8 qualities you should look for when hiring a Graduate Software Developer

Are you looking to hire a graduate software developer, but don’t know what qualities to test for during the hiring process?

Hiring the right software developer for the job is critical to your company’s success. Unfortunately, we know it’s not as simple as just looking for a grad with a Computer Science degree. Hiring someone with strong soft skills is equally as important as someone with technical skills. However, most of the time it’s easy to overlook these things and hire someone who is technically brilliant, but otherwise a poor fit.

Here are the 8 qualities we believe you should be looking out for in your next graduate software developer. How many of these do you actively test for at an interview?

1. ‘Can they solve problems?’

Can they identify a problem? And do they have the determination and efficiency to solve it?  

Solving problems is at the core of what a software developer does. So one necessity when hiring a graduate is that they know how to approach solving a problem. This might be finding a bug within an existing set of code, or a maintainability matter when dealing with the increasing complexity of code, etc. Not only does the problem need to be located efficiently, but the developer must also be able to solve it clearly and concisely.

During an interview, test their problem solving abilities by giving them a task or coding test where they have to identify, then rectify a problem.

2. ‘Are they passionate?’

As employees, grads will undoubtedly work harder to make a great first impression and prove their worth. However, during the interview keep your eyes peeled for those who are genuinely passionate about new technologies and concepts.

In a constantly evolving field, you want employees who will consistently push their limits and are proactive in finding new solutions. Staying up to date with these cutting-edge technologies is pertinent to a company’s advancement, innovation, and success, so you need someone who is passionate about what they are doing.

Attempt to gauge how passion a candidate is by asking questions like, ‘how do you keep up-to-date with new technologies?’ Their response will give you an insight into what they find motivating and whether they have a true passion for the field.

3. ‘Do they maintain their focus?’

Do they keep their eye on the ball?

A graduate software developer who understands what they are doing and why they are doing it will ultimately stay focused on the task ahead.

As previously mentioned, you want to hire someone who is genuinely passionate about their field and will stay focused on short, and long, term goals.

Ask for examples where they have had to demonstrate self-discipline. How do they prioritise their workload?

4. ‘As they a fast-self-learner?’

We all know, graduates sometimes need slightly more training. Of course, this isn’t something to discourage you from hiring a grad. However, you need to hire someone who is proactive in learning new things.

Software is constantly developing. The ideal grad will need to demonstrate that they can pick up new technologies, techniques, and practices quickly. Once they understand the core concepts, they should be able to develop that knowledge independently. If they are unable to learn independently then ultimately, they aren’t going to last very long.

In our training program from grads, we discuss the importance of an ‘eagerness to learn’. We know you want someone who knows that there is more they can, and should be learning. It is not enough to have just completed their degree, look for the individuals who have taken extra training courses or small coding projects. Ask for examples…

5. ‘Are they a team player?’

Can they take constructive criticism? Do they have a passion for helping out?

It is unusual to see two developers come up with the same solution to a complex problem. In the interview, developers need to be able to show that they can adapt to the standards of a team and compromise on the best solution.

They need to be able to write code which isn’t overly specific to their own unique style of organisation and thought. A new hire needs to demonstrate the ability to understand how an existing codebase works and how to add to the collective work of a team, while keeping concepts consistent.

It is vital to watch their process when writing code in order to gain an insight into their unique approach and how they might fit with the existing team.

At interview you could check how well they accept constructive criticism or challenging questions on the code challenge you’ve set them.

6. ‘Are they humble?’

Are they open to constructive criticism?

A good developer will always have some humility.

No matter how good they think they are, in the world of constant technological advancements it is important to know that there is always more to learn.

Ultimately, they are juniors, so a desire for self-improvement and a curiosity to learn are two valuable qualities when hiring grads. Look for those who are sincere, open and honest. Maybe they’re modest about personal strengths or hesitant to take personal credit for successes.

A good question to ask is: ‘How do you know when you’ve done well?’

7. ‘Can they communicate effectively?’

Are they able to communicate their ideas effectively and coherently?
Can they alter their style of communication depending on their audience?

Sometimes software developers have to communicate technical ideas to non-technical people. Other times they will have to explain their solution in technical terms to a senior developer.

The ability to adapt is another key thing to test for during an interview. Of course, communication also encompasses their ability to listen well. Are they able to fully listen to clients and problems so that they fully understand?

A graduate software developer will have to work with clients from a variety of different sectors, can they tailor their language appropriately? The best way to test for this role-playing with candidates and seeing how well they would handle a variety of clientele.

8. ‘Are they creative?’

They will be working with smart people, so it is a necessity to be able to bounce ideas around and be creative when finding a solution.

Normally the most obvious answer isn’t the one that is right. So try to test their ability to come up with creative solutions and think on their feet by posing a problem in the interview.

There are a variety of ways to test for soft skills during the hiring process including well thought out competency questions, telephone interviews, code challenges and code reviews. For more information on how to manage juniors read our blog for everything you need to know.

To see all the proactive grads who have completed our specialist software developer training program>> Click here to go through to our hiring platform.

About post author

As a recent graduate from the University of Reading. I am currently working with DigitalGrads as their content and marketing intern.
Posted in Managing Juniors

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