Covered in this blog post:
- What does a junior front-end engineer do?
- Top skills to look out for in junior frontend engineers
- It caters to a wide range of skillsets, so it’s suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced developers to use
- Its frameworks are stabilized and developer-friendly and are constantly being optimized
Developer or Engineer?
In the world of coding and programming, developer and engineer titles are often used interchangeably. There isn’t officially a distinction between the roles of each. Regional and personal variations of opinion make the difference hard to pin down. Even job descriptions and job titles will switch between the two options.
This explains the fluidity in job posts. By advertising for both engineer and developer titles, companies will attract the right people with the necessary skills.
Because these skills are becoming self-taught, another argument is that there’s a difference in education. To be an engineer, there’s an assumption that you need a university degree or something similar. Developers can be self-taught. This kind of gate-keeping is unnecessary and a good example of why we need to move towards skills-based hiring, rather than focusing on candidates’ education and experience.
Despite the variations and nuance, there is a consensus among online programming communities that there is a difference between the roles and job functions of engineers and developers, even though they share the same practical skillsets. Here’s the breakdown:
Use their skills to write, review, modify and debug software. They do this for customer-end use. Developers also document software and test applications for their clients, so they are often involved in the full product cycle, from research to development, to testing, to launch. This requires a breadth of software knowledge, but some developers will have a niche focus. To make things even more confusing, the title of ‘developer’ is interchangeable with ‘programmer’, although programmers will often have a smaller scope of work than developers.
Use their engineering knowledge and principles to do software programming, development, and data management. Engineering role requirements tend to extend beyond technical skills because they’ll need to communicate with various stakeholders such as users and coders, to do their job. Their work incorporates more analytics, scaling, testing, consulting, coordinating, and communicating.
The main difference:
Developers focus on building functional programs. Engineers often assume this role too but are expected to do scalability analysis and liaise with various stakeholders. They are more focussed on the software’s architecture.
Although the roles can differ, software engineers and software developers work with the same technology
What does a junior front-end engineer do?
As the developer/engineer confusion demonstrates, there are lots of overlaps in IT-related jobs. Now that we’ve addressed what an engineer is and how it might differ from a developer’s role, let’s demystify what a junior front-end engineer is.
- Front-end engineers work on the elements of websites and apps that end-users can interact with directly. Interactive maps, buttons, and user-entered data are some examples of front-end features.
- Back-end engineers work on the ‘under the hood’ elements that users don’t see. The back-end refers to the server, application, and database that function together so the front-end works.
- Full-stack engineers are able to work with both front-end and back-end code and applications.
Front-end, back-end, and full-stack engineers are also divided into three categories based on skill: junior, mid-level and senior. Depending on their skills, knowledge, and coding abilities (experience is irrelevant beyond its impact on skill level), front-end engineers will have one of these labels in their job title. Sometimes the mid-level is cut out, so there are companies that only hire junior and senior front-end engineers.
- Junior engineers are entry-level workers and often have little experience with code. They’ll know how to write code that works in one or two languages/frameworks and their daily work will be basic foundational stuff. Junior front-end engineers will work with more experienced engineers and UX/UI designers until they’re capable of working more independently.
- Mid-level engineers usually have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a similar subject or are sometimes successfully self-taught to a similar level. They should have 2 to 3 languages/frameworks securely under their belt. Like junior engineers, they are likely just in charge of themselves and will be managed by a more senior engineer.
- Senior engineers have an advanced coding skillset and mindset and have usually got a lot of experience. They know how to write code for maintainability and scalability, are often proficient in several programming languages, and are capable of quickly jumping into new ones. They will also have great project-management and software architecting skills, as well as communication skills that enable them to liaise with stakeholders and teach or manage other engineers.
A junior front-end engineer, then, is an entry-level engineer who works in client-side software development to build the parts of applications and websites that users interact with.
The structure outlined here is the most common way to organize engineering teams, although some companies might find it too restrictive. There are some alternatives, for example, US software experts at Devetry recommend dividing engineering teams into contributors, managers, and architects.
Top skills to look for in junior front-end engineers
Although this is an entry-level job, if you want to hire a junior front-end engineer then there are certain skills you should be looking out for in your applicants. Generally, you will need to have the following as a junior front-end engineer:
- HTML and CSS knowledge
- A basic understanding of SEO
- Basic WordPress knowledge
Because of this, some of the skills listed here might not necessarily be important for your new junior front-end engineer to have, so scroll past any framework-related skills that aren’t necessary for you. Others will be essential.
Data structures & data types
If your existing engineering or development teams use any of the following frameworks, you should consider hiring candidates who are already skilled with whichever software is relevant to your company. Below are some examples:
Vue is a commonly used front-end framework that is used to build highly adaptable apps. Candidates who do well in our Vue.js (Vue 2) test will have the practical skills and knowledge to use Vue.js to its full potential for development.
There is a common misconception that Node.js is a back-end framework used for server building only, but it can be used for both front-end and back-end engineering. If your engineering team uses Node.js, give your candidates a Node.js test to assess their proficiency in setting up its tools and packages and architectural best practices.
We recommend you use at least one of our cognitive ability tests alongside coding tests to evaluate candidates’ numerical or analytical skills.
Our numerical reasoning test will help you evaluate your applicants’ numerical aptitude and their ability to interpret numerical data. It covers numbers, fractions, percentages, patterns, text, tables, charts, graphs, and diagrams.
Give candidates a critical thinking test to ensure you hire an engineer or developer who can use their analytical skills to make sound judgments using the information they’re presented with.
How does it work?
The test gives candidates 10 minutes to complete a basic coding task. Throughout the assessment, the code is evaluated against several test cases. Some of these will be available to the candidate so they can tell if they’re following the right course or need to backtrack.
- Code structures
- Strict mode
- Data types and type conversion
- Comparisons, conditionals, and switch statements
- Alert, confirm, and prompt boxes
- Loops and iteration
- Functions, function expressions, arrow functions
Don’t use this test alone to evaluate candidates
- Cognitive ability tests
- Language tests
- Personality and culture tests
- Programming skills tests
- Role-specific skills tests
- Situational judgment tests
You can use a combination of any five tests to build a complete skills assessment for your candidates. It’s also worth adding custom questions to cover any organization-specific questions that you feel are important.
Interview your shortlist and hire the best
Since an increasing amount of development and engineering roles are remote, you might want to conduct a video interview once you’ve shortlisted your candidates. You can use our guide to video interviewing to do this.