629 software engineers told us their top 5 priorities for their next job. (Spoiler alert: it’s not ping-pong and cold-brew)
Experienced software engineers and developers are in high demand. Many of them get daily messages from recruiters.
Unscrupulous recruiters spam emails and LinkedIn accounts, call cell phones, and dump job posts into community forums and other places they aren’t wanted. Worse, many of these recruiters don’t seem to understand, or care, what software engineers are actually looking for.
That’s why the recruiting team at hatch I.T. is comprised of software startup experts. We’re constantly analyzing data to better act as a resource for startups and engineers. After talking with 629 software engineers about their top priorities in a new job opportunity, we gained the following insights.
Priority 1: Tech Stack
Some recruiters seem to treat software engineers like car mechanics. If they can rotate the tires on a Chevy, they can probably fix a Ford, too. But software engineering isn’t like fixing a car. Just because an engineer knows Go does not mean they know Scala.
If you reach out to a software engineer about a job, you should know what programming languages and technology they’ll be expected to work with. If you don’t know, or if the software engineer doesn’t have experience with that stack, you shouldn’t waste their time.
In fact, engineers consistently said that their #1 concern when evaluating a future job was the technology they’d be working with. If the tech stack wasn’t relevant to them, everything else was irrelevant too.
Priority 2: Product or Mission
Have you ever read a product description or career page that said something like, We’re disrupting distribution optimization for synergistic networks, and wondered “What does that actually mean?”
You’re not alone. Many tech companies have product and job descriptions that are confusing or nearly unreadable. It’s such a problem, it ranks as the #2 concern among software engineers researching new job opportunities. Even more than salary, they want to know what they’ll actually be working on.
In addition, engineers consistently stated that the impact of their work was important to them. Would they be building something innovative, unique, and interesting? Would they be solving a pressing problem for people in need? Companies that don’t answer those questions clearly and up front lose a lot of interest from the engineering community.
Priority 3: Salary
When software engineers look for new jobs, they search first by tech stack, and then by product or mission. But after that, they want to know what they’ll get paid.
Many engineers expressed frustration over a lack of transparency about salaries. Recruiters often reach out without providing a salary range up front. When engineers consider a job opportunity, the earlier they know the salary range, the more comfortable they feel about moving forward.
The lesson? Recruiters need to understand what kind of salary an engineer will expect before reaching out. The more open you are in your initial outreach, the more likely it is that you’ll receive a response.
Priority 4: Culture
Culture fit is so important that it comes right after salary for engineers. Engineers have a wide range of personalities and interests, but in general, they are smart, creative, and passionate. Most have hobbies and personal projects that sometimes overlap with their work. They need to know whether they’ll be working with likeminded people, and how the company lines up with their own motivations.
Culture can include company events, shared activities, work-life balance, remote work, and even how often code reviews are conducted. It’s not enough to have a values section on your careers page with generic terms like “fun” and “responsibility.”
For example, if an engineer works remotely three days a week, how will she communicate with her team? Will there be daily standup meetings? Code reviews? Does the team spend time together after work hours? Engineers don’t want to be cogs in a machine. They want to collaborate and to have their ideas heard. That means recruiters must understand and clearly communicate the company culture.
Priority 5: Remote Work Policy
Remote work policy may come in 5th on the list, but it’s still one of the most important factors for engineers. Remote work policy outranked benefits, company growth, team size, company reputation, reviews from previous employees, and even personal growth opportunities.
Remote work policy is more than just whether or not an employee can work from home. Especially in the Washington, DC , Maryland, and Virginia metro area, where traffic can be congested, engineers often don’t want to travel to an office every day. At the same time, however, they don’t want to feel culturally cut off or separated from their teams.
Remote work policy is a matter of balance. Engineers want to know how often they’ll be able to work remotely, and they prefer as much flexibility to choose their own work locations as possible. However, they also want to know that they’ll feel connected to their team and office.
Lessons for Startups and Recruiters
While these responses may seem obvious, recruiter outreach and job postings frequently deviate from these priorities. It’s not easy to search most job boards by tech stack. Many job descriptions don’t list salaries or remote work policies. The company culture and mission are typically communicated in vague terms. Recruiters, for their part, often don’t know these details either.
Staffing agencies and recruiting firms want to find and attract the best candidates for their jobs. Therefore, recruiters need to understand companies’ cultures and technologies on a deep level. If you’re a recruiter reaching out to a software engineer, and you don’t understand what the product is or what it’s being built with, you won’t be prepared for the call.
Our team at hatch I.T. is passionate about providing insights to the engineering and tech startup community. We’re launching a new community platform, hatchpad, designed to help software engineers get the inside scoop on the things they really care about.