The world of work has been changing quite a bit over the last few years. The pandemic appeared to be a boon to technology workers, both by allowing us to work remotely, but also taking advantage of our skills to deploy more technology throughout the world. At the same time, late 2022 and 2023 have seen many companies pull back and cut their staff, including technical staff. It seems that in mid-2023, we have both a demand for technology workers and a lot of people looking for technology jobs.
A recent 2022 report on working in technology has some interesting insights. It is summarized at ZDNet, but you can see the original report here. The highlights from the report are that quite a few top performers left their jobs, recruitment doesn't work well, and finding top talent is hard. These aren't that surprising to many of us that actually write code or manage systems, but it is nice to see that founders and executives are reporting this (they were the ones surveyed in the report).
For much of my career, I do think many executives have taken advantage of tech workers, pressing them to get more and more done with fewer resources. Even though many people were paid well (though not all), they may not have enjoyed their jobs. I've had a lot of great positions, but over the years, I've met a surprising number of people who wouldn't recommend others follow them into their career choice.
The pandemic made it easier for people to switch jobs since everyone was remote. That might not have benefitted lots of people, but it certainly helped top talent. If you're one of those people, you likely got a better job, with better compensation, and hopefully, more interesting work to you.
For others, we might still be looking for something new (or worried about the security of our current position). One of the main parts of the report talks about the problems with the traditional recruitment model. First, it takes too long, an average of 4 months to fill technical roles. There is pressure to speed that up, while also understanding that candidates will need some training and re-skilling or up-skilling to meet an organization's particular needs. That would seem to be good for many candidates, but I think this report is biased to startups and newer organizations, not mature ones.
I do think the impressions you make early are important. A candidate needs to ensure that they have technical skills. You should be able to solve problems but also think on your feet. Respond to the interviewer and showcase critical thinking. A developer should be able to answer general questions, like how to find duplicates in a table or sort data that is aggregated. You don't need to solve all of Itzik's query problems, but you ought to know some of them. I'd expect you to know the basics of this job. If you're unsure, post a note on the forums and ask people what things they need to know to do their jobs.
However, apart from the technical skills, you need good soft skills. A strong candidate will communicate well, display confidence, relate to the interview(ers), and build some rapport. They will look to ask questions that seek more information about what is asked, but without being confrontational or disagreeable. There's a skill to debating a point rather than arguing with someone. The ability to get along with others and find synergy is important. When others think adding you to the team makes the entire team better, you stand a good chance of getting an offer.
If you're unsure of whether you present a good impression, get a few friends or co-workers to interview you and give you honest feedback. Maybe even ask a friend who hires people to mock interview for a position. Learning to present a better impression will go a long way toward increasing your chances of getting hired. Especially if firms are trying to make quicker decisions.
Maybe the big change from the report is 80% of people surveyed say they are willing hire someone without a college degree. Whether they actually would to that, whether their HR or other policies allow this, and whether they convince existing employees to do this remains to be seen. However, many of us know that a college degree isn't a good predictor of whether someone can do any job well. I hope future hiring trends confirm that.