What do developers really want from employers?

How do you attract new developers? The key's not in salary, a report says.
13 December 2018

What drives Computer Science graduates isn’t as simple as a decent salary. Source: Shutterstock

Employers seem to have got hold of the wrong end of the stick when it comes to what they think new development talent wants in a job, a report by HackerRank shows.

Where many employers are keen to push a cool company ethos, fat salaries, and perks like free beer, ubiquitous Fussball tables and break-out rooms complete with scatter cushions, new graduates are more interested in work-life balance, decent holiday entitlements and the wherewithal to learn more languages, new frameworks and develop their skills.

The latter emphasis on autodidacticism chimes well with graduates from Computer Science degrees, at least a third of whom say that they almost entirely self-taught. It seems that the materials being imparted in academe lag behind those required in the real world. The worst culprit appears to be the UK when compared to North America and India. In Great Britain, a quarter of developers new to the market are entirely self-taught, with schools getting no props for contributing to baby-devs’ knowledge.

Academic institutions have always had problems teaching what’s thought to be absolutely cutting edge, at least to undergraduates – it takes a while, after all, for staff to get up to speed on a new skill to the level required to teach bright young minds. But that’s a problem in the arts and humanities too, as well as in STEM subjects.

But academic institutions can’t be blamed in the entirety for skills shortfalls. Many developers are bringing languages like Python, Ruby, and C++ to the table, but the language in biggest demand, with a huge shortfall? Humble old JavaScript.

Many trainee developers are eschewing professional training, preferring to fire up YouTube in a browser to learn the latest tech, or – heavens forfend – preferring to learn their chops from books. The emphasis appears to be on moving to dynamic languages and frameworks, and developers are keen to learn before and during their Computer Science degrees.

The thirst for knowledge continues throughout careers, too, according to the survey. Senior developers are planning to learn four more languages on average, while new developers intend to take on six. In APAC, that number rises to seven.

C++, C, and Java are pretty much the foundation of most developers’ skill sets, but these are the languages which are most oversubscribed when it comes to getting jobs. Apart from JS, employers are finding shortfalls in more niche languages, like Ruby, Go and Swift, plus any devs with experience in Node.js, AngularJS and React will find a position with relative ease.

So, instead of break-out rooms that look like tree-houses, indoor slides, ball pits, free Doritos and generous salaries, what should employers be offering? Flexible and shorter hours, plenty of vacations, training and development pathways for developers, and the rather mysterious ‘interesting problems’, according to the report.

At the end of the day, for developers entering the workplace, it’s all about exercising the grey matter, it seems. If you employ developers, forget leasing a pinball machine, buy books and invest in training.