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In this post
1. Highlight your tech stack.
2. Showcase career development opportunities.
3. Align on their values & larger purpose.
4. Keep a close eye on the hiring landscape.
5. Hype up your team & their work.
6. Make sure the experience is everything.
Final thoughts on hiring software engineers
We asked engineering and IT leads and business leaders what they are doing to compete in today’s battle for software engineers and developers. Below, we dive into their advice, which falls into six main categories:
Engineers are the masterminds behind the innovative products companies create, so it’s no surprise that they want to work with cutting-edge tech themselves. By showcasing your tech stack, you can ensure that the candidate has a clear understanding of the role and the technologies they would be working with.
“This was the number one topic for almost all developers I interviewed or hired, in particular the ones in the early stage of their careers. They choose this job because they are passionate about software technology. Before they applied for the job they scanned the job listings of many companies for technology keywords (programming languages, database technology, cloud vendors, and other buzzwords like AI, blockchain, AR, etc.) and probably compared ranking lists. They want to get an opportunity to learn new, modern stuff to add more badges to their profile,” says Stefan Radulian, VP of Product Management at Diligent.
Stefan notes that, in his experience, an innovative tech stack becomes less important as an engineer becomes more senior. They recognize the biggest challenges in software engineering remain relatively constant, regardless of tech. For a company with legacy tech, he suggests selling the opportunity to learn how to modernize a tech stack which is a valuable notch for software engineers to have in their career belts.
“To attract talent, I recommend talking a lot about how the tech will help them up their game for the next decade in their career. I think this is a nuance often forgotten in the ‘what's in for me’ section,” adds Stefan.
Training, education, and professional development go hand-in-hand with access to top tech.
“Companies should invest in a solid education strategy that provides employees with self-paced learning opportunities, remote education options like webinars, conferences, or networking events, so developers' skills stay top-notch. Software developers need to be proactive about keeping up their knowledge—but companies need to provide them support too if they want to attract the most talented engineers in this competitive job market,” says Haya Subhan, Manager and HR Specialist at Sheffield First Aid Courses.
Showcasing the possibilities for continuous learning and skill-development demonstrates that your organization is invested in the individual software engineer's future.
“Technologists like being able to innovate, think outside of the box, and challenge the status quo. Creating a culture that fosters this environment is very compelling for candidates as it demonstrates an area where they will be able to add value and move the dial, and ultimately providing them with a platform to grow their career,” adds Amar Keshani, Director at Baringa Partners.
Innovative tools, training, and mindsets are a part of retaining talent, too. Amar notes that he’s seen many software engineers lose interest and start to look for new opportunities when they feel their work environment no longer supports this culture.
Factors like compensation and benefits always play a role in a candidate’s decision to shift roles, but more than ever, software engineers are looking for companies that align with their personal values and mission.
“Salary and benefits are important barometers that are perceived as a measure of how they are valued, but only need to be good enough to be a footnote in discussions. Ultimately, this is a sugar rush that does not survive more intrinsic demotivating forces,” notes Mark Dunlop, Head of Engineering at Xero.
To Mark’s point, salary and benefits are no longer the differentiators in many cases – organizations that make their big-picture goals clear are the ones gaining an advantage with tech talent. Jeremy Martin, Fetcher’s Chief Technology Officer agrees that painting a picture of how and why their work is going to be meaningful is key.
In addition to the impact a role will have on the company and its customers, social responsibility has also become a part of the conversation when hiring software engineers. Amar at Baringa says he’s seen an increase in his candidates mentioning that they were specifically seeking out B-Corp certified companies. These certifications add an additional layer of validation to prospects trying to align their values with their professional work.
“Software engineers understand that they possess a very relevant talent that can have a significant impact on society and they want to use it for something good,” adds Stefan Radulian. “They are looking for a company that sparks their intrinsic motivation and they are seeking a meaningful job that makes them feel good about what they're doing.”
You can’t win the talent acquisition game with software engineers if you aren’t paying attention to the rest of the field. Zoltan Garabuczi, Diligent’s Director of Engineering, stresses the importance of keeping a pulse on your competitors and on trends with candidates.
For example, the job market and candidates’ priorities in his home country of Hungary were impacted greatly by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2021.
You’ve also got to keep an eye on companies in your market, what they are doing to attract candidates, and updates on their workforce. In the event of layoffs, a quick reaction time is key to reaching qualified talent looking for a new role.
In addition to competitors and candidates, talent teams need to consider which candidates will help them navigate their current and upcoming challenges.
“In 2023, it is crucial that recruitment teams hunt down candidates with a wide range of experiences and skills because this year will be a tumultuous and highly challenging one,” says Brendan Mcgreevy, Head of Strategy at Affinda. “Under these circumstances, it is always better to have software engineers on board who are not comfortable in their roles but will put themselves out there and take risks.”
Arkadiusz Terpilowski, Head of Growth & Co-founder at Primetric, agrees. He always looks for candidates who have a history of staying current with the latest technologies and programming languages—this could be through attending conferences, contributing to open-source projects, or even just pursuing their own personal projects.
“Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, and it's absolutely crucial that your team members can keep up and adapt to these changes,” adds Arkadiusz.
Employer branding goes beyond slapping a “Best Employer” award badge on your site. Engineers want to be inspired by who they work with and what they can achieve together. Great leadership and great work have a domino effect, interest from more great leaders and top tech talent.
“In 2021, I hired approximately 25 engineers for a new development group in Hungary. With COVID restrictions, it was impossible to be on-site, so the first few hires were crucial in establishing a leadership beachhead,” says Mark from Xero. Because these key hires quickly bought into the mission and led with confidence, Mark saw a high acceptance rate and grew the team quickly.
Earlier in his career, Mark was hiring a dozen engineers for two teams at a Telematics company. Even a decade ago, the market was very competitive but he found establishing a solid team early on paid off in the long run, in attracting engineering talent.
“As the team grew, it became well known for the type of work it was doing, the level of success, and the culture it was establishing. Others wanted to join for both the challenge and the vibrancy,” says Mark.
Say you have a killer tech stack, inspiring values and goals, a clear picture of the job market, and a galvanizing team. If the candidate experience isn’t great for software engineers, none of it matters. So what can you do to pull everything together in one personalized, yet efficient, package?
Justin Vajko, Founder & CEO at Dialog Employer Branding, suggests knowing your candidates’ main questions ahead of time, and proactively answering them.
“Ask your current team what they wanted to know when changing jobs. Then, record the answers to these questions by asking them to your hiring manager over video. Turn each answer into a video, and let your recruiting team pick and choose which ones they want for outbound LinkedIn messaging. You can also put them all on one page on your website to give picky candidates a clear idea of what it's like to work for you,” says Justin.
To code test or not to code test? Some form of technical assessment is standard for many roles, but Ben Schwencke, Lead Consultant at Test Partnership says coding tests should be reserved only for junior hires.
“Coding tests are a common sticking point for software engineers, especially for experienced hires. Requiring candidates to complete them signals the employer doesn't trust their expertise, frustrating more experienced engineers,” adds Ben.
Soft skills like the ability to adapt and communicate effectively are equally as important, especially for more senior-level roles.
“Soft skills can be just as essential as technical prowess for staying ahead of trends and maintaining a competitive edge. Ultimately, hiring software engineers with both technical and soft skills is essential for creating a strong team to help your organization succeed,” adds Nuria Requena at Spacelift.
Because of the ongoing shortage of technical talent, recruiters may feel like they can never catch up with demand. It may be tempting to turn to generic messaging and blanket recruiting tactics. However, many of our experts emphasized that companies need to treat engineering candidates as individuals with distinct goals, preferences, and backgrounds in order to win them over – and retain them in the long run.
“The important thing to remember is that no two candidates are going to be the same in what they seek, so demonstrating adaptiveness to their needs is going to be a key differentiator for them,” says Amar at Baringa.
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