Business ResourcesHow to Identify a Great Junior Hire For Your Dev Team


Linnea Schulenburg
writes on April 25, 2016

Are you looking to hire a junior developer this year? Great idea!

Creating a talent pipeline now that helps you fill your development team later with skilled workers who know your business is the best way to prepare for changes in technical capabilities. Unfortunately, companies looking to add a junior dev often run into one problem: how do hiring managers who aren’t familiar with the technologies they need to recruit for identify solid junior developer candidates?

It seems like a challenging issue, but there is a pretty simple answer for it – Hire for attitude. Train for skill.

That’s right. Beyond foundational skills and understanding, some of the best indicators of successful and productive junior dev hires are found in soft skills and personality traits – and those are much harder to train for than programming languages.

First, determine the minimum technical knowledge your potential hire needs to have to be able to start working. Usually, this means they should have a basic understanding of the primary languages in your tech stack, and be familiar with a few of your company’s other must-have supplemental processes. (Ask your dev team if you’re unsure where to start!)

Then, schedule interviews with those applicants who have the right type of foundational skills. During the interview, ask questions that help you determine if they possess the 4 traits outlined below. (Hint: use the included indicators as a place to start!)

Are they:

Innately curious

Curiosity is a huge driver in learning. By hiring someone who is innately curious, you’re increasing the likelihood their skills will always be cutting edge because they will continuously want to learn new things.


  • They have other hobbies, and can describe a common problem they face in that hobby.
  • They describe how they solve programming problems with energy and detail.
  • They can tell you how they usually go about learning something new.


Active tinkerers

Tinkerers are passionate about the work they do. Active tinkerers enjoy their work, are internally motivated to spend time on projects, and are interested instead of depressed when something doesn’t work quite as planned.


  • Their Github account shows recent and frequent activity on things like open source projects.
  • They have personal projects in their portfolio and can tell you about a time they worked through a bug.
  • They have a StackExchange account and try to help others solve problems.


Thoughtful communicators

Good communicators are team players that know how to move stressful projects forward smoothly. They’ll also be able to handle constructive criticism and feedback better than less communicative types, which is a great quality, especially as a junior employee.


  • They can give an example of a few different personality types they’ve worked with in the past and how they approached work with each.
  • They can tell you about a time they’ve worked with a group to accomplish a goal.


Goal aligned

They don’t want a job just for the paycheck. Your business speaks to who they are as a person: their interests, goals or personality. This means they’ll be a more engaged, productive employee.


  • They can tell you why they want to work with your company specifically.
  • They can relate a personal or professional story of theirs to your company goals.

Hire someone with foundational knowledge and these four traits, and you’ll be able to give them the tools to learn everything they need to be productive for your business. And not just that, they’ll bring a mindset from junior to senior level that is focused on exceeding, not just meeting goals. Sound like a great step in preparing your business for the future?

Get out there and schedule some interviews! And remember: Hire for attitude. Train for skill.

Interested in offering learning opportunities for junior developers or interns? Check out Treehouse for Business!


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6 Responses to “How to Identify a Great Junior Hire For Your Dev Team”

  1. I think honesty is a big thing to look for as well. The “do you have any weaknesses” question is a great way to identify this trait. Everyone wants to appear strong in an interview, but refusing to recognize a lack of expertise in any area is a huge red flag. There will always be a certain amount training, but it’s hard to train someone who can’t acknowledge he or she needs it.

  2. We have a junior developer and its working out very well for us. He is keen to do anything and willing – which would be nice to have from some of our senior developers!

  3. JustAlpe on April 27, 2016 at 12:38 am said:

    This seems good but to far up in the clouds for it to be real. Companies aren’t going to work like this and they never will for many reasons. People in general, don’t fit these four traits. I have seen developers fall apart when something isn’t working. They leave, come back, fix the problem and break something else causing them to unravel. Also, this notion of being an active tinkerer is rare to none existent. Being in tech as a developer is hard work that comes with high levels of frustration and stress. Hence, the game rooms and free serial everywhere. Try being a thoughtful communicator when you’re dealing with sunburn egotistical people in a marketing department. It will most likely backfire on you. So, I say, to perfect for an imperfect world. Great article still.

    • I agree with JustAlpe. The amount of time it would take to hit all of these in unobtainable by most people. After learning online and on my own for about a year, I got a job as a Jr. Dev. That was almost 2 years ago and I still feel like a Jr. Dev most of the time. Many of us, myself included, have these things running around the house called children. They tend to take up a lot of time. Add in a 30 – 60 one way commute twice a day and an 8 hour work day (which turns into 9 with an hour lunch) and there is not much time left in the day to devote to contributing to someone else’s project, or building side projects, or taking up another hobby, or xyz. I’m positive I’m not the only person with kids and a commute. Any “free time” I end up getting is usually devoted to more online courses, books, tinkering with my own system etc. This usually amounts to around an hour every third evening when I’m not exhausted. The summer time is really hard to find extra time since I also have this thing called a “house” that sits in the middle of a “yard”. These things require maintenance. I see articles like this and, to me, they seem to paint a picture of a single person with no family living in an apartment with nothing else to do aside from coding and (evidently) one other hobby. This list of things to look for in a junior developer just isn’t practical and if this is what employers were really looking for, people like me wouldn’t be able to find a job.

  4. Great post! This is relevant for us junior devs to know too.

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