Hiring developers? This is how many interviews it takes to fill a job

In the age of remote and hybrid work, access to a greater pool of candidates has become a double-edged sword for software engineers.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Getty Images/Nitat Termmee

Developers involved in hiring other top software engineers now have to conduct 26 or even 29 first-round interviews with candidates when trying to find the right person to join the team.

That's compared to just 16 first-round interviews in 2020 - a 63% rise in interviews between the two periods and is both good and bad news for those involved in the search for top engineering talent. 

On one hand, it suggests hiring firms looking for software engineers are finding it easier to source talent, but on the other, it created lots of work for engineers involved in hiring: four out of five hiring engineers said it would be easier to reach their hiring target if they had more qualified people available to interview candidates - and if they didn't have to simultaneously deliver product features.

The significant rise in first round interviews is one finding in research from Karat, a tech firm that provides cloud-based technical interviews for customers on the hunt for software engineers. The company commissioned The Harris Poll to survey 556 professions responsible for hiring software engineers in the US tech, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and banking sectors. 

Karat highlights the double-edged sword of having a greater pool of talent to choose from.  

The rise in first-round interviews was "creating more tension in balancing the time needed for the interviewing process and the burden it places on employees and their other assigned work," it notes.

For top engineers involved in hiring, more interviews took a toll on productive coding time, was a drain on team morale, and created more costs for the firm. Three quarters of "engineering leaders" and "talent leaders" agreed that interviewing software candidates cut into productive coding time. Half of engineer leaders though interview was a financial drain on the company, while 66% of talent leaders thought so.     

Karat speculates the uptick in first-round interviews was due to widespread adoption of virtual interviews during the pandemic and broader acceptance of remote work, which allowed hiring firms to broaden their search across geographies, beyond headquarters and regional offices. And the survey was carried out between February 9 and February 23, when the Great Resignation was in full swing and tech talent was in high demand and short supply. 

Karat also found that compensation for software engineers was up 15% compared to 2020. Engineering Leaders also spent 48% more time preparing for interviews.

More evidence to suggest the skills shortage was easing was that in February, only 27% of hiring officers found it difficult to identify potential engineering candidates versus 38% in 2020.

Karat found that half of engineers in the survey were very confident they'd meet their hiring targets in the US and other nations in 2022. But today, with macroeconomic headwinds afoot and depressed tech stock prices, the focus has shifted. Google, Facebook and others are amid hiring freezes, while dozens of startups are cutting headcount by 10% to 20%, leaving most employed tech sector employees worried about job security

How that impacts the availability of top software engineering talent remains to be seen. Facebook, for example, halted hiring lower level engineers but continues to hire machine learning engineers. Google only paused hiring for two weeks, slightly reducing its hiring targets for 2022. 

On the plus side, companies still see the value of hiring developers. "In fact, there is near consensus that a strong software engineer is worth at least twice their total compensation; and over half of engineering leaders would estimate at least 3x their total compensation," the report said.

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