Insight article

Surviving The Current Developer Drought


Many hiring managers are still under the impression that their biggest hurdle in adding a new developer to their team is getting the headcount approved. Once it’s done, you can just hand over a job description to an IT recruiter and in a few weeks – you have a new developer! Well, not so fast, ladies and gentlemen… Within the last six months or so the market really changed, and finding good developers became as difficult as gold mining. I’d like to bring our hiring managers up to speed on the current state of affairs to help them plan accordingly, as well as share some ideas on how to survive this shortage and still meet your deadlines.


The most popular and therefore tough-to-find group is the mid-level developers (2-5 years of experience), knowledgeable but still “affordable” — their longevity on job boards is about two days total from posting their resumes to signing their offer letters. Some get recruited right at their desks! Yes, make sure your mid-level developers you might have hired at “recent grad” salaries are compensated well — or they could be lured away. These guys go like hot cakes! Senior candidates who actually have the adequate competency for their years of experience (and expected compensation) also quickly find jobs, often presented with a few viable offers to choose from. So we are left with three still somewhat available groups: senior developers who are not very good despite their experience, junior developers who need training and pricey consultants who are not interested in full-time jobs. With this said, the average time is takes to find a good developer today is about eight weeks and I am not even talking about open source programmers (that topic just brings me to tears).


  1. You can potentially speed up the process by having your IT recruiter venture out to what we call the “secondary markets”: St. Louis, Minneapolis, Columbus, various cities in Kansas and so on. Select areas with large enough corporate presence to have developers, but where there are fewer opportunities for them to prosper. Considering the importance timing, it’s good to start having conversations with your HR about potential relocation and interview-related travel arrangements before you have a potential candidate.
  2. Another route is to consider sponsoring a bright foreign developer. Transferring a student visa or an existing work visa isn’t as difficult as starting from scratch, but certainty is a cumbersome and expensive process. On the flip side you will end up paying a lower salary and receiving a higher level of commitment (switching jobs is more difficult when you require sponsorship).
  3. If the above two options aren’t feasible, but you still need someone right away, I would propose to ask your IT recruiter for a senior level consultant, who is able to hit the ground running. Don’t look for a “bargain”– in today’s marketplace you get exactly what you pay for. I wouldn’t recommend trusting the recruiting company alone to qualify them. Invest your team’s time and make sure this person is rock solid. At the same time bring on board a smart junior developer, who also tests well with your team and has the aptitude to learn. While the senior resource relieves your team by taking on some work load, they can all contribute to training your junior guy or gal without falling behind on deadlines. Finding a senior-level contractor takes a couple of weeks, about the same time frame that would take to find a promising junior developer. Considering that you would hire a junior resource at a comparable salary, those savings would make up for the expense of a short-term contractor and keep you on time with your initiatives.


Times are tough, but with some flexibility hiring managers can survive them without jeopardizing their projects. The key here would be having realistic expectations: looking for a personable superman who has extensive experience with your entire technology stack and a degree from Harvard, all the while willing to travel 100% — and all of that for $80K — will not result in a hire. In today’s market it’s good to assess the “almost perfect” candidate against your most immediate needs and put a serious weight on aptitude. Keep in mind that technology in your organization will continue to change making it a lot more critical to hire smart people rather than people with a perfect skills set. Passionate developers, for whom programing is a lifestyle, will quickly get up to speed on missing skills. Furthermore, someone with this mindset will grow with your organization and would likely become the initiator of new solutions and a source of progress.

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