get to the root of the problem fast when the code doesn’t work. 

4. Be a natural problem solver: The best technologists tend to be good at solving problems - seeing them, working them out, and fixing them. 

5. Ability to work in a team: Juniors should be equally good at working with techs and non-techs, including designers, clients, business owners, marketing, and sales staff. 

Tips on how to evaluate junior developers

  • As long as you hire them for an entry-level position, don’t evaluate them for advanced skills 
  • Assess them for a solid foundation in the programming skill your company is requiring
  • Consider using a skill assessment platform to evaluate applicants. 

Hiring middle-level developers

Key requirements for the role 

  • Years of experience: 3-5
  • Knowledge: Good theoretical and practical knowledge. Lack of independent work experience. 
  • Tasks that can be performed: 

           ✅ Write code easily

           ✅ Review code in close detail

           ✅ Optimize code, split big tasks into subtasks
           ✅ Work on several tasks for several projects\
           ✅ Teach trainees and junior developers

  • Work speed: Average 
  • Independence: Average - requires minimal assistance

Things to keep in mind while hiring mid-level developers

Often called the workhorses of the programming world, mid-level software engineers deliver the most impact with routine code. For this position, tech recruiters should look for candidates that have a growth mindset and focus on acquiring new skills. 

A mid-level software developer should have 3-5 years of work experience or at least a bachelor’s in computer science with a year or two of expertise. At this point, they should master up to three languages/frameworks and have a full-stack experience (backend, frontend, and databases). 

Mid-level technologists can handle tasks independently and don’t require much supervision. 

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Skills to look for in mid-level developers

IDE: Mid-level software developers should be familiar with more advanced IDEs and shortcut keys.

API: Intermediate-level developers should be proficient with your company’s main APIs. 

Programming Language: The mid-level technologists should be well versed in common programming languages and know how to apply functional concepts in any of them. 

Frameworks: Mid-level devs have sufficient experience with frameworks to write clear and bug-free codes. 

Database development: Mid-level software engineers are skilled at managing databases. They are adept at converting data between incompatible type systems using the object-relational mapping technique (ORM). They also can design normalized DB schemas and can handle database views, stored procedures, user-defined data types, triggers, etc. 

Day-to-day duties: Middle-level software developers handle intermediate-level tasks in transitions, pieces of applications, and assistance with in-depth engineering duties. They’re also capable of turning tickets into solutions. 

Teamwork: Mid-level devs actively collaborate with team members, including designers, business analysts, and architects, and can deliver work with less supervision. 

Vision. Intermediate-level software engineers have a deep understanding of the development cycle and practice Agile methods more effectively. 

5 traits of a high-performing mid-level developer

1. Knowledge of the full-stack: A software product is made of several layers—front-end, back-end, server, hardware, network, and database. Full-stack doesn’t mean ‘everything’. It simply means ‘end-to-end’ development - being knowledgeable about the functionality of each stack. 

2. Ability to learn, adapt and grow: Some of the key sources of learning for software engineers are:
✅ On-the-job learning with Github
✅ Upskilling programs or boot camps
✅ Seminars and conferences
✅ Mentorships and coaching

3. Business acumen: Knowing how software functions in the real world is a key skill for mid-level software engineers.

4. Time management: Mid-level software engineers must be masters at managing their time and splitting up the long hours with tools like:
Pomodoro timers
✅ Website-blocking apps to stop distractions
✅ Time-tracking to measure productivity 

5. Interpersonal skills: The ability to meaningfully collaborate is a key quality that differentiates good mid-level developers from the best ones. Here are key interpersonal skills that a mid-level technologist needs:
✅ Collaboration
✅ Communication
✅ Critical thinking
✅ Leadership

Tips on how to evaluate mid-level developers

  • Provide a more thorough approach to hiring with technical assessments of higher difficulty levels 
  • Evaluate them for their expertise in multiple programming languages and frameworks
  • Conduct pair-programming assessments to evaluate developer’s cultural fit and teamwork

Hiring senior developers

Key requirements for the role 

  • Years of experience: 5-10+
  • Knowledge: Deep specific knowledge and experience
  • Tasks that can be performed: 

           ✅ Find out-of-the-box solutions for complex technical problems

           ✅ Define project risks

           ✅ Provide mentorship for colleagues with less experience
           ✅ Review code of peers regularly
           ✅ Guide project from conception to completion

  • Work speed: High
  • Independence: High-independent task fulfillment 

Things to keep in mind while hiring senior developers

Tech recruiters hire senior software engineers to lead their software development teams. 

They often possess leadership qualities and great communication, project management, and architecting skills. 

Known as ‘problem solvers' for their deep specialized knowledge and exhaustive experience, their job is to provide the best solutions to problems like system bottlenecks and vulnerabilities or problems caused by the improper use of tools. 

While leading software development processes, a senior dev makes mindful decisions about software design and implementation based on the knowledge of the best practices. Their competency may even expand to help with overall business development. 

Skills to look for in senior developers

IDE: Due to their expertise in IDEs, seniors can easily write custom macros to optimize the workflow. 

API: Senior developers are capable of automatization and should have written libraries to add more functionality to the APIs and 

Programming language: Senior technologists have a broad skill set in functional and object-oriented programming and often have experience working with logic languages like Erlang or Prolog. 

Frameworks: Senior developers have enough expertise to create their own framework. 

Database development: Senior software engineers are well-versed in database administration and performance. Since they know database structures from the inside, they are familiar with DB maintenance features like DB mirroring and DB replication. These are the methods of transferring data from a primary database to a secondary one. 

Day-to-day duties: The multifaceted day-to-day responsibilities go beyond coding. Senior-level devs brainstorm the right solutions to complex technical issues and take charge of the team in the coordination of its workflow. 

Teamwork: Senior software engineers demonstrate good leadership skills including the ability to provide guidance, communicate effectively, and keep the morale up. They know how to put the team’s interests first and find a good balance between the client and the team. 

Vision. Senior technologists have a long-term vision. They see the end-point and know how to reach the final goal so that the project they lead brings value to the end-users.

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5 traits of a high-performing senior developer 

1. Strong debugging skills: Writing bug-free code is an impossible standard for any person. Tracking down bugs can be hard, but senior developers make it look easy. 

2. Know when not to do something: Rewriting a library from scratch or switching to the newest framework are not always the best options. Senior engineers know that good software is working software. They are wisely risk-averse.

3. Mentor others: Senior developers should share their knowledge with their junior team, and, by doing so, they level up the whole team. 

4. Communicate complex technical ideas simply: Software development is a team game. That’s why, senior developers should be able to clearly communicate details to the engineers, clients, and designers they work with. 

5. Admit what they don’t know: Senior developers should be honest about what they do and don’t know. 

Quick tips on how to evaluate senior developers

  • Thoroughly vet senior software developers for their programming skills, understanding of frameworks, and software design proficiency
  • Beyond technical skills, look for strong leadership skills
  • Combine a tech assessment test with behavioral questions during the interview to find the perfect fit

Hiring software engineers at higher levels

Recruiters hire senior software engineers not only for technical roles but also for management ones. Here are some options you might consider. 

Architects. This is the highest rank on the technical career ladder. Hiring managers often recruit architects for their capabilities to solve complex systems that can be implemented by teams of senior or junior engineers.

Product managers. Knowing the development process from the inside, recruiters hire project managers for their ability to manage the work on the product and lead its delivery. 

Senior leader. Recruiters consider hiring Senior Leaders not for their programming skills, but for their capabilities to lead a team, inspire and motivate people and do strategizing.

Summing up 

Attracting the most skilled developers in the market to work for your business can often be challenging. The demand for tech talent is only going to get more fierce in the coming years. That’s why it is important to always be mindful of the paths you use to fill the tech skill gaps in your business. 

From hiring internally to working with freelancers or a remote hiring platform, making the right choice as to what's the most efficient and cost-effective way to bring the right caliber of tech talent is key to your business intelligence and advancement. 

With an end-to-end recruitment platform like Index, companies can assign developers based on their requirements such as experience, technical expertise, proficiency in multiple programming languages, problem-solving and leadership skills, software design abilities, data structures and algorithms, and many more. 

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To learn more about hiring junior and senior software engineers, read our .NET, Java, and Data Engineers recruitment guides or apply to join our list of top developers worldwide.