Junior candidates

For people that don’t have a lot of experience, it can sometimes be daunting to find a job. Especially in the current environment where companies are hiring less.

When I interview junior candidates (less than 2y of experience), I tend not to focus too much on their technical ability. Two years in the grand scheme of things is nothing, and only exceptional environments can grow an exceptional engineer in that timeframe. These places are rare, but they also require a mindset that is not commonly found. I prefer to focus on exactly that: the candidate’s mindset, rather than what they have accomplished. Great candidates, with just a couple of years under their belt, are hungry to grow. Their ambition and thirst for challenge is palpable. As an interviewer I am on the lookout for that energy and positive attitude during the interview. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to put into words these signs, but they:

  • … ask loads of questions - they are curious.
  • … are keen on working on multiple things and don’t want to be pigeonholed.
  • … get excited when you describe the current challenges you are going through.
  • … do other things outside work. They have hobbies and are passionate about them.

Technical ability is important, but I don’t expect depth or broad knowledge. I do expect that they are capable of going through our pair programming session without too much trouble (our session is public and they know what we will ask). In part because they can practise the session before the real thing happens. If a candidate really wants the role they tend to do that.

I think about these candidates as a medium to long term investment. It’s unlikely that they will be productive in the short term. Creating higher expectations than these don’t tend to end well.