Experience vs. Seniority in Programming: What Is More Important?

Whom to hire, and do relevant skills come together with seniority: this question is relevant to tech leads planning to scale their teams and outlining what requirements to pass to their HRs or IT staffing services providers.

You might know very well there are 3 levels of software engineer maturity: Junior, Middle, and Senior. Today, we will consider just two last levels, as Juniors naturally are on their way to gaining programming experience.

Experience vs. Seniority in Programming What Is More Important?

Middle specialists can have enough competencies to handle many tasks with the similar efficiency as Seniors. Therefore, when hiring developers, you need to pay attention not only to the seniority level, but also to the mix of hard and soft skills you prioritize here and now.

What to Expect from an Experienced Programmer?

Experience is about the time devoted to dealing with one or another programming framework within commercial projects. Considering commercial experience witnesses the developer’s ability to understand business requirements and demonstrate proven results.

When you think of how to fill the skill gaps in your team, you don’t focus on different levels of software engineer first. Instead, you typically outline the technology stack. Then, it’s natural to set a minimal amount of years (or months) of practice with JavaScript, Golang, Azure Cloud, or whatever technology you use on the project. It’s hard to imagine that somebody considers the upper limits, like “not more than 2 years of Ruby on Rails coding”.

With experienced programmers, you can get:

  • High-quality code;
  • Ability to provide a working solution to the outlined problem;
  • High performance under deadlines.

Here, we are talking about confident team members who can smoothly work on the software solution, delivering functional changes and fixing bugs.

What Responsibilities Can Senior Software Developers Cover?

Some recruiting specialists claim a Senior programmer should have 10+ years of proven commercial experience in tech companies.

Seniority is an extended skill package, aka Experience+. It includes:

  • In-depth understanding of the wide range of tools and user needs;
  • Suggesting smart, simple, and practical solutions;
  • More precise time estimates;
  • Predicting potential software vulnerabilities;
  • Ability to lead the team and foster technology transformation.

Senior software developers are a worthy choice when creating a new department or company spin-off and launching a new product. That could be helpful for tech company growth. They know how to rethink outdated coding flows and develop new functionality. That could be a breath of fresh air during tech company stagnation.

Why Tech Teams May Choose Less Qualified Players?

The more, the better, you might think. In fact, that rule is not applicable to software developer levels. The more qualified players you hire, the higher compensations you pay them. Let’s compare average indicators within the USA. You need to be ready to pay somewhere around $140k yearly for the Middle software developer, and $170k and more — for the Senior one. So companies may reject hiring overqualified players when they have good candidates with a more modest yet solid track record.

Tech leaders can also have other reasons for moving forward with a less qualified candidate for a programmer position. Here are some of those motives.

Motive #1. Cultural fit

It is relevant for companies that build their teams like a family. Well-tuned communication suggests an ability to accept the rules of the game. A senior developer is also a human with an individual approach to team interactions. Adapting behavioral strategy or thinking style to a new company could be tricky.

When the skills of an experienced developer and a senior one ensure proper task delivery, tech leaders may choose developers who match their desired psychological portraits. For instance, an easy-going team member will better fit into a team that follows Agile methodology in development. Not all people feel comfortable double-checking the team priorities and shortening the distance between themselves and their colleagues.

Motive #2. Commitment

Well, the reason to make such a focus is close to appreciating a cultural fit. Tech hiring managers often prefer when a developer has a long-term partnership with the previous company — not less than 2–3 years. When an overall list of companies in the employment history is modest, it may signal that programmers are:

  • Successful with the team collaboration;
  • Not planning to change their team in a year or so to achieve new professional level faster, like some Seniors do.

Motive #3. Domain expertise

In conditions when tech business requires stable delivery (always), tech business owners may assume that adjusting to their niche could be too time-consuming for the skilled Senior developer without domain-related experience.

That situation is widespread in Ecommerce, with its impressive amount of web store development platforms and payment integration approaches. Plus, extremely high user loads on marketplace APIs may cause system crashes. Thus, if we consider Senior developers with different product types and industries in their track record, they can struggle to handle such large-scale projects.

Blockchain development is also a field for hunting tech talent with a 100% matching background. It requires a total immersion into the Web 3 world and its dynamic landscape. That sphere reminds us of switching to a new profession, as you cannot implement decentralized logic with the tools and approaches applicable to the monolithic, microservices or headless architecture. All architectures are different, but some architectures are more different than others.

How to Come Up with Tech Hiring Decisions Faster?

The good news is that you can structure the hiring process to make a data-driven “experience vs. seniority” comparison before hiring a developer. Prepare the same question list for all the candidates to create equal evaluation criteria for them. Include the soft skills check-up into your interview plan. Give them test assignments similar to those that are coming on a project. The more tech teams you have built, the faster you “read” people and decide if you see a fragment of your puzzle or that one from your neighbor’s box.