The 6 Qualities that Hiring Managers Look for in Junior Devs

Applying for your first web developer job can be overwhelming. Without previous professional experience, you may feel like you aren't ready for a “real” job yet. Alternatively, if you haven’t faced many tough challenges yet, you may be unaware of how little you know. Whichever side of that spectrum you fall on, it'll help you to get some insight into what we as hiring managers look for in junior or entry-level candidates. After interviewing a few dozen junior web developers in the past year, here are the six qualities of a good developer that I've learned to keep an eye out for:

[bctt tweet="The Six Qualities #HiringManagers Look for in Junior #Devs, by @KarlLHughes "]

1. Candidates who do their research

First, always prepare for a web development interview by reading the job description carefully. At the very least, you should be able to hold a conversation about any technologies listed in the job description. If you can’t, read up on them. If a web developer job lists five technologies that you must know and you’re only vaguely familiar with one of them, don’t apply. You’re probably not ready for the role.

The only exception to this is when a web developer job description lists “2-3 years of experience” as a requirement. This is done to keep completely green applicants to a minimum, but I wouldn’t let that dissuade you from applying if you think you meet the rest of the criteria.

Second, learn about the company. Read any news articles you can find on them, talk to current and former employees, and look at their Github page for any open source projects they maintain. One of the most impressive candidates I interviewed this year actually made a pull request on one of our repositories while he was in the application process.

[bctt tweet="Use @Github to learn about the company's projects before your #codinginterview, says @KarlLHughes "]

2. Candidates who are honest about what they don’t know

Don’t tell a hiring manager, “I can build anything,” because you hacked together a couple of Rails apps. This just shows the interviewer that you're unaware of how little you really know. Admit that you’re familiar with just a small subset of technologies but are eager to learn more.

Related to this, a lot of coding bootcamp graduates ask me what programming languages they should learn in order be most marketable. The truth is that it doesn’t matter—there are jobs in just about any programming language out there. Still, I would encourage you to favor going deep in one language rather than spreading yourself really thin with a rudimentary knowledge of a few languages.

[bctt tweet="Learn one #programming language well + don't spread yourself thin—@KarlLHughes #learntocode"]

3. Candidates who embody the company’s values

At Packback, one of our biggest hiring criteria is purpose and values fit. In fact, we’ve rejected very good, technically qualified candidates just because they did not embody our values. For strongly values-driven organizations, there’s almost nothing better you can do than live up to the company’s values.

Alternatively, be wary of companies whose values don’t match up to your own. While you may feel like getting any job would be great, a job that is a bad fit for your personality or values will not be worth taking in the long run.

[bctt tweet="Look for a #webdevelopment #job at a company that aligns with your #values, says @KarlLHughes "]

4. Candidates with a strong desire to learn

Entry-level hires will spend most of their time soaking up knowledge from the rest of the team, but it’s even better if they’re already out there learning on their own. Show your future employer that you’re interested in learning by contributing to open source projects, completing programming challenges on your own (I especially like Project Euler), and reading up on the latest trends in your industry.

Candidates who demonstrate curiosity and follow-through are more attractive than those with experience who are too proud to learn new things.

[bctt tweet="Strong #curiosity to learn is more attractive than technical experience, says @KarlLHughes #hiring"]

5. Candidates who stay positive and don’t make excuses

One of the biggest turn-offs for me when interviewing a candidate is negativity. Even if you’re frustrated, cynical, and the world really has screwed you over, the job search requires that you put on a good face. Even when employers ask you about obstacles or times you failed, don’t get caught up in how hard they were. Instead, focus on what you did to overcome them and the lessons you learned.

[bctt tweet="Talk about #obstacles with #positivity + a focus on #solutions, says @KarlLHughes #interviewing "]

6. Candidates who don’t wait to take action

Whether it’s asking the hiring manager out for coffee on Twitter, making a pull request on one of the company’s open source projects, or showing up in person with a resume, I’ve never heard a hiring manager complain about a candidate who was too assertive. Showing that you’ve got a can-do attitude is a huge point in your favor when applying to your first web developer job.[bctt tweet="It never hurts #webdev candidates to be assertive. Show your #candoattitude, says @KarlLHughes"]

The truth is that every company, hiring manager, and human resources representative you meet during your job search is different, so there’s no magic list of traits an entry-level candidate must have to become a web developer. That said, I hope this list helps put you in the right direction when you prepare for your interview.