Back to blog

Software Developer Job Hunting is Not Simple

All my articles are first published and hosted here on my blog, but you may also find these articles posted on blogging platforms such as DEV.to and Hashnode. If you like my articles, you will also like what I share on Twitter and LinkedIn.

DISCLAIMER: This article mostly depicts my own experience when searching for frontend developer roles in the UK. Not everyone has experienced or will experience the same as me and may have differing opinions.

Recently, I accepted a new role and wanted to talk you through my experience over the past 4 years (ish) of looking for new jobs (I haven't been looking for 4 years, but I've have looked for roles on 4 separate occasions during). This will be my fourth software developer role.

When it's time to start looking for a new role, there's a couple of inconveniences that make the process of job hunting a draining, confusing and not-so-simple task.

  1. Recruiters
  2. Job adverts are too similar
  3. Job adverts are too vague
  4. Salary
  5. Too much choice

1. Recruiters

There are very mixed opinions on recruiters and I can see why.

Like with any profession, there are the good ones and there are the bad ones. If, like me on my most recent new role, you decided to go through a recruitment agency, you will notice that there are recruiters who genuinely want what's best for you and really put you at the centre when finding roles... then there are those who just don't. I've dealt with recruiters who think they know what's best for me and don't listen to what I'm looking for and these recruiters can really make finding a new job really draining, and if you let them have their way, they will push you into the first role they "match" you with and there's a very good chance you won't enjoy your new role. If you decide to go with a few recruiters for your next role, be sure to work with those that will listen to what you want and not what they want. Sometimes it's really obvious those recruiters who are only in it for the commission, but sometimes it's only obvious later down the line as you work with them more.

I went through a recruitment agency on my latest role because I felt like I had lost touch with the software developer market and was seeking advice from people who are looking at the software developer market everyday. But recruitment agencies aren't for everyone and some people prefer applying to companies directly. There can sometimes be more manual work when cutting out the middleman, but it can often pay off, and it's often about making that decision about what you feel is best for you at the time. This isn't always a simple decision. Ultimately, I made the decision to go through recruiters because I felt they could also keep me up-to-date with the current market.

2. Job adverts are too similar

Job adverts are like CVs/resumes and sometimes I feel hiring managers forget this. If you were presented with 30 CVs/resumes that all sounded extremely similar, how do you know which applicant to proceed with? Sometimes it feels this way with job adverts too where they are all just the same and nothing really stands out between them. I've read too many job adverts that are looking for "a passionate frontend developer with innovative thinking, proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript & Vue/React, looking to join an agile, fast-paced environment". Often I feel like the company isn't really trying to sell the job to me because every job advert pretty much says the same thing.

The day-to-day activities are often the same, the benefits are very similar, the company cultures are too alike, yet in the interview they expect you to tell them why you want to work for them. How are you supposed to truthfully answer that if there is very little that makes them stand out? Obviously, you should do research into a company before you apply, but if you based the role off what they've advertised in the job advert, is there really anything that makes you want to apply for this role at this company over others? Don't get me wrong, sometimes you do get job adverts that are structured well and don't sound like the monotone cliché job advert, and trust me, those are the roles that do well.

3. Job adverts are too vague

How many times have you come across a job advert that describes the company and the role, but doesn't actually describe the company or the role? They use buzz words to hide the true culture of the company and the true nature of the role. Below is a list of buzz words/phrases that I found on the internet and what they actually mean:

Words/Phrases in the job advertWhat they actually mean
work on cutting edge technologyDo what everyone else is doing
a fast-paced environmentYour job will be constant firefighting
must be a team playerMust not question authority
able to work with minimal supervisionYou'll be the one we blame when something goes wrong
an Agile teamWe have daily stand-ups
a market leaderRecently started making a profit
rockstar developerYou will work very long hours with impossible deadlines
we have an urgent needOur other rockstar just left and no one understands the code
dynamic environmentOur leadership keeps changing priorities
self-starterWe have no process
passionatePerseveres through regular death marches

That original table was only intended as a joke, but it's scary how true it is. Another phrase I feel we should add to this list is "disrupting the industry".

So many job adverts are filled with words and phrases that companies think candidates want to hear, but all we want is an honest and simple description of the company and the role. If the team hasn't quite got comfortable with Agile, that's fine, be honest with the candidates. Are you a "market-leader in digital systems that assist companies fairly compensate hard-working employees with monetary value", or have you created a payroll system that happens to be very popular? Keep it simple! Why do they make job adverts so unnecessarily complex?

4. Salary

Salary can definitely make the job hunting process painful.

We all have come across a job advert with no salary range whatsoever. These are mostly hated by candidates because they want to know upfront what salary range they're applying for and if a job advert is missing a salary range, it can certainly put many applicants off. In the past, I have applied for a fair few roles with a missing salary because I wanted to see how they went and I got very mixed results... One asked for my current salary, one didn't ask my current salary but asked for my salary expectations, and were surprised when I asked for a figure so low (it's fair to say I wasn't up to date on the market or my worth) but offered me my asking salary anyway, and one didn't ask for my current salary, didn't ask for my expectations, and just straight up offered a salary, which was reasonably fair. My opinion, if a job advert has no salary range, and the role sounds like it could be for you, still consider applying for it and see how the process goes, it could be good practise. They may even think you are worth more than you think you are and offer you a higher salary than you initially thought you'd get.

Recently I was looking for frontend developer roles and was comparing salaries. The most confusing thing was frontend developer salaries ranged from £22k to £90k. For those unfamiliar with the Great British Pound (£GBP) and its worth, these salaries range from not a lot, to mega money. So looking for market comparison to try and work out my worth was difficult. I read a few of these job adverts and job adverts for £22k sounded extremely similar to roles for £90k - I assumed a lot of the £90k roles were missing key responsibilities that make the role worth so much money.

With the help of speaking to a few recruiters and reading talent.io's 2022 European Tech Salary Report, I was able to find a salary range that I felt fit my worth and very shortly I was applying for roles in that range and was very quickly offered 3 frontend developer roles within that range. I wasn't aware I was worth 50% more than my current salary. It's always important to know your worth!

During the COVID pandemic, software developer salaries took a huge hit, but they bounced back in and even further in with some roles having the potential to earn up to 50% more than before COVID.

For those who don’t know about talent.io, they’re actually a selective tech recruitment platform with a community of +100,000 qualified tech professionals and 7,000 companies in Europe. They support both permanent and freelance jobs, on-site and remote, and have already helped more than 6,000 candidates find the job they deserve. Here’s out it works:

  • Set your standards: define your next ideal position by setting your desired role, tech stack, salary, and industry.
  • Have companies apply to you: hiring managers pitch you their position, mission, and team as well as a proposed salary range. You decide who you want to start discussing with.
  • Choose the position you love best: it takes 20 days on average to get hired on talent.io.
talent.io European Tech Salary Report 2022 edition
Download talent.io's European Tech Salary Report now

5. Too much choice

Software developers are in high demand, especially in the UK, which means there is a lot of roles out there. Have you ever been to a restaurant and been presented with too much choice that it's too hard to make a decision? Well, it can feel like that when searching for developer roles.

Especially, since the COVID pandemic, demand for developers has become even higher with many new startups on the rise.

There could be up to 30 amazing roles that you feel you're a perfect fit for. You can't apply to all 30, can you? Surely, you'd forget what companies you've applied for and get yourself in a pickle - I've made a fool of myself in the past when applying for too many roles because I forgot which role was what and eneded up attending interviews having done research on the wrong company and the wrong role. There's an unspoken rule about applying up to 5 roles at a time, so how do you choose 5 from those 30 when they all sound amazing, and they all sound the exact same?! The way I get around this is I make myself more fussy about the next role I want. I.e. this time round I was looking for a hybrid role as opposed to remote roles, so was looking for somewhere a little closer to home, which ultimately narrowed down the number of roles available to me to make it an easier decision.

What about job offers rather than job applications? What if you're offered 3 roles at once. How do you possibly choose? Let's face it, 3 offers at the same time is quite remarkable and a lot of choice to choose from. But still, you'll always be wondering whether you made the right decision after being presented with so much choice.

Summary

We developers are lucky in the sense that it can be a lot easier than other industries to find roles and move roles, but it does come with its difficulties. Below is a short list of rules I try my best to stick to when looking for new roles:

  • Get initial insight about the current market
  • Do some initial research about what exactly it is you want in your next role (remember, you want to progress your career, not necessarily just move roles)
  • If you do go through a recruitment agency, be sure to work with recruiters who give you a friendly vibe, you feel you can trust and who listen to your needs
  • Know your worth! This is something many people struggle with but honestly, software development is a valuable profession and most developers undervalue themselves because they don't know the market, don't know their worth or don't have the confidence to increase their salary
  • Don't apply to applications straight away, surf through job adverts and get a feel for what the market is looking for, then filter out the adverts that stand out to you
  • Try and do as much valuable research into the company(s) as you can - don't focus on the unimportant details about the business, focus on what you may need for the interview and focus on the details that would help you decide whether the company is a right fit for you or not
  • Know what you're looking for - if you know what you want, stick to it, but don't be too specific, still leave some wiggle room
  • Know what red flags to look out for in job adverts such as buzz words that describe the role and the company without actually describing the role or the company
  • Don't beg, instead show your worth - you must show what value you can add

What difficulties do you have or have you had when applying for software developer roles?