Joeri Smits

Developer, aerial photographer and tech enthousiast. Looking into technology of tomorrow. Located in Nijmegen, NL

My experience in hiring junior developers

16 November 2018

Inspiring text header photo

Recently I was involved and partly responsible for the recruitment process of a new multicultural team. In four weeks time, we hired six new junior developers. For me, this was an exciting new challenge. I want to share with you my experiences and practices I applied during this process.

Me, being a lead developer on the company, was given the task to start interviewing new developers. I without any previous experience at that point with recruiting or interviewing was a bit stunned. Questions came up about how I would approach such things, and honestly, I did not have any clue at that time…

I started searching and reading about how to interview juniors, what questions to ask and what information to give. I, with a background in software engineering, began looking for best practices and examples just like I did whenever I had some coding challenge. However, most articles I read were very static with only some basic examples of questions. I started using some of these questions during interviews but quickly found it a bargain. When you are in a conversation, you don’t start dropping in random questions you found on the internet.

“When you are in a conversation, you don’t start dropping in random questions you saw on the internet.”

In total, I interviewed about fifteen applicants. Most of them found our company through the non-profit organization AIESEC. AIESEC is one of the largest connectors between graduates and companies worldwide. They helped us out in supplying applicants for these positions. If you are in the IT market, you probably know how difficult it is to find people. AIESEC however already had an extensive database of graduates in place, and in the first week after publishing the job description, we had about 60 people from all around the world who were interested in joining our company. Luckily AIESEC helped to bring this list down to a manageable number, and I began to interview applicants.

I gladly share some key principles with you; I applied during this process which turned out to be very helpful.

Be personal

I experienced that having a personal conversation with someone helps in breaking that awkwardness of a job interview. I started interviewing applicants as if I had a conversation with someone in the pub. The following example is the structure I used most of the time.

Start by introducing yourself and the company you work for briefly. Most of the times this can be a concise introduction. Next, the applicant can tell a bit about himself and what he did in the past. Also, ask why he decided to apply at your company. It’s essential to even speak about non-work related stuff; Hobbies, Friends, etc. This way you get a pretty good understanding of someone’s communicative skills and what he loves doing.
When you got a pretty good understanding of what the applicant did, what they love doing, and where they are heading towards you can start talking more about your company. Especially how your company can help them develop their skills, which is one of the most important things for a junior developer.

Test someone’s code skills

Talking about projects and code is good and all but I find it better to look at someone’s code. I, therefore, did send a small code assignment to each applicant after their interview. The assignment should be a task representative of what the company does, and to the role, they are applying. In my case, it was a primary tic-tac-toe game to collect big data for a tic-tac-toe deep learning algorithm. Which technology to use was up to the applicant. The only requirement was a which describes the underlying thought processes why the applicant made individual decisions.

Of all the submissions I got, I experienced a very spread level of quality. Some candidates have overcomplicated the assignment others just did not get it. The small assignment turned out to be a well-working selection method.

Get help from external partners

Working with partners turned out to be great! People working in the IT are in a shortage right now, and it is not that easy to get applicants. Working with recruitment agencies and organizations can be of real value when you need to build a team in a short time.

To conclude: recruiting is much fun, and this was an excellent experience for me :-). Using an approach that best suits your company’s culture. For us, this was a more personal approach since we are a relatively small company, and it turned out great. Let me know if you have any previous experience and do see similarities or differences.