In the Silicon Valley, there is a perception gap between tech companies and developers. Several big technology companies in the Valley vocally complain that there are no developers for hire. They feel so strongly about the perceived dearth of available developers that they have taken to lobbying for immigration reform. Just this Spring, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook announced FWD.us, a new organization that will focus on immigration reform in the United States to ensure more jobs, innovation and investment. FWD.us is not alone in this push, however. A recent article from Inc.com lists 10 major tech titans leading this charge.
On the other hand, developers complain that there are no jobs. Comment upon comment can be found on Reddit and other websites about how developers are out of work.
Perhaps both sides are right—there are a lot of open jobs for good developers, and there are a lot of great candidates. It's just that they are not connecting. If you are a developer, how do you make the best impression on a prospective employer?
It is important for potential candidates to have a diverse skill set when looking for jobs nowadays. It's no longer lucrative for companies to have an employee that is only great at one thing, it's just not where the market is headed. A recent report by the Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute, titled "Future Work Skills 2020" outlines this well. Some of these skills include literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines, ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media and to leverage these media for persuasive communication, and the ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
Most developers are mastering Java, C++ and Ruby out of the gate, and that mix of programming languages is a great start. But many companies (including mine, RMS) need a whole new caliber of developers that are great engineers, as well as great communicators and company advocates. For example, at RMS, we need people with ability to work productively, as a member of a virtual team, while also having the personality and pizzazz to act as media spokespeople, or to network at industry events should the need arise—on top of being amazing software developers. When we look to hire, it all comes down to the difference between who is good, and who is great.
As a developer, how do you stand out in an ever changing industry that demands superstars? After having interviewed numerous applicants for software developer positions at RMS this year, and conversations with other hiring managers, here are four tips for getting hired as a software developer in today's market:
- Code on open source forums. Companies are now hiring third party organizations to monitor sites such as Stack Overflow and GitHub, and watch frequent users, like who is writing great code, who's solving problems creatively, and newbies that all the smart people seem to be following. This information is then provided to recruiters who reach out to developers about job opportunities.
- Spend time mastering the most asked-for skills. You don't need to be an expert in all areas, but knowing a moderate amount about a hot new skill such as Vertica or Hadoop will put you in a better position. Coders should also be hyper aware of the latest technology and understand the vocabulary so they can converse comfortably.
- Maintain visibility. The software developer community is tight and people looking for new opportunities should attend meet-ups and events that recruiters frequent to network and interact with other coders.
- Blog. Describe a problem that needs to be solved and provide sample code and solutions. Sharing in this way provides insight into how you learn, how quickly, and how successful you might be. If you don't want to blog, share your work on Google+.
Amelia Merril is Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Employee Engagement at RMS, a global disaster modeling company based in Newark, California. You may reach her here.