9 min read

The Definitive Guide to Hiring a Software Engineer

The demand for software engineering talent has always been high. And the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that it will continue to rise — by an impressive 22%, compared to the 4% average for all careers. 

There are a number of factors driving the hot market for software developer talent. The software development industry is continuously innovating: custom apps for mobile devices, software applications suited for AI and IoT, backend development to support aging code, and other trends ensure that companies will always hire developers. 

And, as projects become increasingly complex, companies are struggling to hire engineers who have verified credentials. Today’s software development projects require high levels of expertise in the full tech stack. 

If your company is competing for software engineers, you may be seeking to look for ways to ensure a great candidate experience while keeping your hiring funnel under control. Software developers are in high demand; if your recruitment process takes too long, many will lose interest and abandon the hiring process. In this guide to hiring a software engineer, we’ll show you how to hire a software developer and make sure your company is staying competitive in this competitive job market. 

What does a software engineer do?

A software engineer designs and creates computer systems, software, and applications to solve problems. As you can see, software engineering is a relatively wide field; this often makes it difficult for hiring teams to find candidates with the right skill set. 

First, let’s clarify the difference between a software engineer and a software developer. A “software developer” and “software engineer” are two professional titles that are often used interchangeably. A software developer is primarily concerned with building components for a piece of software. Software engineers oversee the framework of the development process. If software engineers are the kitchen’s head chefs, software developers are the kitchen’s line cooks. 

In the job market, this is often seen as a distinction without a difference. Software engineers and software developers tend to have similar, if not identical, skill sets. Though some technical teams may look for specific development knowledge or specific engineering skills, for the purposes of this guide, the hiring process is basically the same. 

Software engineers use programming languages, architectures, and platforms to develop different types of software — everything from computer games to network control systems. Software engineers should also be able to test, improve, and maintain existing software built by others. 

The daily tasks of a software engineer will vary depending on the company and role. Essentially, software engineers develop computer software, write and test code, design and test new programs, optimize software for speed and scalability, launch new features and upgrades, and collaborate with clients and security experts to continuously meet product expectations. 

To be successful, software developers need a broad range of technical skills and soft skills. 

What skills does a software engineer need to have?

Software development requires expertise in different coding languages. According to CodingDojo, the top ten in-demand coding languages in 2022 are: 

  1. Java
  2. Python
  3. SQL
  4. Javascript
  5. C++
  6. C#
  7. C
  8. Go
  9. Ruby
  10. Assembly

Coding skills are fundamental to success as a software engineer, but that’s not the only capability to look for when assessing qualified candidates. Software testing and debugging is another area of technical skill that candidates need. This technical proficiency is most often gained through experience, rather than a coding class or computer science degree. 

Depending on the specific role, developers may also need network capabilities, full-stack development skills, database management, and an understanding of object-oriented design. As you write the job description, it can be helpful to perform a job task analysis to understand the specific software design and development capabilities needed. 

[Read more: How To Conduct an Effective Job Task Analysis in 8 Easy Steps]

Soft skills are an underrated asset in this job. The stereotype that software developers rarely interact with others is outdated. Today, the best software developers not only have technical abilities, but also communication skills, collaboration skills, and other interpersonal skills. Great developers should be able to take on development projects that require working directly with clients and other key stakeholders. And, the ability to work remotely is also an asset. 

Top 10 in-demand coding languages in 2022
The top 10 in-demand coding languages in 2022, according to CodingDojo

What’s the best recruitment funnel for a software engineer?

The job market for software engineers is hot: there are more open positions than there are candidates. As a result, it’s important to build a streamlined, accurate recruitment funnel to find the right new hire. Here are some steps to take to start hiring software engineers. 

1. Create your ideal candidate profile

An ideal candidate profile is a persona or description that encapsulates all the skills and qualifications for which you wish to hire. This profile can help you write a strong job description, determine what skill assessments you’ll use later in the process, and formulate interview questions that can help you find the best candidate. Learn how to develop an ideal candidate profile in our 7-step guide.

2. Refine your sourcing strategy

To keep your recruitment funnel running smoothly, take the position that less is more. Refine your sourcing strategy to ensure your team is receiving applications from top software development candidates. 

According to research from Toptal, ​​the single best source of qualified candidates is personal networking

2021 sources of external hires
A list of the most popular sources of external hires for software developers, according to Toptal

Referrals help you identify software development talent that may not even be looking for a new job. Today’s top software developers are likely fielding multiple demands. So, having a personal connection can pay off. 

Outside of referrals, your career site and outreach on job boards are also key. Look for boards that work with remote software engineers in addition to freelance software developers. Many professionals in this role are well equipped to work autonomously. 

3. Use a skills assessment early

As we’ll discover later, the easiest way to hire a software engineer is to use a skills assessment. When used early in the hiring funnel, programming challenges, a technical assessment, or a hybrid assessment that includes things like communication skills can generate a shortlist of the best software developers. Hiring managers don’t need to spend time interviewing any software engineers who aren’t ready for the job. 

Skill tests can be set up to assess many programming languages. Since many companies hiring software developers tend to use some sort of coding challenge, candidates will expect this when they apply. 

4. Don’t skip the interview

While you can skip a technical interview — a skills assessment will give you all the information you need — you should consider hosting a behavioral interview. Invite the most talented developers to meet with key members of the existing team to see if they fit. 

Skill assessments allow you to focus your time on interviewing those that have met or exceeded your requirements. From there, make offers to the most suitable candidates and wrap up your hiring process. Tech hiring moves fast, and you’ll want to let any candidates who are rejected know as soon as possible so they can continue to seek new opportunities. 

For a deeper dive into optimizing your hiring process, check out our complete guide: How To Hire A Software Developer

How do you assess software engineer skills? 

It’s often difficult for a non-technical hiring manager to assess the skills of a senior software developer, for example. Luckily, there are plenty of tools that can help. 

Many companies go beyond a basic coding test and use a software development skills test. This assessment is specifically designed to test the skills of software developers. By using a variety of question formats, such as text-based, video, multiple choice, and especially code questions, a recruiter can see which candidates can do the job before they get the job. 

These tests usually cover topics such as programming languages; software development tools; and algorithms and data structures. Vervoe offers a number of different software development assessment templates. These templates can be used to assess different levels of expertise in different programming languages and technical skills. Here are some examples of skill tests available in our assessment library

[Read more: Software Development Skills Assessments]

There are plenty of other assessment types that you can use in addition to skill assessments. Live coding challenges provide real-time insight into how a software developer works through a project. Coding questionnaires can be used in the hiring process instead of an in-person interview. And, pair programming offers the opportunity to bring new developers into your dedicated team to see how well they work together. 

[Read more: 5 Different Ways to Hire Software Engineers]

As you determine the best way to test someone’s technical background, look for a solution that can save you time. Vervoe’s unique machine-learning AI automatically grades tests, providing you with a ranking of the best software developers that have applied so you can continue to move through the process quickly. This process is more efficient than scoring someone’s coding questionnaire manually. 

Our world-class skills assessments platform makes it easy to hire software developers with a library of dedicated software engineering assessments. Screen candidates in with software development tests designed to be inclusive to everyone. And watch the AI-powered grading and ranking empower you to scale the number of applicants you can assess.

Final thoughts

To hire software engineers, companies need tools that make their hiring funnels short, streamlined, and productive. The demand to hire a software engineer is not likely to fade anytime soon. As a result, your company needs a hiring funnel that provides the best possible candidate experience while testing their ability to come up with innovative solutions, code flawlessly, and deliver high-quality software. 

To learn more about hiring a software engineer, check out our guide on how to hire a software developer. Explore our growing software development assessment library. And get a demo of Vervoe, or start using the product now.

Emily Heaslip

Emily Heaslip

Emily Heaslip is a versatile freelance copywriter who writes for finance, tech, and e-commerce brands. She currently lives in Cape Town and can be found running, hiking, and exploring the South African coast in her free time.

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