- Software developers told Insider recruiters had gotten more aggressive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- They said the interest was both flattering and annoying; one described getting “hundreds” of emails.
- The hiring spree is empowering developers to ask for more money and take only jobs they want.
Companies are desperate to hire tech talent, and programmers are taking advantage of their increased leverage.
Booms in markets such as online shopping, video games, and remote-work tools — fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic — have driven companies including Amazon to go on massive hiring sprees, even as the so-called Great Resignation sees midcareer professionals quit their jobs at an unusually brisk pace. All the while, employees at titans like Apple are in open revolt over issues like office-return plans and pay transparency.
Taken together, it means the tech titans are working harder to get the tech talent they need to stay competitive in a fast-moving industry. In a sign of the times, an Amazon representative told Insider the firm recently launched a program called “Best Fit,” in which candidates can be considered for as many as 2,000 senior tech roles with only one application.
Insider talked to eight developers who said that recruiters had gotten more aggressive than ever before over the past year or so, with startups and tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google flooding their inboxes with offers for high-paying jobs — and that they’re increasingly willing to flex the power that interest had given them.
“Getting a new job took zero effort. I didn’t even update my résumé,” said a senior back-end engineer, who recently took a new job at a startup that he said just about doubled his salary. “It’s like hitchhiking — you just kind of wait for somebody to come by. Everybody’s offering you a ride.”
With so many offers, developers can afford to be a little more choosy. Whether by taking only jobs that align with their values, or by simply walking away when a recruiter becomes annoying or an interview process is too long and intensive, the power appears to be squarely in a skilled tech worker’s hands.
“It feels very weird to be this sought after,” a developer said. Many of the developers spoke anonymously to protect future career opportunities, but their identities are known to Insider. “It’s flattering, but it feels weird.”
Empowered developers make for thirstier recruiters
One developer said he walked away from the interview process at Google because it kept making him come back for endless interviews, capped off by telling him the role wasn’t eligible for remote work.
A Google spokesperson tells Insider that it sees its interview process is key to its corporate culture, and that it’s seen an upswing in job applications across every type of role in recent times.
In another case, a software engineer felt so burned out by startup life that she decided to take a recruiter up on accepting a job at a nonprofit in her home city. She tells Insider she was happy to take the pay cut in favor of a shorter workweek.
This dynamic places the burden on companies to pay big if they really want a candidate, the developers say. A developer advocate with an open-source startup told Insider that expectations for compensation had “skyrocketed.”
“The high end of what I expected was like $180,000,” the person said, “and my current employer offered me $215,000, right off the bat.”
A side effect, however, has been that the recruiters who help tech companies fill their open roles have only gotten thirstier. A senior software engineer at an online-shopping startup, for example, said “hundreds” of recruiters reached out in July alone.
Another software engineer at an Internet of Things startup says that while recruiters have always indiscriminately blasted out pitches with little regard for recipients’ skills or interests, it has gotten worse. The messages often feel impersonal, desperate, and lacking necessary details like a compensation range. One of the engineers said some recruiters tried to “emotionally manipulate” developers, such as by insinuating that LinkedIn would charge them if the candidate didn’t respond to their message (LinkedIn tells Insider this isn’t how it works).
“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” the engineer said. “It’s nice to be so wanted, but you can also tell that there’s very little tailoring going on.”
Developers have more latitude to take jobs that align with their values
With all of those pitches coming in, the developers say it’s never been easier to find a job that jibes with their personal beliefs and preferences, especially if they’re willing to trade a Big Tech-size salary to do it.
Liz Fong-Jones, a developer well known for her employee activism during her stint at Google, walked away from a seven-figure income at the search giant when she left in early 2019 to take a job as principal developer advocate at the DevOps startup Honeycomb.io.
Fong-Jones says that after clashing with Google management over one “ethics kerfuffle” after another, she was happy to take a job at a company she believes in, even if its salary package represented a “cash hit” from what she had been making. The notion of working for a company whose mission and values she supports — plus, the roughly 1% in equity she says Honeycomb gave her — made the tradeoff one she says she was “happy to make.”
On the other hand, the developer advocate at the open-source startup says that while she’s perfectly happy with the work-life balance at her current gig, she’d consider going somewhere that required working more nights and weekends if it came to her with a “batshit” offer — $300,000 in cash and a $15,000 signing bonus to even consider it. Even then, she says, she’d work there only a year or two before leaving.
Indeed, many of the developers said that while the surge in interest definitely showed they could probably get a higher-paying job at a Big Tech company if they wanted one, there were things more important to them than money.
One iOS developer said there was “probably nothing that could draw me away” from their job at a national daily newspaper.
“There are a few companies that I would never go work for,” the developer said. “Like Facebook and Amazon. I would never work for them. No amount of money.”