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11 Tips for Onboarding Junior Software Engineers

Check out our pre-onboarding checklist and best practices for onboarding junior software engineers to your team and company.

By Brier Cook  •   December 22, 2022  •   7 min read

If you’re an engineering manager, senior developer, or HR professional, you know how exciting it can be to onboard new engineering staff. Junior software engineers and other entry-level hires are especially great to onboard because they’re usually eager to learn, driven, and highly coachable!

In the digital age, effective onboarding is more important than ever. Research shows that a strong onboarding process can improve a new hire’s productivity by over 70 percent.

Let’s explore how you can use effective onboarding processes to motivate your new engineering hires. 

Pre-onboarding checklist 

Here are some step-by-step instructions for how you can run a remote onboarding process with your new junior software engineering hires: 

  1. Welcome the new developer: Head to your video conferencing software of choice for the first conversation with your new teammate. During the call, inform the new hire of your team’s normal working hours, your expectations for them, their first few tasks, the team coding standards, and any tools they’ll be using regularly. You can also use this time to get to know them and see if they have any questions for you. 
  2. Describe the company culture: The company culture will set expectations for how your new hire should behave and work with others. Help them get acquainted with your culture by sharing a digital copy of the employee handbook and a presentation on your company’s and team’s values and mission. 
  3. Share access to logins and tools: Explain to your new engineering colleague how to access your work systems. Give them details on how to use the company’s various tools like email, project management software, and messaging apps. 
  4. Help with their HR paperwork: Take time to walk your new hire through any outstanding paperwork they need to sign and answer any questions they may have. Speed up this process by sending the person copies of documents in advance of your first meeting and having them sign digitally using e-signature tools. 
  5. Send the developer a welcome package: A welcome package can make a new hire feel like a part of the team! This welcome package can include things like branded merchandise, personalized gifts, or a welcome letter from the CEO. 

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Best practices for onboarding junior software engineers

1Provide regular code reviews

Code reviews are essential for junior software engineers to learn how to identify bugs and increase their code quality. A productive code review will provide constructive feedback that helps the teammate grow their skill set so they can work through new coding challenges. During these sessions, you shouldn’t be overly critical. Instead, focus on motivating the individual to succeed with advice and support

2Offer regular feedback 

Feedback is important in every field, not just in engineering. Provide new junior software engineers with regular positive and constructive feedback to help them evaluate themselves, their work, and their habits.

At Fellow, we know that a healthy culture begins with feedback. Using our tool, you can enable your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance as work happens!

3Make yourself available for questions 

New hires are bound to have questions during the onboarding period. Make your junior engineering colleagues a priority and ensure that they feel comfortable asking questions during their first few weeks in the role. If you notice they seem confused about a project or task at any point in time, be patient in explaining how they can complete the task and provide step-by-step instructions. You can also recommend they search StackOverflow or introduce them to another person in the company who can help them out. 

4Assign meaningful tasks 

Assign low-pressure but meaningful tasks to junior software engineers during their first few weeks. This way, they’ll learn invaluable skills that will improve your team’s work and you can get to know their strengths, areas for improvement, and the speed at which they complete tasks. If you’re not sure what tasks to assign, think of nice-to-haves or general improvements like noncritical bugs, style improvements, or performance tasks. 

With Fellow, you can track action items across your meetings, add tasks in the action items section, or sync them with tools like Asana, Jira, and Zapier.

5Start building their confidence from day one

Imposter syndrome is prevalent within the tech industry with 58 percent of tech employees claiming to have experienced the condition over the course of their careers. This is especially common for young or inexperienced engineers, developers, and designers. Help your new engineering colleagues beat imposter syndrome and build confidence by acknowledging improvements in their work and assigning stretch assignments that help them develop their existing skills. Help them celebrate their small wins each day and teach them to analyze their mistakes so they can learn from them. 

6Pair them with a mentor

Mentors can help junior software engineers learn the ropes, explore new ideas, and define and reach their goals. Assign another member of the team the role of mentor to guide each new colleague through the onboarding process. Encourage your new hire and mentor to meet at least once per week during the junior engineer’s first six months in the role. 

7Communicate clear expectations

One of the most challenging parts of onboarding new hires is communicating your expectations from the beginning. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to help new direct reports achieve their objectives. To do so, you need to be sure to communicate how the individual’s role relates to the positions of their colleagues and that of the overall organization early on. You should also clarify how the team communicates formally and informally, how frequently communication should occur, and your expected response times to requests or messages. 

8Introduce them to the team

New employee introductions can feel awkward, but they’re extremely valuable. Introductions will make your new engineering teammates feel important and like they’re part of the team. Being new to a job is intimidating, so have the junior software developer sit in on a team meeting during their first week to minimize the first-day jitters. Schedule one-on-one meetings between your new colleague and each teammate they will work closely with as well. 

9Ensure they have the necessary resources

During the onboarding process, provide new teammates with all the information needed to do their job. This includes, but is not limited to, tools and software, equipment, handbooks or manuals, contact lists, and access to team channels and chats. Remember that a process that seems self-explanatory or intuitive to you may not be to a new hire. 

Tip: One of the most effective ways to provide a new teammate with information is by setting up knowledge sharing. Junior software engineers can benefit greatly from wikis that document instructions and software tutorials that can replace long and unnecessary meetings. 

10Create a plan for their career growth 

As a manager, it’s your job to help your direct reports grow professionally. You can do so by discussing topics including career growth with your new engineering colleagues during their one-on-one meetings with you. Having a clearly defined plan of action will prepare new hires for the future, have them thinking about what they really want, and motivate them to work hard and drive results. 

11Set recurring one-on-one meetings 

One-on-one meetings are an opportunity to give and receive feedback, discuss projects, review performance, remove blockers, and get to know your employees on a personal level. Schedule one-on-ones with junior software engineers to build trust and stay in the loop about priorities, team issues, and potential roadblocks. One-on-ones are also a chance for new engineers to ask detailed questions, receive coaching, and speak about other topics they don’t feel comfortable bringing up in a team meeting or public space. 

Free onboarding checklist template

Parting advice

Did you know that 83 percent of employees say they use solutions learned during the onboarding process to help manage and execute their daily tasks? Or that great onboarding can improve retention rates by 82 percent?

Effective onboarding makes all the difference. Engineering managers can provide the support, opportunities, and environment needed to help junior software engineers grow into accomplished professionals. With a bit of training, new hires can build strong foundations of skills to use throughout their careers. 

Use our pre-onboarding checklist and best practices to make every new hire feel included from the start. When your onboarding processes are structured and strategic, your junior software engineers are bound to be satisfied and motivated to succeed.

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