Industry Trends & Research


Ten In-Demand Skills for Software Engineers

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Gordie Hanrahan

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Imagine for a moment that you’re a contractor hiring carpenters for a construction site. What tools do you expect them to bring with them on day one? Now I’m no expert in the construction field, but I’ve never seen a carpenter without a toolbelt. It allows them easy access to all their essentials: hammers, screwdrivers, a tape measure, nails, etc. But without a toolbelt, they are not going to be able to do their job, or at least I’ve been told. Now you are not a carpenter. You’re a talent acquisition leader who is responsible for hiring software engineers. But the question still remains, what are the most in-demand skills for software engineers that your top candidates should have in their toolbelts?

Karat analyzed more than 400,000 job postings from the past two years to identify two things:

  1. Core skills: These are the essential skills employers are asking for and often are alluded to the most in keywords of job descriptions. Identifying core competencies is critical to successful hiring, and these ten skills serve as the foundations for most software engineering roles. Today’s blog covers the top 10 in-demand skills for software engineers.
  2. Technologies: These are a mix of languages, operating systems, software, cloud services, etc. that employers are asking to see you have familiarity with. It’s no deal-breaker if you’re not experienced in all of them but knowing them will only be beneficial. Next week, we’ll share Karat’s top 10 technology list for hiring engineers, and from there we’ll drill down into specifics about what skills and technologies organizations in different industries are looking for across different computer science roles.

The top 10 in-demand skills for software engineers

#10 Big Data
In our new data-driven world, some domains have generated a lot more data than others. In those domains, big data has emerged as a new skill, working with data sets that are simply too large for a human to directly process. Big Data tools are designed to facilitate working with these enormous datasets, and the skill of big data is in using them to efficiently transform mountains of raw data into specific information that can power a business.

#9 Database
From relational DBs to NoSQL to columnar data stores, the number of ways to store and retrieve data has exploded in the past decades. The core of this skill is straightforward, though: All of the information powering the digital world lives on drives and in memory, and making good choices about how to store it is critical to enabling everything we do with data. A database expert is the bridge between the abstract idea of “data” and the physical systems that make it available and keep it safe.

#8 Analytics
Analytics is another skill that’s climbed seven spots successively each year. There are numerous things people are looking for when they’re asking for analytics, so look at the job description to help fine-tune your search, but the core commonality is that analytics skills are the approaches you use to take a large amount of data and turn that into meaningful information about what’s going on and what to do next.

#7 Mobile
Mobile has also climbed seven spots year after year. This is a nice, concrete skill – if you’ve developed software targeting the many hand-held devices out there, you’ve been working in the mobile space. As languages like Swift and Kotlin become more established, mobile developers are even starting to have a slightly different set of languages they tend to work in.

#6 Machine Learning
Machine Learning (ML) has seen a similar rise to analytics and mobile, a good indicator that there’s a demand for skilled ML experts. ML algorithms are becoming increasingly relevant, as advances in the domain make it easier to integrate into many fields. At its core, the skill of ML is being able to choose appropriate algorithms, select good training data, and deploy these new advances to help computers recognize patterns only humans could recognize just a few years ago.

#5 Security
In a networked world, the same connection allowing customers to reach your system also lets those with bad intentions attempt to gain access. Security skills matter wherever systems interact. The developers who build those interactions need to think about what an unintended user might be able to achieve and know strategies for defending against that.

#4 Testing
Testing (and its close cousin quality assurance) is the skill of verifying that software does what it is expected to do. Engineers who understand testing know that mistakes aren’t failures; they are an inevitable part of perfecting the software. Effective test practices find mistakes early on and before they cause problems.

#3 Architecture
Architecture is the skill of design at the multi-system level. While you can design a system or a small solution, when you work with large-scale systems composed of many parts, you need to have a focus on how all of those parts are interacting.

#2 Cloud
Cloud has remained the number two most mentioned skill for the past two years. “The Cloud” is a noun, but when we use it as a skill we’re talking about your familiarity with cloud-based approaches and how to take advantage of its unique traits – and avoid some of its unique pitfalls.

#1 Design
Design has remained the number one most mentioned skill on job postings for two years running. Broadly speaking, design refers to your ability to approach problems, break them down and figure out the right solution for the situation.
What’s in your toolbelt?

So, there you have it: the top 10 skills that top tech companies look for in software engineering job candidates. While there are numerous other skills and technologies that you’ll run into, these are the most common core elements to consider when hiring engineers.

Next week we’ll look at the top-10 technologies companies are hiring for, but if you’re interested in additional ways to accelerate hiring in the Interviewing Cloud, check out Karat’s whitepaper to learn how to Interview AND Innovate at the same time.

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