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How to Distinguish Junior, Mid-Level, and Senior Software Engineers?

Joseph 29

How to Distinguish Junior, Mid-Level, and Senior Software Engineers

Here’s A Quick Way

Level Up Coding
Published in
3 min read4 days ago


Software engineering is a diverse and dynamic field that requires different levels of skills and experience. Whether you are a candidate or an interviewer, you need to have a clear understanding of your own or others’ abilities and potential.

But how can you tell the difference between a junior, a mid-level, and a senior software engineer? What are the criteria that you can use to assess their performance and growth?

In this article, I will share with you some of the techniques that I use to gauge the skills of software engineers across experience levels.

1. Debugging Complex Issues

Give them a crash or performance bug in a large, unfamiliar codebase with partial information. Observe how they methodically narrow down the issue and deduce the root cause.

  • Senior engineers can independently debug effectively with minimal guidance.
  • Mid-level engineers succeed with some pointers in the right direction.
  • Juniors require significant hand holding and struggle without step-by-step instructions.

Debugging skills demonstrate problem solving, technical breadth, and perseverance.

2. Learning Speed

Check how quickly they pickup new technologies like languages or frameworks. How fast can they start delivering value?

  • Top engineers onboard rapidly, shipping useful code in days.
  • Average engineers take weeks of training and examples before contributing.
  • Weak engineers may take months to write basic code even with extensive support.

Fast learning is crucial with the pace of change in tech.

3. Domain Knowledge

Do they know the product inside-out? Are they the first person asked about issues?

  • Experts have deep knowledge from experience. They quickly isolate likely problem areas.
  • Intermediates have growing familiarity. They may eventually identify issues.
  • Novices lack context to…