The tech job wishlist – what do candidates want?

What are today’s tech candidates looking for in a job? This is a question that any credible employer should be...

Andy Bristow
Andy Bristow
5 min read Reading Time
28 October 2018 Date Created

What are today’s tech candidates looking for in a job? This is a question that any credible employer should be asking themselves on a regular basis, especially if they have designs on recruiting the best IT talent the market has to offer. In fact, when you consider that some of the most talented tech professionals – from front-end web developers to project managers – aren’t actively seeking a new role, answering this question becomes even more important.

As someone who’s worked in IT recruitment for the best part of 20 years, the first thing I would say is that no two candidates are the same – everyone has different requirements, different skill sets, and different behaviours. That being said, when it comes to workplace preferences, I’ve identified a few that appear to resonate with the majority of candidates.

Quality of Work

Salary is typically the starting point for some candidates, but certainly not all. Many candidates recognise when they’re paid at or around the limit that the market will support for their role, making salary less of a concern when changing jobs. Where big leaps forward in salary aren’t an option, it becomes more about the experience of going to work for somebody. What else can that employer offer that will make a candidate want to work for them?

For out-and-out techies, the things that drive them, above everything, are the tech environment and the projects they’re working on. Naturally tied into that is their ability to develop their own skills, either through formalised training or simply by exposure to new tech and new projects. Ultimately, people want to better themselves and make a difference with the work they’re doing – so if you can offer this opportunity to a tech professional, you’ll stand a good chance of getting them on board.

A Strong Employer Brand

All of the above ties into something that I explored in a previous article: employer brand. Quite simply, the strength of your employer brand can be the difference between a candidate choosing to join your company and deciding to stay where they are – or even moving somewhere else entirely. For this reason, I would advise a client to ask themselves if their business feels like a desirable place to work. Does it have a strong web presence and interview process? Is there a clear commitment to personal development and employee engagement? Are there ex-employees leaving positive testimonials on Glassdoor or LinkedIn?

I’ve spoken before about those scenarios where a candidate is faced with two companies of relatively equal standing. The interviewer for one company is super enthusiastic, fired up and ready to go, while the other is a bit flat. Most candidates would tend to gravitate towards the former, even if the job itself isn’t as strong, because they’ve seen how engaged that interviewer is and it’s given them a buzz about working there. If an interviewer appears disinterested, it’s usually because they’re not invested in the company – and that’s one of the first signs of a weak employer brand.

Flexible Working

In terms of the nuts and bolts of a job, we’re seeing an increased requirement for flexible working from candidates, as well as part-time hours. A lot of high-earning IT professionals – generally those in management or senior development roles – are choosing to take four-day jobs, simply because they can afford to do so.

To be fair, more and more companies are building in flexible working as part of the way they operate, whether it’s to accommodate employees with long commutes or those with shared childcare responsibilities. In this day and age, employers need to be on board with the fact that somebody may have to pick their kids up from school if their partner is working late. If they’re not respectful of that, they’ll lose people – it’s as simple as that.

In many ways, offering flexible working makes sound business sense for any company employing technical staff. When you’re a back-end developer, it doesn’t really matter where you do that development, as long as your employer can be assured the work is being done.  

The Whole Package

There was a time when companies offering a basic pension and free health insurance would be seen as competitive. However, with all employers now obliged by law to enrol their employees onto a pension scheme, such benefits have become the norm rather than a ‘perk of the job’. In the tech world, most companies exceed the minimums when it comes to employee benefits, so if you’re only offering the minimum, you’re going to have to really engage a candidate to convince them to join you.

At the end of the day, packages and benefits just get you into consideration. If your package and benefits are poor, candidates won’t listen to what your story is. If your story is absolutely brilliant, there’s a chance you could get away with a weaker package, but only if there’s a superb job to back it all up. These are the extremes, however. Most companies need to be able to tell a good story, have good work for people to do, and have a good package that they can offer as well.