Offering remote working options to developers enables employers to tap into talent pools that they wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. But many experts agree that working remotely isn’t necessarily for everyone, and developers that work from home need to have a unique skill set to be productive. As a result, hiring managers often require remote developers to have a certain amount of experience. On paper, that might make a lot of sense. But is that the right approach to hiring for remote software development jobs?
In a recent live webinar that we hosted on hiring and managing remote developers, our panel argued that it doesn’t always make sense to offer work-from-home options only to senior-level programmers. What are some of the benefits of hiring junior developers for remote jobs, and what should you be looking for whenever you allow them to work from home? Read on to find out what our panel had to say.
Our panelists agreed that one of the biggest keys to being a successful remote developer is over-communicating by default. Is this the type of skill that you’ll only find on an experienced programmer's resume? According to Alexis Bruemmer, an Engineering Manager at DigitalOcean, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, she argues that younger developers have a surprising advantage: They have plenty of experience using modern communication tools in their day-to-day lives.
“Young people use modern technology like crazy,” Bruemmer said. “And for them, it naturally gets built into what they do, especially when it comes to software development.”
So instead of filtering remote software developers out by age or experience, what does Bruemmer suggest looking for instead? She discussed two traits of one of the junior developers that works remotely on her team. “It starts with someone who’s not afraid to communicate,” she says. “From there, you should be looking for people that are passionate enough about what they’re doing to seek someone out and not be quiet.”
Whether or not a junior developer lives in your city, it will be incredibly difficult for that person to get up to speed quickly and have success. But if you have a robust onboarding process for developers, our panelists agreed that it's possible to make it work, even if a less experienced programmer is remote.
Bruemmer admits that onboarding remote developers, especially those who are less experienced, requires additional effort on her part. “You have to set up mentoring and facetime with your new hires as part of your onboarding process,” she said. “The normal support that you provide for the developers in your office, you have to be conscious of doing all of those things remotely.”
So, how can you ensure that junior developers get the onboarding experience that they need? A week before any remote developer is scheduled to start work, sit down with your engineering managers to review your current onboarding strategy. Which of your most essential training sessions typically take place in-person? How often have mentors met with their entry-level counterparts in the past, and how do they usually connect? Ashley Pellicone, Director of Talent Acquisition at Namely, says that the answers to these questions are critical, especially if you hire an entry to a mid-level remote developer. “Working with my hiring managers to create our onboarding program in advance enables us to train developers remote, and helps us ensure that we have the capability to do so.”