Junior vs senior roles

Companies might put junior and senior roles on different hiring processes. Junior candidates, who haven’t proved themselves through previous working experience, might have to go through more screenings. Amazon, for example, only requires coding challenges for junior candidates. Senior candidates, however, might be asked more difficult questions. For example, a few companies have told me that they only give the machine learning systems design questions21 to more senior candidates since they don’t think junior candidates would have the context to do those questions well.

A hiring manager at NVIDIA told me: “When you hire senior engineers, you hire for skills. When you hire junior engineers, you hire for attitude.” I’ve heard this sentiment echo in multiple places.

A senior director at a public tech company told me that when he interviews junior candidates, including interns and recent college graduates, he cares more about how they think, how they respond, and how they adapt. A junior candidate with weaker technical skills but is willing to learn might be preferred over another junior candidate with stronger technical skills but a horrible attitude.

21: See examples of machine learning systems design questions in Machine Learning Systems Design (Chip Huyen, 2019).

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