A Few Loose Threads

How to Hire More Software Engineers in 2020

Across the United States, hiring goals are getting harder to hit for high-growth tech companies. Study after study has shown that the talent gap is growing for in-demand software engineering roles, which means hiring a software developer is getting really competitive in some markets.

So, how do we compete in a tight hiring market, where big tech companies can pay more and offer better benefits? We can pay a boatload to headhunters to bring us more senior engineering candidates. We can post more entry-level software engineer jobs. We can poach talent from other mid-sized tech companies in our market.

Or, we can think about our hiring process differently.

Based on the hiring data we collected in 2019, the trick to hiring software engineers in 2020 is to think less about hiring super-senior developers and more about how to play Moneyball. Top hiring managers in 2020 aren’t focused on hiring the best programmer in their city… They’re focused on building a cohesive team that is greater than the sum of its parts.

In this post, we’ll dive into three changes you can make to your developer hiring process to increase the odds that you hit your developer hiring goals in 2020.

1. Hire More Remote Software Engineers in 2020 Than 2019

According to Andreas Klinger, the Head of Remote at AngelList, 80% of new developers in 2019 are more interested in remote jobs than co-located jobs.

While a lot of hiring managers struggle to find top talent in their city, others are shifting their processes to be more remote friendly. It turns out, hiring a software developer is way easier when you’re open to remote applicants.

Websites like AngelList and weworkremotely.com cater to this growing group of remote engineers, but making sure to keep any remote positions listed in job boards of surrounding cities and other particularly large cities is a great strategy to employ. We’ve also found that the HackerNews monthly hiring thread is a great way to get into more peoples’ inboxes - 60,000 more inboxes.

However, this means that job posting processes need to be clean and concise. Remote engineers might not have the recognition of the engineering team, the company, and the company culture that a local engineer does. When hiring software engineers, with culture specifically in mind, it’s important to focus on the unique aspects that the candidates won’t be able to find elsewhere.  

2. Increase Application Volume On Job Boards

Hiring managers often say “we don’t care about job boards very much… Our top candidates come from referrals.”

After analyzing data from thousands of software engineering applications, it turns out those hiring managers may be wrong.

In fact, 87% of top-tier software engineering candidates in 2019 came from job boards, and they out-performed recruiter and referral-sourced candidates by 30% on skills assessments.

So, why do job boards have so many doubters? They’re higher variance.

The average hiring manager overlooks job boards as an effective candidate source for software engineers because they get a lot of bad applications from job boards. While this can be frustrating, many of the highest-quality candidates apply to jobs on job boards when they’re passively looking for jobs.

In 2019, we saw that companies who actively posted on job boards and used a realistic work simulation to screen all applicants that came through that channel saw between 3-5x the number of applicants as other companies and hit their hiring goals in half the time of their counterparts.

3. Reduce Application Turnaround Time To 24 Hours Or Less

In 2020, the difference between best-in-class engineer hiring processes will be the speed in which applications are turned around. In our research, we’ve found that top software engineers are on the market for 10 business days before they accept a job. Hiring a software developer has many moving parts, but companies that want to compete for top talent need to start by reducing the initial time to contact to less than 24 hours.

This quick turn-around time is the secret to hiring more software engineers because it encourages engagement between the candidates and the organization looking to hire them. Not only does this strategy get the engineer closer to a further interview stage, it keeps that organization top-of-mind for the developer who could be thinking of potentially making a change in their career. In our research, we’ve found that companies who follow up within 24 hours of application consistently see a much lower candidate withdrawal rate.

These are the strategies that fastest-growing engineering teams will be using meet their ever-expanding engineering goals and their hiring goals. If you’re looking for more research-driven ideas to streamline your software-developer hiring process, our team has you covered.

Written BY

Kevin Huynh
October 27, 2020