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Hiring Tips & Insights: Why Hiring Junior Developers Could Be your Competitive Advantage
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Why Hiring Junior Developers Could Be your Competitive Advantage

22 September 2023, by Anne Gonschorek

While many companies across the globe are scrambling to attract senior developers, some businesses are strategically expanding their hiring plans to include more juniors. Here’s why this could be your competitive edge.

Why Hiring Junior Developers Could Be your Competitive Advantage

Competition for software developers increases every year

While the tech hiring market has cooled down from 2021’s record highs, demand still vastly outstrips supply: Many companies are not even slowing their hiring and companies with a stable business model are still growing. With the shift to remote, competition for tech talent has gone global. In addition, there are more competitors for tech talent every year, because every company across every industry has increasingly more software needs.

As the market slows down due to continued uncertainty, we’ve all seen layoffs and hiring freezes in the news and on social media. Even despite this there has still been an increase in demand for talented developers. It may feel like things are slowing down, but it’s a relative dip on an unstoppable macro trend. In fact, OfferZen data shows record levels of activity and hiring in 2022.

The hiring market for senior developers is super competitive

The shortage of tech talent isn’t the only challenge: Companies continue to look for the same talent in the same places and on the same channels.

Many companies want to hire seniors, because software problems now require substantially more data processing and machine learning elements, vastly bigger scaling requirements, and much more sophisticated problems to solve.

The thinking is that senior developers can hit the ground running a lot faster and that it’s slower and harder to onboard and train juniors, especially in a fully remote setting. This thinking is missing some important facts.

While it’s true that onboarding and training junior developers requires effort, few companies are doing the maths on what the scramble for only senior developers is costing them. We are seeing first-hand how tech companies across the GMT+2 time zone are competing for the same limited pool of suitable senior developers and what great junior talent they are missing out on.

Here’s why you should consider hiring junior developers.

Availability: There’s a lot of junior developer talent

Every year, more people realise that tech is a great career choice. Bootcamps and online tutorials have made it easier for people to learn the skills needed to build a career in software development. More and more schools and universities offer computer science courses.

This, combined with a waning willingness to onboard junior developers in a newly remote world resulted in an over-supply of entry-level and junior developers on the market.

While companies across the globe are scrambling to attract senior developers, why should you consider expanding your hiring plan to include more juniors? The answer lies within the question: Because few others are.

There is an abundance of junior talent. Since demand is relatively low, you’ll be able to select the best of the best when you hire junior developers, and build a winning team that’s primed for growth.

Affordability: Junior developers are (a lot) more affordable. This matters now, more than ever.

As the appetite for aggressive growth in tech companies wanes, profitability and positive unit economics are what investors and potential acquirers are after. If you’re scaling tech teams, investing in juniors now is likely a good idea for the overall payroll bill.

Senior developers in Europe and the UK earn anything between €80,000 and €100,000 per year, and in South Africa between €50,000 to €70,000 (R996 000 per annum).

Juniors, on the other hand, earn on average €36,000 in the Netherlands and €14,408 in South Africa (R240 000 per annum) – a mere 40% or 24% respectively of the cost of a senior developer.

If you invest smartly in onboarding to help new junior team members level up, they could be adding value to your bottom line fast.

Strategic advantage: You’re building for the future

You’re always going to need technical expertise and leadership in your organisation. But when you hire junior developers and cultivate an environment where they can learn and progress in seniority, you’ll have a major advantage down the line.

Coupled with strong programmes for internal growth and skills development, you’ll be in a position to increase retention, with a growing pool of employees who are able to grow into senior roles down the line.

Influence: Shape the team you want to build

While junior developers need more time for training and onboarding, their relative inexperience also holds the opportunity for you to shape exactly the team you want. With fewer years under their belt, you’ll be able to train new hires according to your operational and technical preferences. And they’ll be able to grow alongside the organisation.

Balance: Juniors help distribute the workload

When you hire junior developers, you also balance out teams. Much like a junior-only strategy won’t work, having a team of just senior developers is inefficient and expensive.

Since senior developers are few and far between – and come with a hefty price tag – you need to use their time well. By including more junior developers in your team, you can free up senior developers to work on the most complex projects, while giving your junior developers the practice they need to establish a solid foundation.

Growth: Your senior team members have a chance to level up

51% of South African developers and 45.1% of developers in the Netherlands are considering growth opportunities as a key reason to stay in a role. In both South Africa and the Netherlands, over a third of developers consider mentorship an important factor for their growth – among female developers in both locations it’s closer to 40%!

Developer mentoring guide

Getting juniors on board is a great opportunity for your senior developers too. While working with diverse junior coders, they’ll have a chance to reflect, and evaluate the processes and techniques they’ve honed over the years, all while building on their mentorship and leadership capabilities. As Frikan Erwee puts it:

“(…) being a good apprentice will inevitably help make you a good mentor too - but being a mentor doesn’t mean that you’ll never be an apprentice. In fact, they often happen together: There are days that I learn more from my apprentices than from my mentors, who are double their age and who have buckets more experience.”

In short, you might struggle to hire senior talent now, but you can develop it, and hiring juniors can help to pre-empt future hiring problems.

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