The demand for software engineers has been on the rise for quite some time now, and shows no sign of stopping. Software developer employment is projected to grow 21% by 2028, which is faster than the average projected rate of growth for all occupations (5%).
This increase in demand has a significant impact on recruiting strategies and business objectives. Tech recruiters need to improve their approach and employers must recalibrate their goals so hiring doesn't become a serious obstacle to success.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes software engineers so desirable and discuss strategies to beat out the competition for top talent.
Table of Contents
- Demand for Software Engineers by the Numbers
- What Does a Software Engineer Do?
- Software Engineer Candidate Requirements
- What Caused the Demand for Software Engineers?
- How to Combat the Demand for Software Engineers
Get advice from 12 experts on interviewing, hiring & retaining software engineers.
Demand for Software Engineers by the Numbers
Before we dive in, it’s important to mention the difference between software engineers and software developers. The two roles carry out similar responsibilities, but with different approaches. Still, the titles frequently refer to the same job functions and are often considered to be synonymous. In order to distinguish between the two, tech recruiters need to delineate the specific role requirements and ideal qualifications within their job descriptions.
To illustrate how the demand for software engineers has grown over the years, take a look at the statistics below.
Job postings for developers increased by over 50,000 from Q2 2017 to Q2 2018.
The number of IT job postings over the same period of time increased by a whopping 32%.
There were 1,365,500 software engineering jobs in 2018.
This number is projected to reach 1,649,600 by 2028
Demand for blockchain engineers is up 517% year over year.
Additionally, the demand for security engineers has increased by 132%.
The U.S. software job market currently faces a 472K talent shortage.
Hiring software engineers is the second most common problem among employers today.
What Does a Software Engineer Do?
In short, software engineers are responsible for designing and developing software programs. These can be applications with specific functionalities or entire systems for computers and other devices.
In order to design programs, engineers need to understand user intent, ideal functionality as well as outside user requirements, such as aesthetic preferences, cybersecurity defenses as well as malware and virus protection.
Software engineers and computer programmers work closely together, with engineers designing the system and programmers writing and testing computer code. However, in some cases, software engineers are responsible for the entire design and development process, including all coding requirements.
While the duties of a software engineer can vary across companies — especially in startup cultures where employees often work beyond their job descriptions — here are core responsibilities for engineers:
Assess user needs and desires, then develop software to address them
Work through multiple ideation phases involving diagrams and flowcharts to outline the software’s functionality
Design software elements and conceptualize how all the pieces fit together
Collaborate with computer programmers and other specialists to ensure the software continues to perform optimally
Run continual software maintenance tests
IT project managers are also closely involved in the development process. These are software developers that oversee the process from initial stages to final implementation, ensuring the team meets deadlines and achieves target objectives.
Creative roles, such as graphic designers and creative directors, also work alongside engineers to achieve a desired UX/UI that makes the software enjoyable for users. Additionally, security engineers are fully integrated into the process to ensure the systems and programs adhere to cybersecurity regulations and internal security standards.
Software Engineer Candidate Requirements
Usually, software engineers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, however, related fields are often acceptable. Still, due to the breakneck speed at which the tech industry is evolving with new languages and systems being developed overnight, experience often trumps education. In fact, 73.7% of software developers are at least somewhat self-taught and almost nine percent of developers have honed their skills through coding bootcamps.
Because they are expected to work closely with programmers, and in some cases write lines of code themselves, software engineers must have a strong understanding of programming requirements and capabilities. Additionally, it’s imperative that engineers continue to test their skills and grow their knowledge through professional development.
When working in-house to create programs and systems for their employer, software engineers must have a clear understanding of their field. For example, a software engineer in a trading firm should know the basics of exchanging stocks and commodities, as well as the management of funds and assets.
In terms of desirable qualities, in-demand software engineers are excellent problem-solvers, strong communicators, detailed-oriented and great collaborators. Attention to detail is necessary to ensure every line of code is correct and in its proper place. When the code is not correct, methodical problem-solving skills come in handy.
To ensure programmers, designers and security engineers are fully aware of the program’s desired functionality and requirements, software engineers must be able to communicate expectations clearly and work well as part of a team.
What Caused the Demand for Software Engineers?
As a recruiter, it helps to understand the cause of job market trends in order to devise appropriate recruiting strategies — especially when recruiting at a startup. We’ve explained a few of the many factors that have contributed to today’s skyrocketing demand for software engineers below. Keep these in mind as you set your 2020 recruitment goals and finalize your team’s strategy.
The world’s gone digital
First and foremost, it’s expected of every business to have a digital presence, whether that’s a website, smartphone app or custom software. Regardless of the industry served, businesses needs engineering resources to grow their presence and services.
Even companies like McDonald’s and Major League Baseball require skilled software engineers to build and maintain their websites, apps and other tech-dependent services. Plus, with Android and iOS smartphones, companies require either engineers with broad skill sets or multiple engineers with varying specialties.
Code has an expiration date
Most code lasts only a few years before it becomes obsolete and needs to be either rewritten or reinvented altogether. New languages with improved capabilities are constantly being released, which means software engineers must continually upgrade existing software or create entirely new programs from scratch. This is another reason to make professional development for software engineers a priority.
Employers want experience
Most employers assume they need the most experienced tech professionals in order to stay ahead. This has negatively contributed to the fight for highly-qualified software engineers, and wrongfully so. The tech industry is constantly evolving and expanding — what was hyper-relevant five years ago may be obsolete within the next five. Therefore, it stands to reason that experience does not pose an advantage for what lies ahead.
Graduates don’t have desirable degrees
Despite experience — self-teaching, online courses and coding bootcamps — being as valuable as relevant college degrees, the limited number of graduates with formal training plays a large part in the demand for software engineers. With fewer than 50,000 computer science graduates in 2017 and more than 500,000 available computing jobs in the U.S., it’s no surprise why competition between employers is so fierce.
How to Combat the Demand for Software Engineers
While the demand for software engineers appears to only be increasing, employers still have a fighting chance. Focusing on employer branding can improve the efficiency of your recruitment process and quality of hires.
Implement the following four strategies into your 2020 recruitment plan to help overcome the rising demand for software engineers.
Improve employer branding efforts
Highly sought-after candidates like software engineers are likely fielding multiple job offers. In order to stand out from the crowd and distinguish your company as an employer of choice, build out your employer branding strategy.
Your employer brand is your reputation among job seekers and improving it can give you an advantage among top candidates. If you’re known for your competitive salaries, welcoming company culture, robust diversity and inclusion initiatives and flexible work-from-home policy, candidates will be fighting for your open roles.
Learn what software engineers look for in a job and promote those aspects of your company as part of your employer branding strategy
Increase your employee benefits
In today’s job market, standard insurance benefits and vacation policies won’t cut it anymore. To show job seekers you value your employees and truly care about their wellbeing, offer additional perks that increase their quality of life — in and outside the office.
Flex scheduling and work-life balance are top priorities among job seekers: 51% of employees would change jobs for one that offers flexible scheduling. Offering additional benefits can help you attract talented software engineers and retain top performers. Not only that, but 57% of employees would be more loyal, more productive and request less PTO if employers supported their mental well-being, so implement benefits that cater to your employees’ health and wellness.
Make nontraditional hires
To minimize the cost of adding new perks and benefits, many CIOs are making nontraditional hires and turning to internal training. Employers have started to identify current employees that have the makings of a successful engineer but need additional training.
Grow your employees’ skill sets and improve employee engagement across your entire team by offering professional development opportunities. Doing so will show your employees that you value their loyalty to your company, and you support their interests to embark on a new career trajectory.
Additionally, look for prospects that have unconventional skills but are willing to learn or have shown interest in software engineering. Having an unrelated background can be an advantage. For example, English majors are excellent communicators and graphic designers are highly creative individuals, two qualities of successful software engineers.
Promote from within
The cost of hiring a software engineer with a degree in a relevant field is significantly more than hiring a candidate with fewer years of experience or less education. Your candidate persona may have upward of four years experience, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an available candidate at an average market price that isn’t considering multiple, compelling offers.
Hiring a junior software engineer can significantly cut down on your cost-per-hire and reduce your time-to-fill. Help these young professionals develop their skills and promote from within when they’re ready to take on a more advanced role.
As technology becomes an even more central fixture of our society, the demand for software engineers will only increase. In order to ensure your organization stays relevant within the industry and among job seekers, hone in on your employer branding efforts to keep passive candidates interested in your company as an opportunity. For more tips and tricks, check out our tech recruiter resources page.
Get advice from 12 experts on interviewing, hiring & retaining software engineers.