Evaluating qualities that make an exceptional software developer requires a deeper understanding of what’s required at each level of their journey.
When it’s time to hire a software engineer, many recruiters face the challenge of deciding how to evaluate skills based on their level of experience. The wrong hiring decision can cost your company valuable time and resources, or worse – it could jeopardize a project entirely. This is why understanding the different levels of software developers is crucial.
For example, when hiring a junior developer, assessing them for senior skills is far from ideal. Recruiters should thus align expectations of technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and leadership skills with the level of developer they are recruiting.
So, to help recruiters understand how to hire a programmer at each level efficiently, we’ve put this guide together.
What skills should software developers have?
Although software developers have different levels of expertise, there are some fundamental skills that all developers should have. These include:
- Communication skills. These skills are vital to teamwork, and tech recruiters should prioritize evaluating them during interviews. Software development involves many developers working together. To guarantee the best results, developers must clearly communicate their ideas to each other.
- Problem-solving skills – and a knack for thinking out-of-the-box. Software development involves a great deal of problem-solving, which requires sound analytical skills and out-of-the-box thinking. Developers may also find themselves helping teammates out with debugging, which requires a proactive attitude and the ability to identify problem points.
- Programming skills. These skills are perhaps the most crucial entry requirements for a software developer. You can’t hire a lifeguard that doesn’t know how to swim. Similarly, a software developer must have sound programming skills to excel at development. However, knowing just one programming language is not enough in today’s developing world. Strong candidates have versatile programming experience and are well-versed in multiple languages.
- Conceptual understanding. Understanding a language’s syntax isn’t enough to be a successful developer – they must also understand object orientation principles. Additionally, an ideal candidate must thoroughly understand foundational concepts like data structures, algorithms, and operating systems. These concepts enable them to create programs that are efficient and reliable.
What are the different levels of software developers?
Software developers are typically categorized into three levels: junior, mid-level, and senior. In the tech sector, these developers are sorted based on their qualifications, expertise, skills, and responsibilities.
Junior-level developers make up for their lack of experience with their energy and passion. They are usually assigned to the least complex tasks in a project. Junior developers often look for immediate results and may suffer from low morale accompanying any mistakes. However, if they continue expanding their skillset and experience, junior devs can quickly move on to the next level.
Mid-level developers provide a consistent source of routine code for projects. They often take initiatives and introduce innovation in teamwork. Because of their experience, mid-level developers can mentor junior developers. Additionally, they hone their leadership skills by taking the initiative in different projects.
Seniors are the most skilled in software development. They provide mentorship to junior and mid-level developers alike. The work of a senior developer usually exceeds routine coding – they are often in charge of an entire team. Because of their extensive experience, seniors devs have a broader outlook on projects and the patience to see them through.
Level 1 - How to hire a junior developer
In general, organizations hire junior devs on a freelance basis or to work on short-term projects. These developers are typically recruited to save on costs. However, the trade-off is that these developers often have to be trained and closely supervised.
Skills to look for in a junior developer
There are a few basic skills that every software developer, even a junior-level one should have. A junior developer should have the following skills:
- IDE: Junior software developers must navigate through and operate the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that the company uses.
- API: Junior devs should have a working knowledge of commonly used APIs.
- Frameworks: Junior developers should have some experience with frameworks, especially the popular ones.
- Database development: Junior developers should know about basic database techniques, ACID properties, and be able to obtain specific information from the database using statements.
- Programming Language: Familiarity with popular programming languages is a must at every level of software development, including the junior level. Juniors, however, are expected to start with at least one programming language.
- Platforms and tools: Although it can be basic, juniors should have experience with a few platforms. Furthermore, they should know about alternatives to standard tools.
- Day-to-day duties: Junior developers are typically responsible for the simplest programming tasks.
How to evaluate the skills of a junior developer
Junior-level developers are hired for entry-level positions, and so they are not evaluated for advanced skills. However, it’s important to assess them for basic programming skills – to ensure they have a solid foundation.
Resumes rarely provide a reliable overview of a candidate’s technical proficiency, so consider using a skills assessment platform to evaluate applicants. With a tech recruitment platform like WeCP (We Create Problems), you can evaluate candidates for a range of different programming languages.
Level 2 - How to hire a mid-level developer
Mid-level developers don’t require much supervision and can easily handle independent tasks. For this position, recruiters should look for a candidate looking to grow and acquire new skills.
Skills to look for in a mid-level developer
Recruiters should look for the following attributes in mid-level software developers:
- IDE: Mid-level software engineers should have intermediate skills with IDEs that are more advanced than those of junior software developers. At this level, developers should be familiar with shortcut keys.
- API: At advanced levels, developers need to be proficient with your company’s main APIs.
- Frameworks: Mid-level devs, thanks to their sufficient experience, can write clear and concise codes.
- Database development: Where database development is concerned, mid-level developers should be equipped to handle database views, stored procedures, user-defined types, triggers, etc. Furthermore, they should be able to convert data between incompatible type systems using the object-relational mapping technique (ORM).
- Programming Language: The mid-level software developer should be well-versed in common programming languages and must know how to do functional programming in all of them.
- Platforms and tools: Middle-level devs should have concrete experience and understanding of a fair few of the platforms and the package management tools.
- Day-to-day duties: The day-to-day duties of mid-level engineers are mid-level complicated. Seniors often handle more complex tasks. As such, middles handle tasks in transitions, pieces of applications, task estimates, and assistance with larger tasks.
How to evaluate the skills of a mid-level developer
As the seniority level increases, the selection criterion for middle-level developers gets more thorough; recruiters should evaluate them for expertise. For example, where junior developers can get by with just one programming language, mid-level developers must be fluent in multiple ones.
Technical assessments of higher difficulty levels are ideal for evaluating mid-level developers. Tools like WeCP facilitate testing for multiple programming languages and skills in an efficient manner, with detailed analytics and reporting. Moreover, recruiters can conduct pair programming assessments to assess a candidate’s cultural fit and ability to work in a team.
Level 3 - How to hire a senior developer
Recruiters hire senior developers to lead their software development teams – which makes leadership qualities a necessity. However, because the stakes are higher, the tech screening process to look for the right senior software engineer must be very thorough.
Skills to look for in a senior developer
- IDE: Because of their expertise in IDEs, seniors can easily write custom macros for the IDE and optimize the workflow.
- API: Seniors should be able to automate the most frequent API processes without having to code for them. Furthermore, they should have authored libraries that increase the functionality of the APIs.
- Frameworks: The skillset of a senior developer should be such that they can create their own framework.
- Database development: Recruiters expect seniors to have experience with database administration and performance. Furthermore, they should be well-versed with the database maintenance features.
- Programming Language: Programming languages are a skill that is useful at every level of software development. Seniors usually have extensive skills in functional programming and object-oriented programming. Additionally, they often have experience with logic languages.
- Platforms and tools: Seniors should have experience with a variety of platforms.
- Day-to-day duties: As the seniority of the software developer goes higher, their duties change from coding to brainstorming for complex problems. In addition, they usually direct the team and its workflow.
- Leadership skills. This includes qualities such as the ability to keep morale up, robust communication skills, and a strong sense of responsibility.
How to evaluate the skills of senior developers
Employers should thoroughly vet software developers for their programming skills, understanding of frameworks, software design proficiency, amongst other technical expertise considerations.
Beyond technical qualities, recruiters must also look for strong leadership skills which can be evaluated via a remote interview. With a combination of a thorough tech assessment test and a video interview, recruiters can thoroughly vet applicants and find the perfect fit.
Start recruiting software engineers at different levels
Now that you know what skills to evaluate at each level, here are some steps to help you hire software developers of different levels.
- Determine your evaluation strategy. After identifying the skills to vet developers for, you need a strategy to evaluate them. Will your evaluation process be multi-stage? Where will you source your talent from? Are you assessing for cultural fit? These are some questions to address in your strategy.
- Craft a relevant job description. A precise, relevant job description discourages unqualified candidates from applying and acts as an early screen. In contrast, vague job descriptions may receive many unsuited applications. Moreover, top talent may shy away from applying because vague descriptions fail to communicate the need for their skills.
- Start vetting candidates. Resume screening is unreliable, so after the applications come in, invite candidates in for a skill assessment test. You can conduct reliable technical assessments at a large scale with WeCP and even execute a multi-stage evaluation strategy.
- Invite top performers for a remote interview. Send invites to the filtered candidates right from your assessment tool and conduct live virtual interviews with pair programming and whiteboarding. WeCP’s virtual interviewing platform with integrated IDE makes this easy.
- Offer the job to your top choice. With a skill-based evaluation process, employers can make data-driven hiring decisions. Thus, the top-performing candidate is likely the best fit. So bring them on board!
When evaluating applicants, we cannot overstate how important it is to assess them properly. A resume might detail a lot of experience, but the candidate may lack key skills that are necessary to perform on the job.
With an all-in-one recruitment platform like WeCP (We Create Problems), employers can evaluate candidates for a plethora of technical skills, including proficiency in multiple programming languages, problem-solving skills, software design capabilities, algorithms, data structures, and more.
Tech employers can also use WeCP to conduct technical video interviews with pair programming and IDE capabilities, to assess candidates alongside their technical skills.
Schedule a demo today to learn how WeCP can help you find the best talent with better quality and less time & cost to hire.