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Trending in Software Technology: A Glimpse into the Boston Job Market

We sat down with Ben Hicks of WinterWyman’s Software Technology division to get a feel for the talent pool and what’s trending in the hiring market. Ben shares his observations, experiences and recommendations, and what he’s anticipating in the coming months.

What is the overall health of the software industry in New England?

We’ve been in a prolonged period of a candidate starved and high job volume market. Every year it gets a little more intense and harder to hire. Great for candidates – challenging for hiring companies.

What jobs and skill sets are in the highest demand?

Software Engineers who are individual contributors are by far highest in demand (as opposed to leaders and managers.) This made up 79% of our jobs in 2018, and that trend is continuing in 2019. Within Engineering, Java is the most in-demand language, followed by Python, Node.js, Scala, Ruby and .NET. More than half of the demand is in Boston and Cambridge combined.

What is a common question you get from your clients in this market?

We are constantly trying to help our clients navigate diversity in this candidate-starved market, and there are no easy answers. We know that Engineers with different backgrounds see problems differently and come to solutions in different ways. With diversity in backgrounds comes diversity in thought, which often leads to diverse solutions and a better end result. Beyond this fact, many candidates look for a diverse working environment. For these reasons and others, clients want to improve diversity within their Software Engineering teams. You often need diversity in order to attract diversity, so it can be a challenging process in such a talent-starved market where many companies struggle to find everything on their hiring checklist.

What are some trends you are seeing among companies hiring for Software talent?

Many companies in the Boston area are working to offer more and more flexibility in schedule and quality of life. One such trend is a noticeable increase in companies who support limited but regular (1-2 times per week) work from home options.

What are your predictions for salary changes in your areas?

In this competitive candidate-driven market, salaries will continue to creep up. This won’t change until the economy changes.

What are candidates looking for?

Most often in this market, Engineers are paid well. As a result, while salary is important, many candidates look for several additional things. Candidates want an opportunity to learn new technologies, contribute to new projects, grow within their careers and improve their commute times, work environments and overall quality of life. Benefits and flexibility are important, too.

How are your clients getting candidates to say yes to their offers?

Companies who focus on helping candidates build their career, as opposed to filling a hole in their organization, tend to have significantly better results in hiring Engineers.

What are clients doing inadvertently to push candidates away?

If your interview process has too many steps, or is too long, you are at a significant disadvantage in this market. In addition, there has been a large increase in companies who ask candidates to take a test or complete an exercise. This can be a valuable tool, but timing is key. If you ask a candidate to devote time to a test or exercise too early in the process as a screening tool alone, you are likely to have a very high opt-out rate. Engage candidates and get them excited before you ask too much of them.

What suggestions do you have for using social media as a recruiting tool?

Use your social media presence to build your brand. Don’t use it solely as a tool to advertise open roles. Candidates have an overabundance of jobs coming their way – they want something different from a company’s social media pages. Candidates want to know about culture, growth, success and the work. Companies that incorporate some recruiting as part of a full branding strategy seem to have the most success.

In this candidate-driven market, what advice do you have for hiring companies?

Companies need to be in a candidate mindset and avoid hiring practices that only serve their own needs. When you are interviewing the candidate, you need to be actively selling the role, the company, the team and the work. Make yours a cool place to be – the market opportunity, the technology, the product. Get the candidate excited.

As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to tests and exercises, you need to hook them first and get them to a point where they want to invest time in those requests. A skilled technical interviewer can also get a lot of the same information that you would derive from a test or exercise. Also, providing a positive candidate experience to this pool of applicants is crucial. Be buttoned up, communicative, let them know whom they are interviewing with and if there are specific things they should know about reaching your offices. Don’t keep them waiting or interview them through lunch without offering something to eat. The interview process speaks to how the company treats its employees, so make it positive.

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