Software developers are highly valued because of the lack of available talent, but senior software developers are even more valued because they are knowledgeable enough to work independently as highly skilled engineers.
They not only have the full autonomy to be self-directed, but they are often mentors to junior engineers. This in turn helps organizations build better products and train better talent.
Moreover, they have had years of experience, developing deep industry knowledge, in such areas as healthcare, security, operations, gaming, and so on.
Their niche skill sets enable them to create more effective code architecture for their field.
While software developer is the fourth-highest paying high tech job (see chart below), thanks to the additional skills and experience senior software developers possess, the estimated total pay for them is $150,562, according to Glassdoor.
Recruiting Efforts Play Critical Role in Hiring Senior Software Developers
Attracting senior software developer talent starts at the recruiting stage, according to Melissa Sussmann, lead technical advocate at Sumo Logic.
Some companies want to test talent by having them complete homework in the interview process, she said.
However, senior engineers often have a portfolio and years of experience they can pull from to showcase the quality of their work, so this seems redundant.
Moreover, experienced talent is savvy enough to realize when they are being asked for free work.
"Transparent and fair compensation and respect for the interviewee's time will win over the most experienced developers," Sussmann said. "This means no free assignments during the interview process. Also, tell interviewees what compensation looks like prior to setting up a time with the team."
She added: "If your organization is set on providing homework assignments in the interview process, try compensating all candidates for their time."
Discussing Compensation and Retention
While compensation obviously plays a big part in attracting talent, it is just as important to discuss retention.
"Build better talent in-house via mentorship and clearly communicated career growth paths for junior devs," Sussmann explained. "Make your investment in these employees very clear, even as interns or recent college grads."
People often choose to stay or boomerang back if they feel the company they work for values them and can help them build their careers, she said.
"Lastly, fostering a work culture of respect and inclusion will allow you to grow your talent pool and better retain top talent," she said.
From Sussman's perspective, demand for senior developers will continue to rise, as many organizations realize that just hiring developers straight out of college or boot camps leads to lower-quality code and products.
"This code costs more in the long run to support, maintain, and iterate on," she said. "The knowledge and skills gained from years of experience in the field will always be needed in every development team."
Shortage of Software Development Talent Driving Demand
To understand why software developers are in such high demand, it's important to note that most tech companies have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels of productivity, and a contributor to this is undoubtedly the shortage of software developers across the board.
In fact, a recent IT & Development Outlook Report from JetRockets found that 89% of CIOs and CTOs say that they have been impacted by the global shortage of software developers.
This coincides with the fact that the need for organizations to fully embrace digital transformation is more urgent than ever before, and software development is a critical piece of this.
Most organizations realize this, which is why there's increased demand from companies looking to attract top talent that can help them achieve their objectives.
"During the early stages of the pandemic, we saw the mass exodus of talent from major tech hubs to areas that fit their lifestyles better, and I think this phenomenon is continuing to play out," explained JetRockets CEO and co-founder Natalie Kaminski. "However, it's also important to note the impact that the war in eastern Europe is having here."
For example, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has forced tens of thousands of top software developers and tech leaders from both countries to flee.
With Russia and Ukraine becoming hotbeds for tech talent and IT outsourcing powerhouses in recent years, it's left an indelible mark on the lives of many young professionals trying to rebuild their careers amidst the war, she said.
Or, for talent stuck in Russia, they've been all but cut off from Western business, creating enormous challenges for organizations that have relied on it.
"Additionally, a lot of companies are going the extra mile to appear attractive to senior software developers," Kaminski said.
The report found that 60% of tech leaders say they are increasing salaries and benefits, and 56% say they are creating greater work flexibility.
"If I'm a senior software developer and I work for a company that isn't providing me the income and the work flexibility that I'm looking for, then I might want to see if the grass is greener on the other side," she said.
Tap the Power of Professional Networking
For organizations looking to reach out to — or start the search for — senior software developer talent, Kaminski said being transparent about the company culture and sharing openly on LinkedIn or other professional networks attract like-minded talent.
"It also helps to leverage your entire team as a resource for hiring," she added. "At JetRockets, for example, we have internal employee referral programs that encourage our current employees to recruit other talent."
To put current employees in the best position to succeed, engage in various industry activities, such as organizing and participating in meetups and industry conferences, and partnering with online coding schools and other professional education resources that contribute to open source projects, Kaminski said.
"The industry you operate in is always going to be a community," she said. "And when you place your team in the right environments, digital or in-person, you'll be able to build a strong network that can help you find the right senior software development talent."
Sussmann added that a distributed workforce model is critical if companies are to broaden their search for senior developers.
"Remote work enables organizations to access a deeper talent pool regardless of geography," she explained. "The software engineers benefit from this as well, since it allows for more opportunities for several hours of uninterrupted deep work in their preferred environment and therefore more productivity."
Looking Beyond Salary to Benefits
While compensation and benefits are important, Kaminski said that at this stage in their career, most senior software developers want to work on projects that they find personally interesting.
"They want the ability to apply their skills and experience toward challenges and projects that resonate with them," she said.
For this reason, it's important that hiring teams view candidates as individuals and not just an asset.
"As employers, we take certain responsibility for our workforce," she said. "We must go above and beyond just the thought that, 'I'm paying your paycheck — you figure out your life.' Make it clear to your candidate that you're willing to invest in their development, help them achieve a strong work-life balance, and open doors to new skills and opportunities."
At JetRockets, management helps the software team seek out interesting and challenging projects that require expertise in different technologies and industries.
"While working with our customers in the financial services industry, for example, our developers educate themselves on the space in order to build and implement a system that runs finance-oriented businesses efficiently," she said. "Giving senior developers an opportunity to continue to learn and grow is crucial."
About the authorNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.