Hiring Software Engineers in Today’s Market? Vital Data For You.

I’ve recently had some interesting conversations with senior level leadership about how they go about hiring software engineers (and also the reasons they come up with for not being able to hire those engineers).  I had an inkling that many leaders approach “selling” their opportunity to engineering candidates somewhat backwards –  selling the glitz and glam, the vision, the CEO, the parties, or the allure of Options/Equity, while they should be discussing completely different factors.  So, being my typical inquisitive self, I set off on my own to piece together some information from the ‘horses’ mouth perse, and asked my network why they (as software engineers) actually chose their job.  We all know hiring a great software engineer is one of the hardest things to do these days, so being able to tell a story that is actually compelling to a developer could be game-changing for any company. 

I surveyed ~50 startup and mid-sized company developers at well-known Boston based organizations, and found interesting data that should be useful to any of you trying to hire your next engineer(s).  The survey was scaled, inquiring about the importance of the following categories when choosing a career:  challenging problems to solve, cool products/services to work on, good team atmosphere/collaboration, solid engineering leadership, career growth potential, salary, equity/options, location, “must be a startup”, overall leadership of company (outside engineering), fun environment (happy hours, beer), and flexible working hours.

 I’ll make this simple and list the data in sequence from what’s not important at allto what is most important (this was an average taken from all responses).

The following areas were widely ranked at “Not Important at All” or “Not Very Important”: 
Leadership of the company (outside of engineering)
“Must be a startup”
Fun environment (beer, parties, etc)

The following areas were widely ranked as “Average”:
Career growth potential

The following areas were widely ranked as “Important” and “Most Important”:
Solid engineering leadership (most commented on the desire for leaders to have strong technical aptitude)
Good team atmosphere/collaboration
Flexible hours/work from home days (many said this was mandatory)
Cool product/service to build
Challenging problems to solve + cool tech stack

Feel free to interpret the data as you wish.  But if you REALLY want someone to choose your company over multiple others, I’d suggest focusing on the cool problems they’ll be solving, showcasing the strengths of your engineering leadership (and what they can learn from them), what challenging problems they’ll be solving, hopefully having some flexibility, and the cool product/service they’ll be building.   It seems all the others pieces are a bonus for most, but the bright and shiny objects don’t seem to be at the top of the list for an engineer’s decision making process.  I, myself, was shocked when folks whom I consider pure startup engineers didn’t rank “must be a startup” as important.  I learn something new every day!

I (and all the engineers surveyed) just took the time to put together a way to outline an opportunity that could actually mean something to an engineer you’re hoping to hire (possibly at this very minute).  So, you’re welcome. 

*Please note this was all based on an average, not the opinion of every individual surveyed.     

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Comment by Bill Schultz on June 20, 2012 at 1:23pm

Excellent blog, Marie.  You can't attract engineers with the same bait that you attract Product Managers, say.

Most engineers, as you noted, want to know "who am i going to be working with" and "what will I be working on?"

When I recruit engineers, I talk about the team and the heavy lifting yet to be done.  I also coach the CEO's to stay on that vein.  When you start to talk about market penetration and customer acquisition, you lose most of them.  

There are a few exceptions, but you'll know it when you see it.  


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