Common Software Engineering Skills Are Difficult to Recruit

We've reported this year that hiring demand for Software Engineers has been strong this year while the talent supply remains limited, making these jobs one of the hardest to fill in the US. We noticed that many job ads for Software Engineers required Linux or Unix skills and one of the following programming languages:  C++, Java, XML, or Ruby. If you are currently recruiting for these skills, the below charts can be shared with the hiring manager to develop your strategy for sourcing the best candidates.

There are currently 1,720 employers advertising Software Engineering jobs that require either Unix and/or Linux skills and on of these common programming languages. In addition, many employers are recruiting for several positions. For example, below are the 15 employers with the most ads. is currently advertising for 380 unique jobs. Lockheed Martin and IBM are sourcing for over 100 different Software Engineering jobs that also require these skills. Not only are these companies competing against the other organizations, but they are also competing against themselves to fill all their open jobs.

Companies Currently Hiring Software Engineers with Linux or Unix and C++, Java, XML, or Ruby Skills

By looking at our Candidate Supply chart, we are able to see an estimate of how many potential candidates meet our search requirements across the US. There are about 480,000 Applications Software Engineers currently in the workforce nationwide. However, only 156,000 meet our search requirements, meaning that just 32% of all Software Engineers meet our requirements across the country. To put it in another perspective, of the 130 million people in the US workforce right now, just 0.1% meet these selected requirements.

Candidate Supply of Software Engineers with Linux or Unix and C++, Java, XML, or Ruby Skills

After looking at the hiring demand and candidate supply, it isn't surprising that our Hiring Scale™ shows that these openings will be hard-to-fill. Nationwide, there are about 10 potential candidates in the workforce for every job currently being advertised. Some locations will see more difficult conditions. For example, San Francisco has a smaller talent pool with only 6 candidates in the workforce for every opening. Recruiters in this area are likely to see a longer time-to-fill, a higher cost-per-hire, and more fierce competition to source candidates.

Hiring Scale for Software Engineers – San Francisco, CA vs. Nationally

If you are currently recruiting for a Software Engineering opening that meets these requirements, bring these charts and this information to the hiring manager to discuss your recruiting strategy.  One strategy Recruiters and hiring managers should review is sourcing from locations where talent pools are larger. For example, the talent pool in Portland, Oregon is larger than average with about 32 potential candidates in the workforce for every advertised job. Pulling potential candidates from Portland, or other locations, may help to reduce the time-to-fill since you'll have more candidates that meet your skill requirements to choose among.

Additionally, as you are discussing recruiting strategies with hiring managers, consider candidates in other jobs that have these skills. By including all IT and Computer occupations (not just Software Engineers), the number of potential candidates increases to 40 for every job ad. You may find that Web Developers or other Computer Programmers meet the job requirements and are qualified candidates.

Candidate Supply of all IT Professionals with Linux or Unix and C++, Java, XML, or Ruby Skills

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Comment by Zachary Sines on December 27, 2011 at 2:32pm

I got similar stats from CareerBuilder directly.  They sent these to me for .NET Developers:

  • Roughly 145,000 openings for .NET developers (6 month period)
  • Roughly 45,000 candidates with .NET on their profile (may not be a .NET developer)
  • Thats 0.3 active candidates to openings (and could be lower)

Then they compared that to PHP:

  • Roughly 47,000 openings for PHP developers (6 month period)
  • Roughly 6,700 candidates with PHP on their profile (likely to be a developer)
  • Thats 0.14 active candidates to openings

These are NATIONWIDE stats, and scary for a technical recruiter, because there are not a lot of candidates out there.

Good post and something that needs to be mentioned to clients.  A lot of clients I work with who are more passive searchers are still thinking the economy will find them a candidate cheaper than I can.  Good luck if you think that.

Comment by Bill Schultz on December 27, 2011 at 5:39pm

Thanks for the post.  Supports my decision not to actively take on Engineering searches.  

Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 3, 2012 at 10:46am


Thanks for shedding some light with stats on the existence of common software engineering skills that are in high demand this year.  But, if your statistics are correct, I'm trying to understand where the true problem lies in recruiting software engineers.  It certainly can't be a lack of qualified software engineers--they seem to plentiful.

Frankly, if any discipline you're trying to fill has approximately “156,000” potential candidates who meet your search requirements, and they make up “32% of all Software Engineers” out there—you actually don't have a serious problem that I can see.  Hell, I thought you were going to say there are only 25 people in the country who fit the bill and multiple companies looking for them--now that would be a problem.

Please give me an assignment where there are only 156,000 viable candidates currently in the workforce for me to pursue.  You can then take away 100,000 who are: picked off by competitors (covers the 1700+ employers looking for the same skill set); are poor quality; will just not move; cost too much; or never return your calls--that still leaves a healthy 50K, give or take a few, who are approachable and getable. 

Certainly there are difficulties in finding and attracting quality candidates for key positions but scarcity would be the prime problem.  That doesn’t seem to exist in your example even if you have competitors looking for the same skills and qualifications.  BTW that's there problem--you just have to beat them to the best candidates that can be wooed away from their current employer.

I’ll also add that for employers who are having trouble recruiting SW Engineers—the smart ones will be growing their own talent base by establishing targeted training programs to enhance their the capability of their current technical workforce.  They will also start collaborating, if they haven’t already established liaisons, with key colleges who are constantly pumping in new technical undergraduates and graduates with the latest skill sets to be competitive coming into the workforce as interns, contractors or full time direct.


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