The demand for experienced software engineers is sky-rocketing. In an analysis conducted by Michael Page, ‘software engineer’ is the world’s most in-demand profession. While this fact may be music to budding software engineers’ ears, it brings little comfort to tech recruiters who are overwhelmed trying to fill open positions.
And the problem doesn’t end there.
Not only are recruiters facing a massive skills shortage across the globe, but staff turnover in the IT industry ranks at 13.2%. In other words, recruiters are struggling to source talented developers and employers are struggling to retain them.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to combat these issues. In this guide, we’ll offer insights into the hiring, onboarding and retention of top-quality software engineers and provide advice on how you can source and keep quality talent with the help of technology.
The Importance of Sourcing Top Talent
The difference between hiring superior talent and lower-performing talent is huge and affects the productivity of an entire organisation.
In highly complex positions, like software developers, research shows that high-performers are an astonishing 800% more productive than average performers. Productivity has a direct impact on the profitability of a business, which is why so many companies are looking for the cream of the crop.
To paraphrase Steve Jobs, a team of A+ developers will complete projects more quickly with fewer bugs than a larger team of B or C developers, which boosts morale within the team and drives customer satisfaction.
By focusing on the 5% who deliver 95% of the value rather than vice-versa, business leaders will reap the benefits of a more profitable business model. But, as we pointed out, sourcing the right talent isn’t easy, particularly in the post-COVID era.
Four Challenges of Hiring Quality Software Developers
Below, we’ve outlined the four biggest challenges facing tech recruiters in their search for quality software developers — and tips on how you can overcome them.
1. Limited Pool of Candidates with Relevant Skills
In 2020, there was a 4% increase in the number of people applying for computing courses at UK universities compared to 2020. The pandemic led to a rapidly changing technological landscape, improving job prospects in this field. It’s therefore no surprise that young people are flocking to the industry.
However, the problem doesn’t lie with the number of enthusiastic graduates. Companies also need to invest in experienced engineers with coding expertise — of which there is a limited pool. In fact, 61% of HR professionals reported that finding qualified developers would present their biggest recruitment challenge in 2021.
Tip: It’s not always about the number of candidates who apply. The best way to hire the right people is often from a smaller pipeline of more qualified talent. Research what motivates candidates, and with this knowledge, personalise your sourcing emails to describe what you can offer them instead of what they can do for your company.
2. Longer Hiring Times Means Higher Recruitment Costs
A 2019 study showed that it takes 50% longer to hire talent for tech roles than other positions. The typical recruitment process for software developers looks like the following:
- Sourcing: Reach out to passive and active candidates
- Screening: Determine which candidates have the skills you require
- Technical test: Assess the skills using coding exercises
- Interview: Talk one-to-one with the candidate to determine if they’re the right fit for the company
- Offer: Extend an offer to your first-pick
In an ideal world, every successful candidate who is presented with an offer will accept it. However, in reality, a potential employee is highly likely to reject the offer — particularly in the UK software industry, where the demand for software developers is soaring. Therefore, the recruitment process may need to be repeated several times.
In the UK, the average time to hire tech specialists is 55 days, although the process can take months depending on the circumstances. With all this time spent on hiring, productivity within the company takes a nosedive, meaning a loss in revenues.
Tip: Evaluate your hiring process to weed out any bottlenecks. Ask yourself, are you replying to candidates quickly enough? Are all the steps in the hiring process required? You can also use tech to automate certain parts of the process, such as CV screening tools and programming assessments.
3. Competitors with Better Offers
There aren’t many companies out there that don’t need software development talent. Everything is online nowadays, and technology is here to stay. But higher demand means there’s a higher risk of competitors poaching quality candidates.
Software engineers with in-demand skills are highly sought-after, and recruiters may offer better wages and benefits to entice them to apply to their company instead. The risk is even higher when the hiring process is so long.
Talent poaching poses a significant problem for companies, as it drives up employee expectations making it difficult for companies to compete with those with larger budgets. Business leaders need to increase salaries, expand benefits packages and add perks such as flexible working to become a viable option for potential employees — which can be expensive, particularly if the ROI of the employee isn’t sufficient.
Tip: Consider which unique perk you can offer to stand out from the competition. For example, you could offer a career progression roadmap, training and development opportunities, or a hybrid work setup.
4. A Lack of Formal Computer Science Education
Across the globe, programming enthusiasts are turning to ‘code bootcamps’ to get them on the software development job ladder. Organisations like CodeSmith offer immersive courses lasting a few months, helping students gain the skills they need to get a job in the tech industry.
However, graduates from code bootcamps face an uphill battle with how they’re perceived by employers. According to Digital Ocean, almost half of bootcamp graduates say they have sometimes been at a disadvantage because of it during interviews.
In addition, even though graduates of these courses are helping to fill the demand for software developers, some companies still prefer hiring university graduates. Not only is this to the disadvantage of enthusiastic bootcamp graduates, but recruiters are limiting their talent pool even further, overlooking potentially highly-skilled developers.
Tip: Use AI tools to eliminate the risk of unconscious bias and assess all applicants equally. Alternatively, look beyond education when making hiring decisions. There’s nothing to suggest that university-educated candidates are any more capable than bootcamp graduates. In fact, bootcamp graduates’ may slot better into the working environment as they have prior experience working in a software team as well as a portfolio of relevant projects.
The Benefits of Including Technology in the Software Developer Hiring Process
The most efficient way to overcome the challenges of recruiting quality developers is to integrate technology into the software developer hiring process.
Take, for example, BlueOptima’s Predictive Assessment tool. Our solution combines programming tests, granular insights into the candidate’s current performance, and the added bonus of predicting candidate’s expected productivity.
This kind of technology offers a host of benefits to tech recruiters, including the following:
- Streamlined hiring process. Using tech, recruiters can speed up the hiring process, saving time and money for the business. For example, our Predictive Assessment tool automates previously manual tasks such as checking task/test answers.
- Removal of bias. When you use technology to grade programming tests, you can ensure that you get a completely unbiased view of the candidate’s skills. Plus, by taking into account factors such as coding efficiency — and not just the final result — you can get a better overview of the candidates’ coding abilities, which leads to fairer hiring decisions.
- Better candidate experience. When you reduce the time spent on hiring and evaluate candidates fairly, chances are potential employees will have a better opinion of your company — which is critical to retaining talent.
- Lower risk of mis-hires. By leveraging analytics to evaluate your potential candidates’ future performance, you can ensure that they are a suitable fit for the job in the long term.
Employee Retention: Why Software Developers Look Elsewhere
So far, we’ve covered sourcing top talent. The next step is to look at retaining them — which proves a significant challenge in the software development industry.
Here are just a few of the reasons software developers leave their jobs for pastures new:
- A lack of purpose. As with other professions, software developers can sometimes feel like just another cog in the machine — a part of the furniture. But growth and purpose is a major part of job satisfaction, and without it, software developers’ interest in their work can fade, driving them to other companies. By creating a purpose-led organisation with opportunities for career development, businesses can enhance employees’ experiences and improve retention rates.
- Pay. Although money isn’t everything, if software developers feel like they’re undervalued, there’s nothing stopping them from finding a higher paying job elsewhere. Of course, this doesn’t mean increasing everyone’s pay, but if a workers’ salary isn’t an accurate reflection of the value they create for the company, it’s not unreasonable to consider giving them a raise. Conduct regular salary reviews to ensure an employee’s salary matches their performance, boosting satisfaction levels and loyalty to the company.
- Flexibility. Since the pandemic, employees across industries have experienced the benefits of remote working — and many in the tech industry don’t want to give it up. In fact, research from CodinGame suggests that 70% of developers would like to work remotely if given the opportunity. Offering remote or hybrid working as an extra benefit may be the perfect way to retain top talent.
- Maintenance/minor upgrades. When software developers join companies, they’re not (usually) going in hoping to work on tedious maintenance tasks. If they have a particularly sought-after skillset, they may be wasted on such projects and find more exciting positions with other companies. Rotating software developers between maintenance and development tasks means employees can experience every part of the programming cycle to prevent bore-out and, hence, improve retention.
The Link Between Effective Onboarding and Retaining Top Talent
It may be surprising to learn that employees place significant value on their onboarding experience. It shapes their first view of the company. Therefore, if the process isn’t streamlined, it can tarnish an employee’s opinion of the company immediately.
Here’s an example of a poorly implemented onboarding process for software developers:
Frank performed strongly through the interview process, showing strong interpersonal skills and submitting a well-executed work sample. Based on this performance, he is brought into the team. Frank experiences a disorganised and brief onboarding period. As his first project, he is tasked with fixing bugs. However, when he starts to make updates to remove the bugs, he struggles because his onboarding was poor and Frank doesn’t have a clear understanding of the company’s best practices, policies, expectations or procedures. There is a lack of information available to support Frank post-onboarding, as the company has not established a clear foundation to support their staff. Due to a lack of guidance on the company standards, he fails to adhere to processes, leading to confusion for both Frank and the team. The results are unmaintainable code that significantly increases the project’s timeframes as Frank’s efforts impact other aspects of the code. Additionally, another developer is removed from their work to fix and improve Frank’s poor outputs. This leads to depreciating confidence, mounting stress, a negative team culture and starts to affect the entire team’s output as they are having to compensate for Frank’s performance. Both the team and Frank are now in an uncomfortable situation, increasing the risk of Frank or other team members leaving.
In contrast, here’s an example of an effective onboarding process, enhanced with AI:
Sarah is a new dev at the company. As a result of her interview, Predictive Assessment and CV, the hiring manager can accurately understand Sarah’s skill level. Sarah is then taken through a clear onboarding process that matches her position and outlines the processes, policies, expectations and practices of her role and team. This ensures a smooth onboarding and integration into a cohesive team. Sarah can also be appropriately supported through her career development as the initial testing with the Predictive Assessment tool was able to accurately identify areas of improvement and strength. Happy in her team, Sarah’s stress levels are low and her chances of thriving are high — enabling a smooth transition into what should be a great career opportunity. This increases her length of employment and also means that she was accurately chosen for the role.
Using AI to improve onboarding processes means that employees’ skills are better matched to projects, ensuring they’re satisfied and productive — a win-win for both the employer and employee.
Find Top Tech Talent with BlueOptima
If you’re in a bit of a recruitment slump, you’re not the only one. It’s never been so difficult to attract (and retain) high-quality tech talent. Upgrade your software developer hiring process and leverage the power of technology with our Predictive Assessment tool to drive efficiency and identify high-performing candidates.
Here’s what our Predictive Assessment tool, powered by AI, can do to enhance the recruitment process for software developers:
- Predictive reporting means the tool can predict a potential employee’s productivity using Billable Coding Effort, ensuring a higher ROI of your employees.
- Deep code and behaviour analysis means it goes beyond evaluating the correct output to understand how robust a candidate’s solutions are and how efficiently the code consumes processing power and memory. This is critical for identifying top talent and assessing how candidates will perform on a real-world project.
- It serves as an intuitive platform for Candidate Management, letting you organise candidates into Job Roles for greater efficiency.
All in all, our solution can help you save time and money on your software developer recruitment process, helping to source the best and most suitable candidates for your business.
Start using the power of data to drive your hiring process and bolster your decision-making. Request a free trial of our tool today.
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