Why hiring only seniors is a losing strategy

Why hiring only seniors is a losing strategy

Each company has its own excuses:

  • In small startups: “We have a small team and don’t have time to train juniors, we need developers who will perform from day one.”

  • In the middle, the company: “We are aiming for rapid growth, we need developers who can handle scaling and have already solved similar tasks.”

  • In large companies: “We have a very complex infrastructure, it will take too much time for juniors to master it.”

This is complete nonsense.

If anything, it’s not about age. There are 25-year-old seniors, and 40-year-old juniors who recently came from other fields.

Software development is not only for the chosen ones

Many developers become seniors in less than 3 years, some of them even without a degree. If you don’t believe me, read the stories by Jordan Cutler, Tiger Abrody, and Ryan Peterman.

As in all areas of life, the law of diminishing returns works here. You will still improve over time, but at a slower rate. You will definitely notice the difference between a developer with 1 year of experience and 5, but between 10 and 15 years of experience, the difference is unlikely to be so obvious.

There are times when a really high level of expertise is required, but we’ll talk about that a little further down.

It is not so difficult to take yesterday’s student, familiarize him with the existing codebase and in a few weeks to achieve productivity from him.

History knows cases when inexperienced developers achieved great success:

  • Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy founded Snapchat in 2011 as college students aged 21 and 23.

  • Zuckerberg was 20 when he founded Facebook.

  • Drew Houston was a 24-year-old student when he founded Dropbox.

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed the first version of Google at the age of 24, while also being students.

  • Bill Gates founded Microsoft at the age of 20 (and Jobs was only a year older when he founded Apple).

If students can build huge successful companies, I’m sure they can handle creating a new screen or microservice… Yes, I know most of the above were geeks and started coding in high school.

But that’s the thing ambition, character and brains have little to do with experience.

Why you should hire Jun for your next job opening

You are a team leader and you need to hire one more developer to your team.

I was in your place. In the last 2 years I have hired 5 developers – 2 seniors and 3 juniors. All the “juniors” still work in my team, but in terms of skills, they are definitely far from juniors.

5 reasons why hiring a hot dog is the right decision:

  • You have more candidates and you can choose the best ones. If you’re looking for a full-stack developer with 5+ years of experience in Python and 3+ years of experience in React, the options will be incomparably less and you’ll likely have to compromise.

  • Juniors bring energy to the team — they want to learn, they have a desire to prove themselves and achieve success. Their motivation can be contagious! Your seniors will enjoy working with smart and motivated colleagues. This will give them the opportunity to try themselves in a mentoring role and look at their work with a fresh eye.

  • Junov is not limited by old habits — they won’t try to use the same technologies as previous companies, or reproduce those “genius” design patterns that were only useful in a certain context.

  • June more open to work with new technologies and less picky about tasks. This doesn’t mean you have to force them to fix bugs all day, but it gives you more flexibility as a team.

  • Interpretive Junes they learn quickly and wait for feedbacktherefore, it is easier to work with them. They want improve and know what you think of their work.

And the most important reason:

Juniors can be taken on internships.

There are three Junes in my team and they all started as interns. This means I could assess my skills before taking them on full time.

This is an advantage that does not exist when working with seniors, and often both parties suffer because of it. Developers will work longer at mediocre companies for a prettier resume, and managers will settle for mediocre performers because they’re afraid to fire people.

Perfect proportion

Sometimes you necessary hire a specialist with very specific skills, especially in large organizations. If you need to do an iOS version of the app, I wouldn’t hire someone who has never worked with Swift… Or if performance drops as you scale and you need someone to handle that, it’s better to hire an experienced engineer.

But in the majority teams working on SaaS products, the ratio of juniors to seniors can be quite high. Joons definitely need someone to learn from, but passionate employees don’t need a lot of 1:1 time and attention. Here is a great analogy:

A team can be like a river or a lake. The lake stagnates. It has no energy and no incentive to change. The same can be said about stagnant teams. They become complacent and produce mediocre results; they avoid risk. The river flows and is constantly changing, carrying enormous transforming energy. If you want a team to perform above the market average, you need a river, not a lake.

The energy of the river is determined by the flow of water, and the energy of the team is determined by the flow of people and information. You can divide people into three groups: new blood, new leaders, and veterans. Here’s how these groups should change:

  • New blood should be the largest group.

  • To keep the flow going, you need a constant influx of new blood, new performers who will eventually become new leaders when the current leaders become veterans;

  • The meaning of the flow is the influx of new blood and the care of “veterans”. For the scheme to work, you need older employees to go elsewhere before they choke off the flow, limiting growth opportunities for others.

If you don’t hire juniors at all, your team will stagnate.

For about a year, there were 2 seniors and 3 juniors in my team. 6 months ago I had a conversation with my most productive senior employee and we decided it was time for her to move to another team where she could learn more (she wanted to dive deeper into frontend, while I lead the fullstack team).

Our team transferred her care and we are still productive.

June is not a “handyman”

The point of hiring juniors is not to have “cheap labor”, but to create a productive and loyal team. This can only be achieved if you pay them what they really deserve.

On the one hand, paying juniors less (even very talented ones) is quite rational – you invest a lot of time and effort in their training, and it will take some time before they can show a really good result.

But if you hire cool Junes, then it will take no more than a year. After that, pay them based on skills, not seniority. Otherwise, they will simply find middle or senior positions in other companies and they are right.


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Freely translated by the Russian Hacker News project. The original article

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