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Why is it so Difficult to Hire Software Developers?

November 18, 2022
Wes Mitchell-Lewis
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Articles about the difficulty of hiring software developers have been circulating since the 2010’s, making this a not-new phenomena for those who are involved in the industry. Yet, it does seem to have become increasingly difficult to find top talent and, just as importantly, keep them. 

Between COVID and the continued shifts in the global economy, tech sectors are struggling to fill vacancies. According to CodinGame and the survey work they’ve done, filling developer job openings with appropriate talent is the number one concern for HR departments across the globe. This trend does not seem to be slowing down either, with major tech hubs like New York City and San Francisco having thousands of vacant positions. 

What Are The Barriers To Attracting Talent?

What is it that makes it so hard for companies to secure talent and what can they do to mitigate these barriers? 

Tech development interviews tend to be long and expensive, with the average lasting at least three separate interview sessions for a software developer. This makes it trickier to find candidates, since they are aware of the lengths required in order to secure a job. Without stand-out qualities, your competitors can secure key talent causing your company to lag behind. This proves especially difficult for startups and small businesses, which cannot compete with the larger wages of the multinationals. 

Your Offer and Benefits Are Not Competitive Enough

Software developers also know that they can find jobs far more easily than most. With 86% of software developers already employed, they know demand is high for their skills. That confidence leads to a greater ease of switching to new companies and a willingness to expend that extra effort it means a bigger payoff. The resulting environment can be highly competitive, and HR has to be flexible and innovative in order to reach the talent that they need. 

Everyone is hungry to latch onto the best talent they can find so what can you do? 

First things first; reconsider your roadmap. If you have had a job posting out there for a month or more, then you are likely not as attractive in the marketplace as your competitors. Take a look at your benefits and wage packages and ask yourself the hard questions on what is required to be able to get the developers that you need to build your products. 

With an average salary of $86,000, it can be a huge burden for small businesses to try to employ qualified developers. Combined with the benefits that are becoming a norm in the industry such as remote work and flexible scheduling, it can be hard to compete even with brand recognition. That said, if it is possible to offer remote work for candidates, definitely do so as the trend has no downward indications. 

Expand your search beyond the typical range of fresh graduates or younger adults. Most companies want to grab the younger generations because they work longer hours, will accept lower pay, and are eager to prove themselves over older peers. This means, however, that the demand on this cohort is intense, and if you don’t have the budget for these individuals you should consider expanding your search for software developers to include those over the age of 40. Looking at other local or regional trends and deciding to plan counter to that movement can also help you secure skilled engineers that otherwise may be looked over. 

Many Great Developers Do Not Have Degrees

CodinGame states that over one-third of software developers are not formally educated. They went to boot camps, are self taught, or had some other means of learning the skills that they possess. In a rigid system, HR tends to prefer candidates with degrees in order to help the company’s brand image, but this group of individuals still represents a valuable potential pool of candidates that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

By offering them alternative benefits, such as a great company culture, remote work, stipends or other workplace perks you can draw-in these potential candidates and evaluate if they will meet your needs. The attitudes around formal education of software developers is changing, however, so this possible pathway won’t be open forever. In addition, the unique methods of education produce software developers that have diverse skill sets, which can boost overall team creativity by introducing unique ideas or concepts that aren’t present in formally educated mindsets.

What Is Your Company Culture Like?

Something to look into if you are struggling to retain your software developers is your company culture. If the growth opportunities internally are limited, or the ethics and goals of the company run counter to the often metropolitan perspectives of software developers, it can be near-impossible to retain or attract talent. 82% of respondents to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey indicated that the culture was just as important as the wage. This makes software developers tricky to court, especially in the bigger tech hubs where you’re competing against the likes of Apple, Google, or Facebook. 

Plus, if you do not have a good workplace culture, disgruntled engineers can spread word around their communities which will make it even more difficult to hire new talent as a poor reputation becomes all you’re known for.

Examine what makes your competitors successful at retaining employees and what makes your company unique. Culture is a great selling point and absolutely something to hammer home on when doing initial interviews or job listings. For both you and the potential employee, it’s a great way to assess long-term fit and to figure out if this will be an employee who will stick around. 

Long term considerations are highly important when looking to hire software developers. Some companies like to hire them just for certain projects, or treat them like freelancers, but a majority of software developers are constantly on the lookout for career opportunities.

According to Haystack, 39% of software developers are seeking internal growth opportunities, indicating that there is a strong desire for self-improvement. This energy can be channeled by offering software developers training programs and industry certification assistance. Not only does it benefit you, but by encouraging this behavior when combined with an attractive company culture, it can help build employee loyalty. 

Another alternative compensation package is to offer software developers bonuses based on performance, annual incentive packages, or stock options. This tends to be easier for larger companies, but even for smaller startups this can be alluring too. When combined with a strong company culture and vision, a software developer may feel that your company is worth investing in long term and see the stock options or annual packages as a means of contributing towards that future growth. 

Finally, consider hiring software developers for skills rather than direct experience. If they have the skills needed to pass the technical portions of the interview, then the years of experience doesn’t matter nearly as much. If they can do the work and do it well, then you’ve secured yourself an employee that will typically stick around an average of two years.

Combine it with the rest of the suggestions on this list, and that number can potentially double, or become long term. Skills based interviews are not yet the norm, but they are growing more popular among company HR teams that have struggled to fill vacancies, and while the technical interview is useful, it is best tailored to the actual work they will be doing so as you can best gauge their skillset. 

The Future Outlook

With trends looking to be fixed for the next few years, companies will need to make a dramatic shift in traditional hiring practices in order to hire software developers that meet their needs. Given the competitive nature of tech, hiring managers can benefit from being flexible, open minded, and trend-savvy to best secure desired talent. Keeping in mind the high desires for remote work, flexible schedules, career growth opportunities, workplace perks, incentive programs and company culture can help offset some of the high costs of hiring software developers.

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