Recruiting Insights


Hear from the experts: how to hire developers in 2021

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The Karat Team

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Like everything else, 2020 upended the developer hiring landscape. The unexpected shift in developer hiring trends created an influx of strong candidates. The transition to virtual hiring made us all adapt and innovate. Last week, Karat invited four technical recruiting experts to talk about the aftermath of 2020 and how to hire developers in 2021 and beyond.

We dug into how 2020 changed University Recruiting and senior developer hiring landscape. We also discussed, what’s different in 2021 and some of the key lessons from a crazy year.

University Recruiting: seizing the virtual opportunity

Mass layoffs, program cuts, and a growing need for employer branding are three trends that shaped the developer hiring landscape in 2020. The unpredictability of the pandemic’s timeline made it all but impossible for University Recruiting teams to forecast outcomes and recruiting needs using historical data.

For MongoDB and Databricks, however, the uncertainty presented an opportunity. While some organizations made tough decisions to cancel internship programs, MongoDB and Databricks exceeded their hiring targets for the year.

Alexa Friedman, University Recruiting Manager at Databricks, emphasized a long-term approach when discussing how to hire developers. Specifically, Friedman highlighted the importance of keeping internship programs running throughout 2020, noting that “interns are a part of the long-term pipeline.”

Co-panelist, Emily Cardner, Campus Recruiting Manager at MongoDB, echoed Friedman’s sentiment, saying “campus recruiting is a long game and building an employer’s brand presence on a campus takes time…the true fruit of the labor isn’t seen until they’re a new grad.”

Recognizing the opportunities of a virtual recruiting and interviewing environment was one of the keys for success. Using Karat’s global Interview Engineering network to offer candidates 24/7 interviews allowed the recruiters to connect with more candidates from a more diverse set of schools. This allows recruiters to meet candidates where (and when) they were most comfortable.

“Night and weekend interview availability were a game-changer,” shared Cardner. She also commented that the added scheduling flexibility allowed them to accelerate their hiring plans as other companies were winding down interviews or pausing based on the macro uncertainty, recalling “at one point we were hiring three times faster than we were the previous year.”

Remote hiring unlocked DEI opportunities

Last year’s shift to virtual interviewing and remote hiring unlocked doors to a more diverse talent pipeline.

For university recruiters like Friedman and Cardner, the virtual environment allowed them to diversify the schools and backgrounds they recruit. This allowed them to connect with more underrepresented talent that, historically, they weren’t able to reach.

This trend held true for technical recruiters focusing on how to hire developers at more senior levels as well. Maggie Duvall and Sara Hollister, technical recruiting leaders at and Financial Freedom Network, respectively, shared how their companies loosened geographical hiring restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how those decisions were game-changing for their diversity strategy.

On the downside, differences in access to technology became much more visible last year. Many of us experienced the frustrations of inconsistent home WiFi (or at least faked it to get out of the occasional Zoom call). Recruiters must recognize that limited connectivity is a significant barrier facing potentially vulnerable candidates.

Alexa Friedman urged colleagues to “use empathy to understand the context,” as they navigate hiring under such circumstances. Sara Hollister echoed this sentiment and discussed how to prepare hiring managers for remote candidate experiences by reminding them the circumstances of 2020 weren’t normal or expected, and that this is “new territory” for everyone.

Standardizing pay bands for senior engineers

The increase of remote hires also meant a heightened emphasis on pay equity. Many companies, including, committed to setting remote workers’ salaries in line with the organization’s headquarters regardless of where a candidate lived, shared Duvall.

There are several schools of thought regarding the best approach to paying remote workers. It can be especially challenging for remote companies hiring developers that are in expensive markets. Wherever your company lands on this spectrum, it’s probably safe to expect the remote trend to extend well into 2021 and beyond. Make sure that all of your recruiters, hiring managers, and engineering leaders have a long-term plan in place to define and defend your compensation adjustments in an equitable way.

Making the most of today’s developer hiring landscape

2020 brought on many unknown variables, but the future of hiring and recruiting doesn’t have to be daunting.

Lean into the virtual landscape as your ultimate DEI accelerator! Expand the geographical recruiting pipeline and make your company attractive to underrepresented talent by keeping access and empathy top of mind.

We expect the developer hiring landscape to be highly competitive this year as more organizations recover from 2020 and accelerate digital transformation plans. Stay ahead of the pack by investing more into employer branding and prioritizing the candidate experience. Above all, don’t lose momentum, lead with empathy, and stay flexible!

Full webinar on how to hire developers for senior roles in 2021


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