2018 Market Update: Engineering

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Demand for software engineers remained constant throughout 2017 due to the very high level of investment and continued innovation from startups and established firms. Competition for talent remained fierce, with many companies seeing extreme rapid growth and needing to increase headcount accordingly.

In the startup space, a large portion of hiring activity came from seed round and series-A startups. At the other end of the scale, tech giants such as Facebook, Netflix and Google continued to hire aggressively.

Key hiring areas/skills in demand:

Engineers specializing in machine learning (particularly NLP/Deep Learning) were highly sought after, as were engineers with React and React Native experience. Engineers with expertise in Full Stack (Python/Node) and Ruby on Rails were also in high demand.

Sectors that experienced significant growth in 2017 include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotics, and autonomous vehicles. Engineers with experience in these fields were subsequently in very high demand, and we expect this trend to continue in 2018.

Candidate market:

Demand for AI and ML specialists will continue to outstrip supply. DevOps, Ruby on Rails and Android engineers will also remain highly sought after. Furthermore, companies will struggle to attract engineers with experience in React Native and Elixir due to ongoing high demand for these skillsets.

In order for startups to secure top talent, hiring managers should ensure that their hiring requirements are more generalist focused rather than highly specialized. This will enable them to secure candidates who can adapt to the often changing needs of a growing startup, as well as those who can develop new skills and learn new languages as required.

Structured recruitment processes are always recommended in order to ensure that candidates are provided with a positive interview experience, as well as given a professional impression of the hiring company. Partnering with established and trustworthy recruitment firms can help ensure that communications with candidates are managed effectively throughout the hiring process.


Salaries increased in 2017 in response to skill shortages, with engineers specialising in ML, DevOps, Android and React Native able to command significant premiums. This trend will continue in 2018, and in particular we expect salaries in the robotics and AI/ML sectors to increase. Startups looking to secure talent from larger firms will need to be prepared to offer equity as well as generous cash compensation in order to remain competitive.

For more information on how Robert Walters can assist you with your job search, please get in touch with a consultant.

E:  sanfrancisco@robertwalters.co  |  T: 415 549 2000

E:  newyork@robertwalters.com  |  T: 212 704 9900

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