Justin Duke

The state of tech recruiting in 2013

Tech demand for riffs and ninjutsu is nearing an all-time low.  But will it last?

Recruiting is a delicate balancing act between flattery and accuracy, especially for developers: half a decade into an unprecedented boom in demand for programmers, first-party and third-party recruiters are being forced to adopt new tactics to lure programmers to new positions. These new tactics are interesting because they can be viewed as an indicator in shifting values in the industry altogether: the myth of “programmer as demigod” is dying to a thousand paper cuts as recruiters adopt more traditional – and valuable – keywords to identify potential hires.

Let’s take a look at the rise and fall of abysmal recruiting buzzwords (thanks to Benedict Evans, from whom I partially stole this graph):

Excluded keywords: "savant", "demiurge", "Norse god"

The era of ridiculous job titles – designed to ensnare immature recent grads and other impressionable (or, more cynically, egotistical) developers is in decline: like other fads, it went through the lunar phases of limited success, massive cargo culting (or, more cynically, “virality”), saturating, self-parody, and now graceful decline. (Interestingly, “rock star” is alive and well.)

More interesting, though, is the maturing vocabulary with which companies describe themselves. In particular, the word “viral” reached peak saturation in late 2009 and has been steadily declining ever since, as programmers find themselves more enchanted with the idea of steady profits than pageviews (a post in of itself could be dedicated to the phenomenon that “profitable” can be legitimately used as a positive unique identifier):

Somewhat at odds with this, though, is the increased usage of ‘startup’ as primary descriptor. This can be attributed to the overall increased volue of startups in the greater economy.

While discussing salary and equity continue to be rarer and rarer – with salary mainly appearing in the form of “competitive salary” or something similar – the growing trend of work-life balance continues a steady rise from 2010.

And, lastly, a somewhat surprising trend is the decline of advertised remote work and visa consideration. An optimist would interpret this as a sign that the growing ubiquity of telecommuting means its used less as a selling point and more as a base assumption, but things like Marissa Mayer’s ban suggest otherwise:


Five years removed from The Social Network, the idea of the plucky misanthrope in sweatpants who takes over the world has faded

One thing that hasn’t changed – and doesn’t look like it will for quite some time – is the ubiquity of a certain four-letter word:

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