4 Tips for Hiring the Elusive Software Engineer [Infographic]
software engineers at work

4 Tips for Hiring the Elusive Software Engineer [Infographic]

In today’s candidate-driven market, recruiting top-tier talent is a challenge – and software engineers are among the most difficult candidates to hire. You’re not just looking for the right technical skillsets; you need candidates who are a good culture fit as well. On the other side of the table, engineers are in high-demand and have many choices when it comes to where they want to work. They’re potentially evaluating your opportunity against several others, as well as their current role.

Given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that it takes small and medium sized businesses 86 candidates to fill the average position, while it takes 120 candidates to make a single engineering hire(1). Lever put together the below infographic to illustrate the hire ratios at each stage of the recruitment process, giving interesting insights into where you may be able to optimize.

hiring software engineers infographic

The big takeaway? Hiring engineers is hard. It takes more sourced candidates, screens, onsite interviews, and offers to make an engineering hire than it does for an average position.

Here are 4 ways to up your technical hiring game.

1. Find qualified candidates

It takes 120 engineering candidates to get 23 screens(2). The other 97 candidates likely failed to progress for one of two reasons: they were unqualified or disinterested. In fact, a whopping 45 percent of candidates are found to be unqualified(3).

While you may never completely eliminate unqualified candidates, you can reduce them by focusing on the most efficient sources of hire. One in 12 referred candidates is hired, versus one in 25 agency candidates, one in 64 sourced candidates, and one in 128 applicants(4).

Right off the bat, you may be able to optimize your recruitment funnel by putting a stronger emphasis on your employee referral program, and reducing your use of job advertisements. Learn which sources result in the most engineering hires at your organization, including the specific websites you proactively source from and post jobs to, and double down on those.

2. Engage the best candidates

Once you’ve tackled the issue of unqualified candidates, strengthen the top of your funnel further by addressing the issue of disinterested candidates. Ninety percent of global professionals are interested in hearing about new job opportunities(5), but most recruiters see nowhere near a 90 percent cold outreach response rate. While you may have reached the ten percent of people who are not interested in hearing about new roles, it’s far more likely that the candidates you source need a little more coaxing to become interested in your role.

Personalized outreach is key to grabbing these candidates’ attention. Top-tier talent is often bombarded with messages from recruiters, and you need to stand out if you want them to respond. A little flattery goes a long way, so tell the candidate what you’ve learned about them, and why they appear to be a good candidate for your role. Then briefly tell them about your company culture and what makes your opportunity unique.

Follow up if the candidate doesn’t initially respond. You may have reached out at a bad time—either personally or professionally—and the candidate might need a reminder to reply. The candidate may also not be ready for a move right away, but following up will keep your opportunity top of mind once they begin considering a new role.

3. Provide a stellar interview experience

Twenty-six percent of engineering candidates make it from the screen to the onsite interview, and 29 percent of those receive an offer(6). While it’s a good thing to screen out candidates who are a poor fit, you don’t want to do so at the risk of losing the best talent. Eighty-three percent of candidates say a negative interview experience can change their minds about an opportunity they once liked(7).

Rather than treating your interview process like an administrative task to screen out candidates, use it to sell each candidate on your role. Learn their motivation for considering a new role, and illustrate how your opportunity fits what they’re looking for. Show a genuine interest in the candidate by asking questions that clarify things you’ve learned about them from a resume or social profile, rather than asking them to repeat information contained therein. Engineering candidates often have many opportunities to consider, and will only continue investing their time in your process if you treat them like a valued candidate.

4. Pre-close your candidates

Only 59 percent of engineers accept their offers, compared to 69 percent of candidates across all roles(8). It’s no secret that there’s a lot of competition for engineering talent. Candidates may decline an offer if they received a better offer elsewhere, decided they want to stay where they are, or because they want to hold off for something better.

Optimize the bottom of your funnel and increase your chances of making a successful offer by pre-closing your candidates. Circle back on your candidate’s motivations, and discuss how your opportunity is a good fit for them. Learn about your candidate’s salary expectations early on, so you can first present it as a verbal offer. Before sending over a formal, written offer, find out if your candidate needs anything else before they consider accepting your offer. If needed, offer them an additional meeting with you, the hiring manager, a peer, or an executive. If your candidate still declines your offer, find out why so you can improve your close rate in the future.


The process of finding a software engineer can be an arduous one. While choosing candidates that are the best fit for your organization, you have to be careful not to inadvertently scare the best candidates away. Continually improve your recruitment funnel by surveying each candidate to learn how you can improve your recruitment process, and take steps to make changes based on the feedback you receive.

For more recruiting data to help you optimize your recruitment process, download Inside the Recruiting Funnel: Essential Metrics for Startups and SMBs. And for leading methods for planning and executing great interviews into one helpful toolkit, download Glassdoor’s Master Interviewing Toolkit. It includes helpful materials like pre-interview checklists, behavioral and group interview questions and templates, easy ways to interview for cultural fit, illegal interview questions, plus exit interviews and example questions.

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in the HR technology space with a focus on developing educational content for recruiters and corporate HR professionals. She has spent the past 10 years working with a wide variety of companies – from corporate marketing for multinational companies to startup marketing for both Identified and Bright.com, prior to their respective acquisitions. When she’s not doing marketing, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or playing in the backyard at home with her son and husband. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.



(1) Lever, Inside the Recruiting Funnel: Essential Metrics for Startups and SMBs, 2017
(2) Lever, Inside the Recruiting Funnel: Essential Metrics for Startups and SMBs, 2017
(3) Lever, The Little Grey Book of Recruiting Benchmarks, 2016
(4) Lever, Inside the Recruiting Funnel: Essential Metrics for Startups and SMBs, 2017
(5) LinkedIn, Global Talent Trends, 2016
(6) Lever, Inside the Recruiting Funnel: Essential Metrics for Startups and SMBs, 2017
(7) LinkedIn, Talent Trends, 2015
(8) Lever, Inside the Recruiting Funnel: Essential Metrics for Startups and SMBs, 2017