Is software engineering competitive? 5 tips to land your dream job

It’s understandable to want to get an idea of how competitive software engineering is before starting your coding journey. That way you can prepare yourself for the job hunt at the end of it.

Software engineering is all the rage at the moment. Popular culture has taken a particular shine on the industry and put it in the spotlight.

Has this outside influence made software engineering more competitive by pushing more people into the industry?

Overall, software engineering is competitive. But the opportunities in development are set to grow 24% by 2026, compared to the 7% national average. There is also an IT jobs shortage of close to a million people in the United States. So there are plenty of jobs available.

Software engineering is an incredibly broad term and how competitive the area you intend to enter depends on several factors.

It’s important to understand the elements which affect competitiveness in the web development world, so let’s take a closer look.

How competitive is software engineering? 

Software engineering is competitive but like any industry, but it depends on what level you intend to operate.

Jobs at enormous tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon are going to be competitive regardless of the role. 

The jobs shortage in IT means that for the moment demand for good developers is outstripping supply. So, despite top software roles being tough to come by there is a lot of room to maneuver elsewhere in the industry.

Skillset & Type of Software Engineer Role

Your skills will have a massive impact on how competitive your job hunt will be. Niche abilities make you stand out and help in finding a job. 

Experience with AI will help propel you into a high-paying role in that area. However, if you have just learned JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, the competition for a software engineering role is going to be stiffer.

But the benefit of a career in development is that it’s so broad. With the right experience and a bit of self-study, you can transition into new niches. 

The competition for a design-focused front-end role won’t be the same as a React-focused job. Similarly, the demand for full-stack, back-end, and QA software engineers is all different. 

Don’t let people paint the entire industry with a broad brush. Take a look at the type of job you want, the skills you have, and the opportunities around you. It’s the only way to properly measure the competitiveness of software development. 

Location

Location is arguably the primary factor in determining the competitiveness of software engineering.

A wider talent pool puts you as the prospective employee at a disadvantage because you have to face off against so many other candidates. 

For top jobs, be prepared for hundreds of applicants for each job. You will need to stand out against the competition. 

However, the benefit of living in a tech hub like Silicon Valley, London, or Austin is that there are more jobs on offer. 

You are likely to be a smaller fish, but the pond is going to be much much bigger. Large cities are always going to provide you with more opportunities. 

There are some fantastic jobs in smaller cities or towns, but a lot of the cutting-edge work is done in major cities around the world. 

If you are keen to keep up with industry trends, it is worth taking on the challenge and trying to land a competitive software engineering role. Otherwise, you could get stuck on client calls with people asking about the limit on the number of WordPress pages.

Competitive software engineering

Type of Company

Programming jobs at FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) are going to be incredibly competitive. 

These top companies pay incredible salaries, offer big bonuses and give each employee some equity. 

It is possible to get hired at these places straight out of college, or after completing a coding Bootcamp, but it is difficult.

Boot camps often have coaching sessions and mock interviews based on getting jobs at these places. If you intend to work at these companies a coding boot camp is the best route for you to stand out. 

Startups

The number of tech startups has exploded in the past decade and many of these offer a good salary with stock options. 

Getting X amount of shares seems like a good deal but there is no guarantee the startup will go anywhere. There can also be a hustle culture at startups which will have you regularly working 70-80 hours a week. 

Software engineering roles at startups can be competitive but be cautious and do your homework.

Non-tech companies

Most companies are not tech-focused. These companies need devs to handle the day-to-day development of smaller apps and websites that help their core business function. 

Think e-commerce stores, FMCG companies, or businesses in other sectors.

Development teams tend to be smaller in these organizations and there is much less competition for these software engineering roles. 

If you aren’t passionate about working at a tech startup these types of roles are available everywhere. The lower barrier to entry also makes them a great shout for junior developers looking to gain experience. 

For more experienced developers, they offer a slower pace of change and the opportunity to work in a well-established business. You may also have to wear numerous hats in these types of roles and the lines between dev ops, front-end, back-end, and DBA are all blurred.

Experience

Your level of experience will impact the level of competitiveness you will face. We’ve discussed the oversaturation of web development before and how the number of jobs can vary.

Entry-level web development jobs are more competitive than mid to senior-level roles because there are more applicants per opening.

It takes years of experience to move up the ladder so there always tend to be more people at the bottom of the hierarchy.

It can be tough to stand out when you first start but there are definitely ways to get ahead. Check out the section below on staying competitive in development. 

How to get a job in a competitive software engineering market

Just because more people are going for a role doesn’t mean you can’t stand out and get a top job. 

Below there are a few tips to get ahead when applying for competitive software engineering roles.

Fix your Resume

Getting selected for an interview is the first step to landing your dream job. Hiring managers see hundreds of resumes per application so yours needs to make an impression. 

Make sure to give your resume a results focus, rather than using a task-based approach. The resource I’ve included below goes over this in detail offers tonnes of resume templates and will help sharpen everything up.

PAR Resume Approach

As a front-end developer, I think it’s important to show off some design skills. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated but adding a bit of flair to a resume goes a long way.

Interview Questions

You should be doing your homework before any interview. 

If you have learned React and are applying for a React-based role, you must be able to answer questions about it.

The person interviewing needs to find out the depth of your knowledge and how much you still have to learn. 

Understanding the questions you will be asked can help you simplify your answers and come across as more knowledgeable. 

Never lie or make up an answer, it shows a lack of honesty and comes across poorly.

When brushing up on React questions I used the Full Stack Cafe. They have an awesome number of questions and their answers, for free. There are also mid and senior-level questions that you can unlock with a cheap subscription. 

It was a life-saver during my last job hunt and nearly all the questions I practiced came up in various interviews.

Coding Challenges

Every competitive software engineering job you apply for is going to ask you to complete a technical challenge. 

These can range from 1-on-1 code along to technical tasks to be completed in your own time. Each company has its preferred methods. 

Depending on the role you may be asked to manipulate data, build a UI, or reach out to an endpoint.

Thankfully for junior developers, there is a limit to what can be expected of you. There are also plenty of resources to help you practice typical coding challenges ahead of time, 

  • CoderByte – With 200+ challenges it is a fantastic option for junior to mid-level developers.
  • Codewars – A great community-run platform where you gain Kata and progress in levels as you improve. 
  • HackerRank – A perfect option for those wanting to brush up on functional programming and data structures
  • AlgoExpert – Another industry-leading platform that specializes in preparing you for technical interviews. High

Whatever platform you choose, I’d highly recommend brushing up on data structures and getting a good idea of how to manipulate objects. 

Creating a Portfolio

What better way to show off your skills than building a portfolio. It gives your potential employer perfect insight into your current skills level. 

Having a portfolio means you can confidently discuss the projects you have worked on and use them as examples when asked technical questions.

Building a simple portfolio page that links to the apps and sites you have made is the perfect way to stay competitive in web development. 

I’d highly recommend not overcomplicating your portfolio. 

It’s important that it works smoothly and offers easy access to live versions of your projects and also the repos with your code.

GitHub and Open Source

Shortly after the first round of interviews for my last two jobs, one of the developers has gone on to check my GitHub account. 

Maintaining a GitHub account has many benefits. It is a window into the projects you have been involved in and shows you know source control.

Every programming role will require you to use some sort of version control, it ticks another box and makes you stand out.

If you don’t have much experience getting involved in open source projects can give you a feel for how bigger projects are maintained. 

It will allow you to hit the ground running in a new role and edge out the competition. 

Resources