Rejected a senior, hired a junior

Why technical knowledge is not an excuse for not being a team player

Posted by Łukasz Chrząszcz on Tuesday, July 2, 2024

It was one of my first interviews as a Team Leader, so I remember it quite vividly. Having finished reading candidate’s CV and preparing questions, I rushed into a conference room to meet with my future employee!

I was a bit overwhelmed, as the guy had more 10 years of experience in multiple companies… A few years more than I had, so I felt kinda intimidated. Especially since he already passed a tech part of the interview. Now, all those “HR questions” are just a formality, right?

After a quick chit-chat and a few jokes I started to ask some questions that will spark some nice discussions and get to know my fellow future employee.

“If you come across a problem in code that you don’t know how to solve, what you usually do?”

“I google it”

“Yup, that’s something we all do, nice, but what if there’s no clear answer?”

“I just copy the code from stack overflow”

“Ok… cool, I see, but what if that doesn’t work as well?”

“I copy the code from another answer…”

I felt like he’s irritated by me drilling down, so I changed the perspective to get the answer I was expecting.

“What if your teammate asks you for help in the task their doing?”

“I ask him to google the answer”

“He did, but no answer there”

“That’s his problem. I have my own tasks that I’ve committed to deliver. If I help him, he’ll get a raise and I’ll have to explain myself what took me so long with my tasks.”


Just wow…


You can imagine I left that interview devastated. In all my teams I foster a team spirit, helping each other and thinking about achievements as a team, not individuals.

Feeling puzzled what to do with this candidate I reminded myself that I have yet another interview later that day, but it was with a guy who had only a few months of experience. I was looking for someone experienced to join my team, so I didn’t have high spirits about that…

A few hours later I’ve heard:

“I’d definitely pair with anyone who asks for my help, I’ll learn a lot and maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to help!”

“I think that my achievement is an achievement of the whole team. I guess it’s rarely a one-man’s job to finish a task, it takes a lot of discussions, code review and food-for-thought from everyone”

That’s a team spirit I was talking about!

With no hesitation I decided to hire that junior engineer, instead of a senior as I saw way greater potential in junior tech knowledge growth and his already existing cultural fit, than in the senior to magically change his mindset.


What’s in this story for us? Tech skill is something important, but cultural fit, team spirit, soft skills are equally important (or maybe even more important?)

Do you agree that it’s better to hire a nice junior with high potential than uncooperative senior with huge knowledge?

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

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