4 Attributes Software Engineers Look for in a Job

Plus tips on how to attract top candidates
March 4, 2020
Written by Bailey Reiners

With unemployment rates at all-time-lows, hiring talent is hard enough. However, hiring the most in-demand candidates, like software engineers, is the second most common issue employers face today. In fact, nine out of 10 business owners struggle to hire IT professionals, which is no surprise when you consider the massive 472,000-person talent gap.

To help you fill top priority roles, we created this guide covering four attributes software engineers seek in future employers, complete with tips on how to share this information and attract top software engineer professionals. 

Table of Contents

 

Opportunities for professional growth

Above all else, the number one motivator for software engineers is professional development opportunities — more so than salary, work-life balance and team composition. As an employer looking to hire software engineers, it is imperative to offer competitive career growth opportunities for all roles. 

One thing about the tech industry that's always true, however, is that it’s always changing, so it’s also important to offer career development opportunities that incorporate the latest trends in languages, frameworks, databases and platforms. Each year Stack Overflow conducts a robust survey of developers, and as of 2019, here’s the tech stack developers want to learn:

Most wanted languages:

  • Python (25.7%), JavaScript (17.8%), Go (15.0%), TypeScript (14.6%), Kotlin (11.1%)

Most wanted frameworks:

  • React.js (21.5%), Vue.js (16.1%), Angular/Angular.js (12.2%), Django (7.8%), jQUery (5.0%)

Most wanted frameworks, libraries and tools:

  • Node.js (17.5%), TensorFlow (16.4%), React Native (13.1%), Unity 3D (8.7%), .NET Core (8.5%)

Most wanted databases:

  • MongoDB (17.8%), PostgreSQL (13.6%), Elasticsearch (11.1%), Redis (10.7%), MySQL (8.2%)

Most wanted platforms:

  • Docker (21.1%), AWS (16.5%), Android (16.2%), Kubernetes (15.4%), Linux (14.6%)

If your tech team utilizes any of these technologies or offers opportunities to train employees in new technologies, share this information on all of your recruitment marketing materials. Doing so will establish your team as an industry leader and present it as an attractive opportunity for top candidates who are hungry to learn. Here's how a few companies show off their professional development opportunities with candidates.

 

Examples of professional development opportunities for software engineers

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Image via ServiceNow

We asked Brian Geihsler, Senior Manager of Software Engineering at ServiceNow:

What opportunities are there for career growth?

“ServiceNow has a robust career model for all disciplines with well-defined levels and expectations for each role, as well as clear processes for progress. There are parallel tracks for those who want to manage people and for those who want to remain individual contributors.

“When you put this model alongside the rapid growth of ServiceNow, this company is ripe with career opportunity. I and other managers at ServiceNow are intentional about building our reports’ careers and continually seek to improve the employee experience and career paths here.”

Learn more about how ServiceNow fosters an environment of growth.

 

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Image via Blinker

We asked Jimmy Bartolotta, VP of Engineering at Blinker:

You’ve risen through the ranks at Blinker, from developer to mobile lead and finally to vice president of engineering today. Can you tell us more about the growth opportunities at the company?

“One of the things I valued about Blinker from the start is the opportunity to grow alongside the business. Team members have latitude to develop skills, drive technical decisions and work cross functionally — if they are willing to reach for it. Blinker has a lot of growth potential left, and we anticipate a lot of opportunities for individuals to grow with it. 

"My hope is that all deserving and achieving individuals have a career path within Blinker that jives with their ambitions.”

Learn more about Blinker’s professional development opportunities.

 

 

Experienced colleagues to learn from

In order to learn and grow, candidates want to work with colleagues, leaders and mentors who are experienced and skilled at their work. To attract top candidates who want to surround themselves with knowledgeable teammates to learn from, share employee spotlights of your top performing engineers and their accomplishments. It’s inspiring to hear someone talk about their passions, and if candidates share a similar interest, they’re likely to be some of your top candidates. 

And if your highly experienced team members are willing and interested in mentoring new employees, candidates will be over the moon at the prospect of not only working among the best, but learning from industry leaders. 

Also consider leveraging your leadership team by having them speak to how they're paving the future for your company and industry. Ask your lead engineers how they keep up with evolving trends and why they stay at your company when they have endless opportunities. Here are two examples of how we helped industry leaders share their thoughts on learning and development with prospective candidates.

 

Example spotlights of industry leaders

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Image via Xero

We asked Joe Nelson, Senior Software Engineer at Xero:

What are your goals for your team?

“I strive to help create and foster an environment where everyone has opportunities to grow along multiple axes. It’s obviously important for us to keep our engineering skills sharp, but I also believe it’s hugely important for engineers to attain a deep understanding of their product domain. That knowledge is what enables those random sparks of creativity. It makes conversations about our products richer and more efficient, and it allows us to experience true empathy for the people who rely on the work we do. I believe these are all necessary to create something exceptional.”

Learn more about how Xero employees are encouraged to expand their skills.

 

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Image via Ellevation Education

We asked Eric Wong, Vice President of Engineering at Ellevation Education:

What advantages does the team’s diversity provide?

“Software engineers make several important decisions every day, and it is rarely as simple as a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. Thought diversity is vital when it comes to figuring out how we will build products and solve those technical problems. Working with a team that has a wide range of industry, life and social experience fosters outside-the-box thinking and effective sharing of different perspectives and ideas.

"It encourages us to actively listen, solicit different opinions and respectfully disagree, making us all better. We strive to create an environment where teammates feel comfortable sharing opinions and giving feedback. It's important that the engineers are also able to feel empathy for our customers, and that our employees include many former educators and ELLs.”

Learn more about Ellevation Education’s diverse engineering team.

 

A stellar tech stack to work with

When software developers search for jobs, they look for positions that utilize technology they either are proficient in or want to learn. To better understand the current state of tech stacks, we pulled together a list of all the top technologies software developers currently use from a recent Stack Overflow survey

The top programming, scripting and markup languages: 

  • Javascript (69.7%) , HTML/CSS (63.1%), SQL (56.5%), Python (39.4%), Java (39.2%), Bash/Shell/PowerShell (37.9%), C# (31.9%), PHP (25.8%), TypeScript (23.5%), C++ (20.4%) 

Top web frameworks:

  • jQuery (48.3%), Angular/Angular.js (32.4%), React.js (32.3%), ASP.NET (27.2%), Express (19.5%)

Other top frameworks, libraries and tools include:

  • Node.js (50.4%), .NET (38.1%), .NET Core (24.5%)

Top databases:

  • MySQL (52.0%), PostgreSQL (36.3%), Microsoft SQL Server (34.4%), SQLite (30.9%), MongoDB (26.0%), Redis (20.6%)

Top Platforms:

  • Linux (54.1%), Windows (49.4%), Docker (34.9%), AWS (29.5%), Android (25.2%), MacOS (23.8%), Slack (22.5%)

Most loved languages:

  • Rust (83.5%), Python (73.1%), TypeScript (73.1%), Kotlin (72.6%), WebAssembly (69.5%), Swift (69.2%), Clojure (68.3%), Elixir (68.2%), Go 67.9%), C# (67.0%)

Talk with your hiring manager to determine which platforms a new employee will work with and if they have opportunities to learn new technologies. This information will be critical for your job description and recruitment marketing materials to attract candidates that are qualified and will excel with the technology they are most interested in. Take a look at how we helped a few companies share this information with candidates.

 

Examples of companies promoting their tech stack

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Image via BCG Digital Ventures

We asked Vince Montalbano, Venture Chief Technology Officer, Lead Engineer at BCG Digital Ventures:

What’s your tech stack comprised of? Why did you choose it? Does it change depending on the venture at hand? 

“I’m currently building a venture where we’ve chosen to go completely serverless, leveraging AWS Lambda and Python, and using React to build an amazing front-end experience. We also integrate with a variety of publicly and privately available third-party services for things like payment processing and other industry-specific data.

"We chose our tech stack based on what we thought would best suit our desire to quickly build with a lean team, recruit top talent, and expand with the same language into areas like machine learning.”

Learn more about how BCG Digital Ventures built an attractive tech stack.

 

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Image via Versus Systems

We asked Kalisa Falzone, Software Engineer at Versus Systems:

What’s the biggest technical challenge you’ve had to overcome?

“Before coming to Versus, I had primarily worked with JavaScript and the front end. The first thing I worked on here was React Native, which was a slight nudge out of my comfort zone. The team was so supportive that I became more courageous and got better at back-end coding. Since then, I have worked with Ruby on Rails and Elixir, which are both very different from what I was initially hired for.”

Learn more about why employees love Versus System’s tech stack. 

 

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Image via SteelHouse

We asked Cathy Fan, Senior Software Engineer at SteelHouse:

How does the opportunity to work on different parts of SteelHouse’s platform help you grow as a developer? 

“It definitely reminds me that there are other technologies and other ways to do things out there. In college, I started programming in C/C++. Then, I moved onto Java when I entered the workforce, and now I’m doing almost solely JavaScript. I noticed, for me, that sometimes when you work on one project or with one language for a long time, you can get comfortable and set in your ways and forget that there are other and better ways to do something. It’s good to be pushed out of your bubble every now and then.”

Learn more about how SteelHouse supports employee growth through its tech stack.

 

A healthy company culture

Nearly half of all job candidates indicate company culture as one of the top reasons for applying to a job. Additionally, 47% of active job seekers are searching for a job because their current company culture is inadequate.

Therefore, in order to attract and retain top candidates, it is critical to build a strong company culture that stands out from competing employers. Here's how a few companies highlight their unique company cultures to attract and retain software engineering talent.

 

Examples of Stellar Company Cultures

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Image via HeadSpace

We asked Nathalie Huynh, Lead Software Engineer, Platform at HeadSpace

What role do employees have in shaping Headspace’s culture?

“We’re aligned around our mission and values, which enables us to collaborate on how we translate them into the culture. Within my first six months at Headspace, I saw the need for a stronger engineering culture. I knew that extracurricular intellectual stimulation and more opportunities for collaboration would yield a more engaged and excited team, so I worked out how I could introduce hackathons at Headspace.

“It started with an engineering team hackathon, and then we expanded it to the entire company to hack around the theme of social impact. I've also brought together people for a technical reading and writing group, and a women's coding group. These groups are small, but they create a space for learning and creativity, which I've found keep teams engaged at work.”

Learn more about Headspace’s engineering culture.

 

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Image via Custora E-Commerce

We asked Abraham Bae, Software Engineer on the Data and Infrastructure Team at Custora e-commerce:

How is Custora’s culture different than previous companies in which you've worked? How do they allow you to be your authentic self in the workplace?

“I've known I was queer since elementary school and I've been out for 10 years now, but I still find myself continually navigating coming out and being out. For me, the workplace can be the hardest. I haven't been out at most of my previous jobs. At Custora, I feel the most comfortable being out of any job I've had.

“One of my top goals at Custora is to promote diversity. I've helped start a queer group — we call people who work at Custora ‘Custorians’ and so our group is called ‘Queerstorians.’ We're hosting a pride week, having talks and increasing visibility of diversity at Custora.”

Learn more about what differentiates Custora’s culture.

 

Bonus: 6 tips for attracting software engineers

Now that you know what software engineers look for in their next job, you need to determine where you will attract them. Here are a few tips on how to promote these highly sought-after attributes and entice top software engineers to apply for your open roles.

 

Implement social media recruiting

Social media recruiting is a significant part of any talent acquisition strategy. It’s important to note, however, that every candidate, industry and role calls for a different recruitment strategy. Software engineers frequent platforms that best support their interests, which is different from other professionals. Stack Overflow breaks down the top social platforms software engineers utilize as . . . 

  • Reddit (17.0%)
  • YouTube (16.4%)
  • WhatsApp (15.8%)
  • Facebook (15.6%)
  • Twitter (13.5%)
  • Instagram (7.4%)
  • I don’t use social media (6.6%)
  • LinkedIn (5.3%)

Here's how one company utilized YouTube, the second most popular social platform among software engineers, to attract job seekers. 

The team at Apptio utilized their YouTube channel to promote a recruitment video that specifically highlights their engineering team. A lot of engineers utilize YouTube to learn new skills and keep up with industry trends, so this is a great way to connect with candidates on their turf.

 

Tailor your career page

No matter where a candidate first learns about your company as an employer, they will always return to your career page for more information and to apply. More and more companies have created a section on their career page dedicated to software engineering talent, providing information specific to those candidates.

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Image via Noom

Noom’s engineering career page shares information about their engineering team's culture, benefits and expectations to help candidates better determine if their company is a good match. This information also helps job seekers better prepare application materials and interview questions tailored to a specific company.

 

Participate in your local tech communities

A great way to connect with candidates in your market is to get involved in your local tech community. Participate in tech meetups, join online communities that are tailored to your city and get to know people in-person. Doing so will improve the efficiency of your recruitment process, saving you time and money. It’s way easier to get to know a candidate and separate the good ones from the great through face-to-face conversations than skimming a one-page resume.

Not only that, but meeting passive candidates where they are helps build your talent pipeline. Engaging top tech professionals and nurturing a relationship with them before roles become vacant can significantly reduce your cost-per-hire. Rather than spending time and resources sourcing candidates, your recruiters can simply reach out to your talent community and re-engage interested individuals. 

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Image via Built In Chicago

Built In connects local communities through a shared passion for tech and the desire for purposeful employment. With a large engineer user base, our platforms provide a wealth of information software engineers care most about — tech stacks, engineering team spotligthts, company culture, professional development and networking events. 

 

Bring software engineers together for hackathons

Tech companies host significantly more hackathons than any other industry, and the top reason companies host public hackathons is to recruit great candidates. At these events, around 38% of attendees are developers, 18% engineers and 9% are data scientists, making them great opportunities to get experienced software engineers together and identify top talent.

 

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Image via Casecomps

Casecomps takes advantage of the high turnout of software engineers at these events by hosting a seasonal hackathon. They also partnered with Flatiron School Chicago, which provides education for aspiring software engineers, data scientists and UX/UI designers, to encourage candidates early in their careers to attend this event. 

 

Host regular recruiting events

In addition to hackathons, there are a number of other recruitment events companies utilize to attract top engineering candidates. Even though engineers spend a lot of time online, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy real face time. In fact, the vast majority (60.5%) of software engineers prefer in-person conversations compared to just 28.6% of software engineers who prefer to have conversations online. Here are a few examples of how companies optimize different recruitment events to attract engineering candidates. 

 

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Image via Shutterstock

To help job seekers improve their technical interviewing skills, a group in Seattle called Puget Sound Programming Python (Puppy), hosts interview practice nights tailored specifically to engineers. 

 

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Image via Enova

Knowing that recruitment events can be stressful for even the most experienced and extroverted professionals, Enova wanted to take a more laid back approach to recruitment events. They partnered with us, Built In Chicago, to host their event at a local brewery. The casual vibe and friendly atmosphere fosters organic conversations and attracts a wider range of candidates.

 

If you're hiring for software engineering roles, you know all too well the challenges that come with attracting top job candidates. Utilize this guide along with our other tech recruiter resources to get talented engineers in the door before your competition sweeps them off their feet. 

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