Hey all, I’m back, writing stuff. I’ve had a read over of the annual Stack Overflow Developer Survey – in their own words, the ‘largest and most comprehensive survey of people who code around the world’, which took results from nearly 90,000 participants around the world.

I always think there are some interesting insights hidden between the lines of any big bulk of statistics (duh, that’s partly what they’re for, right?), but I think there are some really interesting points to take in from a recruitment point of view. As the survey is international, not just local to the UK, I appreciate there are some caveats to a few points made below – I’ve done my best to make it clear when something applies to the UK only.

Stop asking for a degree

The first thing that jumped out to me is the education in the survey. 49% of people in that survey had a bachelor’s degree, with 25% having a Masters; 63% of those degrees overall having a Computer Science/Software based degree. How many job specs do we see that say, ‘Qualifications Necessary: Degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering or similar field’? How many people do you think these job specs alienate from applying, or even passing review? Well, we can say with some level of accuracy, that you’ll miss out on around 51% of the market. 

Stack Overflow Developer Survey - Education

Look, I get it. There are some things you might want from an engineer that would typically be taught in a software engineering degree – but people can learn those things by themselves! If they have similar experience, worked in a similar role, and proved they’re capable, why should a degree be the be-all-and-end-all? As of last summer, Google no longer cares if you have a degree; yeah, sure, if you’ve got one they’ll take it into account, but it ‘won’t stop you getting your foot in the door’, as they say. I know every Series A start-up on the market thinks they need the best talent possible, which they’ll determine purely by name brands on a CV and whether you have a degree at Oxford or Cambridge, but seriously, if Google doesn’t need it then neither do they. Look at skills, experience, knowledge and attitude.

Your Software Engineers will leave your company

It’s true. I don’t mean this in some sort of scare tactic, or nobby ‘recruiters will headhunt your talent’ sort of thing, but it’s just the nature of working in a “candidate driven market”. What this means is that in a talent shortage, candidates are sought after from so many different companies and directions, that they can dictate the terms of how they leave – we see higher pay-rises, more demand for the talent, and more measures made to retain talent (notice periods, no compete-clauses etc.). 

In this survey, Stack determines that 55% of engineers in the UK aren’t looking for a new job, but could be open to the right thing, while another 10% on top of that are actively looking for something new; further to that, just short of 60% of engineers have moved job in the last two years.

Statistically, if one of your engineers is reaching a two-year tenure, it’s more likely they’re about to leave than stay – and you won’t have a clue until they hand in their notice. Now, this isn’t purely doom and gloom, because companies that care will do the right things to make sure this doesn’t happen – making sure you have an inclusive and diverse culture, pay well, offer learning and development and similar.

Build a great company and people will stay – but don’t assume that people aren’t looking because they’re happy, because you never know, someone might have just dropped them a message about their perfect dream role. 

Understand your employee’s priorities

Lastly, in one of the more revealing parts of the survey in my opinion, Stack outlines the most important job factors for the respondents. The main three across the world, all coming above 45% are, in order: ‘Languages, frameworks, and other technologies I’d be working with’, ‘Office environment or company culture’, and then ‘Flex time or a flexible schedule’. I don’t think any of those things are a massive surprise, because it ultimately comprises of what you’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis, what the people you’ll be working with are like, and whether you can have a bit of flexibility in your life.

For me, I have to be put my hands-up and say the biggest surprise is the elements labelled at the bottom of this section. ‘How widely used or impactful my work output would be’, ‘Industry that I’d be working in’ and ‘Financial performance or funding status of the company or organisation’, all come in really low compared to my expectations.

I think it’s quite common that myself, internal recruiters and even hiring managers (some at small companies, to some at the most respected tech companies in London) will quite regularly refer to the ‘impact of the work’ you’d be doing, the exciting industry, and the amazing growth (shown by amazing funding) – and it’s really interesting to note that less than 25% of the demographic care about any of it.

I think this is potentially determined by the competition in the market as mentioned above; if every other recruiter message a software engineer receives advertises ‘amazing impact in a disruptive industry, with a £30mil Series B!’ then what are you going to use distinguish the two offers? It’s going to come down to the day-to-day life and conveniences, in the end.

To conclude my recruitment-and-survey-themed-stream-of-consciousness, I’d like to thank Stack Overflow for the survey in the first place. They put in a huge amount of work to put on the survey, extrapolate that data and make it readable for mugs like me – it’s also super helpful data that can help people like me do my job better, and hear a wider perspective from the industry I’m working with on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully, with some of the things mentioned above (education, candidate-driven market, people’s priorities), we can strive to all be better.

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