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Hiring Tips & Insights: 5 proven strategies to attract and retain senior developers
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5 proven strategies to attract and retain senior developers

23 February 2024, by Marcelle van Niekerk

There has been a downturn in the tech market: subsequently, many tech companies are chasing profitability instead of rapid growth. In this landscape, every hire you make matters — and senior developers who can quickly get up to speed and make an impact on your team become even more valuable. However, you face steep competition for these skills from companies all across the globe.

Tomislav Ravic and Sheldon Lyne, General Managers at Entelect, recently sat down with us to discuss their top strategies to attract and keep senior talent in your team for the long-haul — and what to avoid to prevent developers from leaving for other opportunities.


  • Be authentic in your offering
  • Get a magnetic Employer Value Proposition (EVP)
  • Avoid a mechanical hiring process
  • Pay attention to both hard and soft skills
  • Find and prioritise growth for your team to retain them
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What makes a senior?

Who are those developers that can make the deepest impact on your team, quickly? A senior developer can be defined in many different ways. For the Entelect team, it comes down to a deep ability to problem solve:

“It’s not defined by the amount of years of experience they have, but by the amount of exposure to different tech solutions,” says Tomislav. “They’ve seen different things in different ways, and can apply themselves to find and solve problems and implement the solutions.”

“For seniors, I’d expect almost a sixth sense when they look through a codebase and can pick up where the problems are,” adds Sheldon.

Top strategies to attract and retain senior developers

1. Be authentic in your offering

The more experienced a developer is, the more likely that they are already inundated with offers from many recruiters. How do you stand out in this noise as an employer? You need to be authentic and clear in what you’re offering, so that people can quickly decide whether you’re the right fit for them:

“Seniors are looking for the truth in what they’re going to be doing. There is no such thing as an excellent project that ticks all the boxes. For example, maybe there’s a large project that has a lot of scale, but you might be working in legacy tech. What they’re looking for is something that manages their expectations incredibly clearly, so that they can decide if that’s what they want out of their career at that point,” Tomislav argues.

2. Get a magnetic Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

Being authentic is tied to having a well-defined Employer Value Proposition (EVP).

“From a job ad point of view, it’s all about creating awareness of your brand,” says Sheldon. “Most seniors will see your ad, get to know the brand and make a decision if they want to reach out to you. They’ll pick the organisation they want to interact with out of the dozens of in-mails they’ve received.”

Before advertising your role, identify the inherent value that joining your company and team provides. This should be tied into all of your job ads, says Tomislav:

“Inherently, people are looking at what they’re going to get out of a particular job. It could be financial security, purpose, working with great tech or hybrid options. That EVP is incredibly important for any organisation to be able to attract talent. Be authentic, have people understand what they’re going to get, and then deliver on that. That’s most important, deliver on what your EVP is promising engineers. If you can’t deliver, they will quickly figure it out and move on to the next best thing.”

Having an attractive EVP can also give you the edge when it comes to standing out against international competitors:

“If someone is interested in earning dollars, I’m not going to compete with that,” says Tomislav. “What I can compete with is things like growth, you are going to have lots of opportunities, get to work with like-minded people etc, and get performance reviews twice a year. A whole host of things that’s our EVP. If we’re authentic, if people are interested they’re going to join us.”

To spread awareness of your brand and EVP, it’s also important to network with developers outside of your organisation, says Sheldon. Attending events is a good way to connect with engineers and make a memorable impression, especially in a small tech industry like South Africa.

3. Avoid a lengthy, mechanical hiring process

At the senior level, you want to test for developers’ depth of knowledge. A mechanical hiring process that filters people out based on strict requirements, before you get the chance to get to know the candidates, might get rid of the very people you’re hoping to attract:

“Seniors are often over-filtered from a recruitment perspective,” says Tomislav. “For example, they might not be able join the organisation even if they have the depth of experience, because there’s a stringent metric that says they need 8 years of experience. Good engineers want to be able to talk to someone who understands them and the value they bring to an organisation.”

“Another hallmark of a bad hiring process is having something like eight steps, and each step puts someone through a gruelling test,” says Sheldon. “The impression you’ll create is ‘what can I get out of this person?’, rather than being about building a relationship with them.”

In addition, be careful not to have a laundry list of requirements for your roles. Good developers often suffer from imposter syndrome, and are logical people to boot. If they don’t tick every box on a job ad that’s looking for a unicorn hire, they are less likely to apply.

4. Pay attention to both hard and soft skills

Instead of a mechanical filtering out process, what should you do instead? Get to know candidates and their capabilities more personally early on when hiring — and it will be more effective if this process has like-minded, technical decision-makers in the room.

“Developers enjoy talking to interviewers who speak their language and are similarly technical,” Tomislav pointed out. “Coach your recruitment team, spend time as a technical person to make sure they understand your tech stack and the role.”

However, this doesn’t mean you should neglect to look at soft skills when hiring seniors:

“A great recruitment process means you’re looking at the person, not just the skills they have. People sometimes focus too much on how technically minded someone is going to be in the senior role, and forget they’ve got to work with people.“

5. Find and prioritise growth for your team to retain them

Finally, once you’ve got senior developers on board, how do you keep them interested in staying on your team for the long-term? It’s all about prioritising growth opportunities — and having access to growth opportunities remains one of the top reasons that developers stay in their jobs.

“There’s no such thing as no opportunity, it’s a case of finding it. In every environment if you look hard enough you’ll find it: you just need to understand what success means for that individual,” says Tomislav.

Here are the Entelect team’s tips to prioritise growth in practice:

  • Make career development a line management responsibility.

“People want a memorable career journey. Working directly with the people dedicated to progressing your career is super important,” says Tomislav. “Anybody who feels a sense of purpose is going to want to stay.”

  • Reward people who are spectacular.
  • Pay people based on their expertise and capabilities, not the title they have.
  • Keep great people working together — success breeds success.
  • Do an engagement survey regularly. Allow people to speak up about anything that’s on their mind, and implement real actions to change if something is wrong.

Looking to hire senior developers? On OfferZen, you can filter by years of experience, tech skills and more to find the perfect fit for your team.

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