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A Decade in Software Development

The demand for software developers has grown considerably over the last decade. The market has matured (particularly outside of London), and the needs and expectations of both clients and candidates have followed suit. This is in part due to the digitalisation across all industries, but also a geographical shift from the capital city.

As recruiters, our job isn’t solely to match a developer to a role, but also to act as a translator between both parties. The software developer market has moved at such a rate, that a large number of businesses believe they can still secure staff despite rigid job parameters, outdated software and less-than average salaries. What they fail to see is that the trade is now entirely candidate-driven, and negotiation is everything.

Here, we explore the changes in the software development market over the last 10 years and explain what this means for employers.

The development of the North West

For us, the biggest change was less about technology within software development, and more about the cultural significance of the emerging North West tech scene. London was the known area within the UK for developer roles, but over the past 10 years, Manchester has caught up. What’s prompted this, as a lot of candidates have come to discover, is that a northern lifestyle can be just as good and often cheaper.

London may have the inflated salaries, but it’s also home to £6 pints. Now, with multiple businesses including Amazon, Moonpig and Jaguar moving to the North West, provided a developer works within a commutable distance of Manchester, they’re never more than 30 minutes from a role.

This in turn has meant a change in needs and requirements. Work/life balance has moved up the priority list, especially for those with a family. However, this isn’t necessarily the case with contractor positions, as many are still willing to travel 40/50 miles if the salary is right.

From a recruiter’s perspective, being Manchester-based meant we were able to capitalise on an emerging market, but we weren’t the only ones. Plenty of tech recruiters attempted to muscle in and increasingly removed the human aspect of recruitment during the process, treating candidates like commodities. The reputation of our practice took a hit.

In truth, these half-fledged start-ups saturated the market. But they did provide one benefit, they helped showcase the ethical recruiters – the ones who work hard despite being the 30th or 40th agency that have spoken to a specific developer on any one day.

Software development became candidate-driven

Despite changes in candidate needs in the past decade, most role requirements haven’t adapted. In other words, they aren’t reflecting the desires and demands of candidates in the wake of a broader market.

In addition, demand is insanely high. Our current estimates suggest there’s approximately seven jobs to one good software developer. I’ve seen developers facing four offers from clients and in the end, it boiled down purely to salary. It’s no surprise that the market has become so candidate-driven.

10 years ago, candidates were less picky – a high salary with flexible hours and remote working just wasn’t an option. Back then a job within development was a single role. Now there’s positions like ‘full-stack’ developer where essentially the industry has combined three roles into one.

We are starting to see a shift back towards the single role, but the multifaceted developers still continue to muddy the waters of what constitutes a suitable wage and job package for the candidate – and we predict that it will get worse. More companies are north-shoring to Manchester and unless something changes, clients will continue to need educating on what they can actually attract and how to do so.

Cautiousness began preventing certain hires

Brexit hasn’t had so much of an impact on the market, but the apprehension of its impact has. Businesses have become considerably more cautious in the face of our EU exit and are less likely to expand or develop their offering. This cautiousness does nothing to oppose the candidate-driven direction the market is in today, only stimulate it further.

This same attitude has also slowed down the adoption of supposed industry trends. Software like Blockchain, which has dominated the conversation over the past year, remains in the wings. Take the housing market for instance, in all likelihood they’ll move down the Blockchain route eventually. But at the moment, no one is leaping into it despite it being billed as the next big industry innovation.

People are waiting until it’s proven before they start investing in developers that strictly specialise in it. It’s a stable market – blockchain developers – but businesses are hesitant to add it to their job spec.

AI on the other hand is proving to be more fertile for businesses. Although, again it isn’t entirely changing the market, so much as sustaining the candidate-client power imbalance. The tighter the parameters are around a client’s job spec – say AI experience – the more you’ll need to bend to the will of candidates.

Our recommendations for securing talent

If you’re an organisation looking to hire, our advice is simple - be open to requirements. You need to separate the wants and musts when looking for new staff. Everything you identify as a ‘want’ can be dropped provided a candidate meets the ‘musts’.

For example, consider hiring a junior that you can train internally instead of hiring an excessive amount of senior developers. This ties into something we’re always pushing at Maxwell Bond - cultural-based hiring. Ultimately, tech skills can be taught - personality can’t. A candidate can be immensely talented, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll benefit your business.

That’s why at Maxwell Bond, our mission is to be honest and only place candidates in roles suited to them. Integrity is our priority, which is what sets us apart from the rest of the Mancunian recruiters.

We understand that developers are like fairy dust, which is why we’re proactive in our communication with them. We aren’t just posting job ads but advertising your business to those candidates who aren’t necessarily searching for a role. Provided you’ve got a culture that developers can thrive in, we’re certain we can find a solution for you. What are you waiting for? Get in touch with a member of the team today!