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What's the state of the software job market?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

Extreme economic slowdown, most organizations hurt, some sectors positively impacted, layoffs and furloughs across many companies.

From your perspective, how severely is the software job market being affected right now? Any predictions on the situation short-term and long-term?

Discussion

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It doesn't seem to have slowed down any from what I've seen. I had a few recruiters on my podcast recently (cough shameless plug > thefrontendpodcast.site) and they'd echoed the same sentiment.

It's a really tough time for some as there has been a lot of redundancies and a lot of uncertainty. However, what this seems to have done is just added a little balance to the ratio of developers to jobs (which previously was weighted more favourably in that of the job hunter).

In fact, I've just accepted a new role, so I'm off to do AWS things at the end of May :D

All of the above is from the perspective of the UK market I should add.

 

I have found the opposite in the UK. I am a MSSQL dev living outside if London and my contract was cancelled as the project team was spread across the region. Recruiter calls have completely dried up an no pure SQL roles on the job boards. More mixed roles with DBA, BI.and/or AWS/Azure stack knowledge. Maybe my skills are getting out of date ☹️. I have taken the opportunity to cross train into front end (angular and Vue). I think the market will come back stronger, especially for contacting as organisations recalibrate to be more automated and remotely flexible with cloud based technology and software delivered via the browser with edge security using oAuth rather than network access.

 

Sorry to hear that Aaron. diversifying certainly won't do you any harm. It fees like a lot of pure database roles are being munged and absorbed into other broader ones, such as dev ops or the fullstack dev.

 

I've been turning down more offers in this past month than ever before 🤷‍♂️

Obviously all remote, with one really funny episode where I was told "If you want remote you'll have to accept a pay cut though". Big lol.

 

I had several recruiters tell me that they're doing remote until pandemic is over and then it's mandatory office attendance. Which seems bonkers to me.

 

Yeah, I turned down a LinkedIn recruiter for this.

It'd be an Uber or a bus and then a walk along a busy road with no sidewalks each way to be in office. Saying that COVID might make them more apt to accept a remote worker or remote 3 days a week doesn't fix that all the other staff is in office, they have no culture of remote work outside of pandemic panic, and getting to the office would be expensive or get me hit by a car.

 

Oddly enough my company seems to be going the other way. Before the lockdown there was absolutely no remote work unless it was just you putting in a bunch of overtime. But now at least a few of our middle management folks are pushing for a remote friendly policy. Partially because they might be able to put off building a multi-million dollar addition to our campus. Which is the crazy thing to me. I would think the executives would love that idea.

 

you have to understand that many managerial jobs exists because of human bodies are in the office, is also not the same to say that someone manage 10 physical workers that 10 "virtual" ones; many times also clients pay according to how many devs are made available to them, physical ones. So "virtual" devs may do the same or more but you'll have to convince many layers of people to it, and many of them have no idea about tech let alone programming. When everything go remote, a bunch of managerial jobs will be or be seen as irrelevant and disappear, those people will fight against remote work as is to be expected. We have to consider also that some dev jobs HAVE to be in person, are you gonna add their extra pay to make those jobs more desirable? or will you cut the remote salaries?, is not that simple

The jobs that require in-person attendance at all times should be the exception. If they're the exceptions, their salary calculations should be different. Same as with jobs that require odd hours, weekend work, etc.

At least, that's my view on it.

I think remote managers are still super important but the nature of their work changes in remote environments. Idk if we'll see managers disappear as a result of moving to remote but I do think their job will change

that's my point in the before-time if you had 30 physical devs with salary X, and now you only have 10 physical and 20 remote you have 2 choices: raise the salary of those 10, having a higher net cost or lower those 20, lowering it. Specially now that the job market is depressed the employers have better leverage (of course it depends on the specific market, it may vary, but as a overall view), so is no wonder why companies would chose the later. I think, in time, physical employments will become a premium and will get the extra payment but until remote is the norm and the economy bounces back, I don't see that happening.

And of course some remote managers are important, but you are talking about a perfect world, without bureaucracy, without redundant job positions and useless jobs and employees, I have to tell, those do exists, and often they are the ones that define things, and sometimes for reasons like having more employees to be in charge of, keep high the budget of certain department to not lose "power" in the organization. We would like it to be always about engineering and technical reasons but more often than not egos and politics are more influential. Just ask yourself how many 8hr jobs actually need to be 8hr jobs, no matter how long it takes to do the actual work many have to just stay en the job to make the hours, in some places they are starting to realize that is not necessary and changing accordingly but not as fast as it should and definitely not without opposition.

 

My rule of thumb is not to take any remote roles for less than £70,000/- and if any recruiters/etc respond with such a tardy attitude, I'll mention it and look for something else. I've committed well over 20 years to my craft and I feel I'm being paid for the experience I bring to any role.

Simply make sure to look for the right opportunities and you can get there. Having said that, whilst base-pay is not everything, there are those at FANG earning well into the £250k territory if not more. Those are bay-area rates though, so to be expected.

This lockdown has given me sometime to revisit my love of dangling-pointers by taking a serious look at Rust, and here's something I'm tinkering on github.com/bsodmike/sentinel-rust

 

First of all I work better at home, so you should actually pay me more.

But it's not even that. This was right after the country went in full lock-down. Like... no one was even allowed to get out of their homes 🤦‍♂️

This was right after the country went in full lock-down.

Yeah that's a bit of a head scratcher. I'd be tempted to apply more snark (e.g. "Well I guess that begs the question of the reason this position's come open...") than usual.

 

It seems like it depends heavily on who's using the product being built. Healthcare software is probably going to be fine. My company's user base is not even allowed to work right now because of stay-at-home orders, and we're still doing fine thankfully, but I know that's the not the same for all. I hope that the companies doing well continue to hire so that the people who've lost their jobs because of this can keep their careers and support their families.

 

Healthcare software is probably going to be fine

It depends on what kind, too. Either hiring like mad for COVID and telemedicine projects since those devs are burnt out... or furloughing for project cuts. My project's userbase can do a smidge at home so we're still around, but the projects that require being inside patient rooms to use the software or focus with deprioritized health areas are now getting their people dispersed elsewhere.

 

I've been interviewing lots of places over the past month or so, but am increasingly being told they're not hiring Software Engineer I positions anymore. Recruiters I'm talking to are seeing similar things. Very discouraging for me as someone who loves coding and just wants to work their ass off doing it--and who was recently laid off from my first engineering role due to COVID.

Where is this magical land where y'all are still constantly getting offers? Is that what being a senior dev is like?? :P

 

All my offers came from recruiters, and they usually work with mid or senior devs (I would say starting from 3 years of experience). I've also been extremely lucky as I entered the healthcare tech sector a couple of years ago, by complete chance, and as you can imagine it's working out so far.

I'm based in Belgium, I don't know if it makes a difference, but it's not like the economy hasn't been hit over here as well.

One difference is that due to European-style welfare almost no one has been laid off, but rather put on paid furlough. And companies (especially SMB) received a lot of support to try and keep money flowing.

I'd say reach out to as many recruiters as possible (LinkedIn), and look for jobs in healthcare and remote working-related companies.

 

Thanks Manuele! Interesting that you bring up healthcare, it's definitely a field I'm trying to focus on breaking into, since it seems to be one of the few sectors in the US reliably hiring right now--and because I want my work to have a real, positive impact!

Any advice for pitching myself to recruiters, specifically in the healthcare space? I'm specifically interested in healthcare data pipelines and backend problems, but am a little unsure of what hiring managers in healthcare-tech might be looking for in an engineer.

I think there are two kind of things that happen:

In smaller shops (eg. a startup with only a handful of engineers) what I've seen is that the final client wants to see that you have worked on a project that in some ways resembles the product they are working on. For example, their product has a lot of data visualizations, and you have worked with data before. Or, their product is mostly mobile oriented and you have mostly worked on mobile interfaces. A lot of it, sucks to say, depends more on the feelings of the hiring manager rather than on a rigorous process.

Bigger companies may have better decision making, and will try to look into your skills more deeply. They may value "potentiality" more than "he/she has already done something like this".

Remember that a recruiter is usually on your side. The more people they place the more commission they earn. Give them something about you that helps them pitch you to the clients (something you specialize on for example). And don't say "I'm looking for a job, please help with anything", but "I have an unexpected opening, I'm looking for opportunities in the XYZ field/tech stack/..."

Finally: dev.to/mjsarfatti/comment/i94a

 

Hey Isa, I'm in the same boat as someone with slightly less than 2 yrs experience. Software Engineer I positions seems like they're definitely harder to come by now in the US. You're definitely not alone in feeling this way.

 

In Northern Italy (Milan area) looks like it didn't slow down at all. Last month I've been looking for a new role for a position in a DevOps team and I've actually managed to get one, even having the luxury to choose between two offers. And some answers are still trickling in these days.

In my opinion the driving factor is the forced digital transformation many companies had to go (and are going) through during the pandemic.

 

Revolut in Poland is hiring less people. Some companies where my friends work cut payoffs up to 20% or at least freeze extra benefits. People are still getting job offers, however they are looking more like spam as usually so they aren’t valid metrics for job market imo.

 

I think it depends on the company. I'm graduating soon (in compsci) and I applied to a few places, for some of the companies I got an email saying that due to the pandemic they weren't able to consider my application anymore. I don't mind that much because I already signed a contract with another company recently (before the pandemic), but, I am prepared to lose that job.

A classmate who also signed a contract (with a startup) lost his job.

Something to consider as well is that my classmate and I are "new" to the industry with 0 experience. It makes sense that companies prefer to close junior positions and rather focus on their senior positions.

 

I think it heavily depends on the industry you're in. Some industries, like for the Payments Industry, it isn't great. This is due to the heavy reliance on small businesses accepting payments and the fact that many are closed here in the U.S.

I imagine developer jobs for Health industries are booming though. Just depends on the side of the spectrum you're on and, of course, how much you're willing to journey away from what you know.

 

From my point of view, the recruiter emails are just as strong as ever! I think some areas of the software industry are a little sheltered from the pandemic bc of their ability to function remotely more easily than businesses that require in-person contact to function.

 

My impression is that IT is one of the least affected industries. We can see that looking at the stock market, as tech stocks highly outperform the market.

At the same time the industries affected create a domino effect that inevitably hits IT as well. A lot of software is just supporting other industries.

I think the companies that will manage to adapt best at this situation and those that can even provide value in those times, also the ones that had a remote culture before the pandemic will be the best to work for.

 

Depending on the industry and role, being available to key business stakeholders in-person and during business hours is essential. I've spent much of my tech career working in finance, and it's been totally legitimate to require me to be on-premises during trading hours. For a lot of other industries, I agree with the implication that it's just cultural inertia/a toxic control thing

 

I still keep on getting offers; the only real difference is that practically everything is remote work now, which is probably a good thing (:

 

I'm seeing the same thing - I've had three or four approaches on LinkedIn in the last month, all mentioning that they were planning on interviewing via video conferencing and that the role would be at least initially on a remote basis.

 

I am working in the travel industry which is highly affected by the current pandemic. There are many developers in my team who got their salary cut by some percentage and also working on the things that are for company survival.
And there are some software companies in my country that are getting shut down because they can't survive this.

 

I've accepted remote instructor gigs. Thinking about AR/VR game dev so working remotely gives me time to pick up skills. I've also seen people take advantage of this whole situation and try and hire devs for $3/hr an hour!

 

A lot will depend on geography for this. I can't comment on the US market, but the UK side of things...

Before Covid-19, I had agreed a new job & handed in my notice. Just before my notice was complete, the job offer was retracted (because of the impending UK lockdown) - luckily I renegotiated with the employer I was leaving, and I still work for them now.

In a strange kind of way, while working my notice, I was actively recruiting my replacement (even though candidates weren't told that). The plus side for me, is that I built upon the network of recruiters.

So now that I have a large network of recruiters, I can cast a wide net for myself. Lots of recruiters have been furloughed because the work simply isn't there - while lots of companies are shut down, they're not hiring. Those that are running, have furloughed staff to run at a slower pace.

The exceptions here, are large supermarket chains and the finance industry. Both of those are currently saying "remote onboarding, remote start, after lockdown, you're in the office for the 9-5." So I'm doing what I hope others are in the industry - waiting. If I/we don't bite at the offers currently available, they'll (probably) make them more attractive by offering WFH some days a week.

My current employer has a stance much the same, after lockdown, return to life as normal. But now they are also aware that I was happy to walk away, so they're considering a small number of staff having 2 days/week WFH.

It's a strange market, we started out from a very good position for candidates, to having no employers hiring, to having some hiring but making demands... eventually it'll swing back into the candidate & recruiter favour.

 

For the most part it hasn't really slowed down much, but companies are a bit more cautious about hiring, some are on hiring freeze and in certain industries the are significant layoffs.

There is/will be a startup crunch; we are seeing the beginning of it, and as a result, there will be a lot more competition.

Depending on where you are in your career you might have a harder time securing a position.

 

I can't speak authoritatively on most sectors.

But the market for hard working SREs and people who can do effective information security automation or "Security Enablement" is booming.

Anyone doubt this?

 

In Germany most of the companies are working short-work times - "kurzarbeit" meaning if the company has loss in profits of > -10% on previous month, it can apply for state help where state pays for 60% of empoyee net salary and employer pays the rest.
It affected more than 10milions workers in April which is more than 22% of employed in Germany.
Most companies affected with smaller profits froze all investments, sallary raises, expences and stopped contracts with contractors that are non essential.

If company decides to work shortend work time: 32hours per Week, that means complete Department must respect it and employees have around 20% of sallary cut in first phase, 40-50% in second etc...
State help can be received for max time of 12 Months.

Shortterm: Everything is on hold, fewer companies are employing.
LongTerm: It will be better in about 3-4Months when industries stabilize.

 

I work for a small(ish) consulting firm and we've made some adjustments. I took a 5% paycut effect May 1st which was a bit of a bummer because I was just promoted (and received a 5% increase) on January 1st. We've suspended new hiring and are furloughing anyone that can't get onto a client project after 30 days. Still expecting to "return to normal" when this clears up, but the longer it takes the less likely that is to happen.

I was entertaining new opportunities before all of this and have spoken to a few recruiters throughout the last month and a half or so. Nothing is really going anywhere but I'm not getting flat-out rejections so I assume it's related to COVID, either by delaying interview processes or diverting funds.

 

In my city, Vancouver, I don't think it has slowed down. There's still plenty of openings and recruiters pitching.

Even the people that I mentor at my local bootcamp are still filling juniors positions so I would say that we're a bit lucky here.

 

Whats the state for contractors/freelancers?

I am looking for remote part-time or contract based jobs since this virus unleashed to fill my empty days (2 days/week), but I mostly see companies looking for full time employees/contractors. I assumed that in these hard times it would be less risky for companies to hire individuals to do temporary work, but I see the opposite, do you know why?

 

parttimers cant do essential mantenance jobs, and since all investments are slowed down it affects new contract numbers.

 

Is there anything that can bring it down? 🤔 You bet there is, but I don’t think we’ve hit the ceiling yet.

 

I've heard about people getting a salary cut and I saw a lot of tweets of people getting laid off. Other than that I don't know, haven't left the house for almost 2 months