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Tech Career Insights: How to Approach Your Developer Job Search in 2023's Hiring Climate in the Netherlands & Germany

How to Approach Your Developer Job Search in 2023's Hiring Climate in the Netherlands & Germany

By Simone Markham

Given the tech industry cooldown in 2022, the hottest tech hiring market ever is now history. Companies are still hiring, but those that didn’t have as robust business models, or were dependent on funding, have been pulling back on hiring. Below we explore what this may mean for your job search.

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We chatted to OfferZen Talent Advisor Craig de Beer and Account Manager Shara Chernel who specialise in the Dutch and German markets. Check out their tips and insights on how you can set and achieve attainable job search goals in the current hiring climate.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a boom in tech following the rise of remote work, with many developers having their pick of opportunities at unprecedented levels. Post-pandemic, the hiring market has seen a cool down.

Funding freezes and layoffs rocked the tech market in 2022, especially in the United States and Europe. In addition, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the worsening trade wars between China and the United States, contributed to a tough outlook for the global economy and sparked fears of recession.

Businesses have to switch from a focus on rapid growth to capital-efficient growth, and while there is still a high demand for skilled developers, companies are now stricter about who they hire. Shara explains how companies are thinking about hiring at the moment:

“We’ve found companies are hiring more carefully, including those that were on a scaling mission beginning to mid of last year. If you’re only looking for one or two developers, you’re going to look for the best of the best and you’re not going to take a chance.”

How are Dutch and German companies currently thinking about hiring?

Although companies now have access to increased supply (due to retrenchments and global hiring), Shara says:

“Some companies I work with in the Netherlands and Germany have shifted their focus to cautious hiring in reaction to the economic situation.”

These countries’ economies may not be suffering as much as others in the current climate, but many companies have clients based in other countries where changes have meant they need to pause non-essential (and sometimes essential) projects.

Besides pausing or ending projects with clients, some companies in certain industries have to be more cautious if they are going to continue operating through this climate, especially within the eCommerce and the FinTech industries.

It’s a good idea to be mindful of how industries have been affected and how this might impact the industries you plan on joining. This is not to say that there are no more developer opportunities in industries like eCommerce or FinTech, but you may find that companies are a little stricter during the interview process.

Tips on how to determine attainable job search goals

Before you begin your job search process, Craig suggests that you should determine your deal-breaking, nice-to-haves and indifferent job search goals:

  • Deal-breaking

Your non-negotiables in an employment offer in order to happily accept it.

  • Nice-to-haves

Elements that you would be more likely to accept a competing offer with these included, but you wouldn’t reject an offer on the basis of these not being included.

  • Indifferent:

Things that won’t affect your decision to accept a job offer or not.

“You may end up remaining stagnant if you move without having had a goal. You might be more dissatisfied with your move, even if it’s for a financial incentive because you’ve ended up being in the same place career-wise.”

When setting your job search goals, it’s important to consider what your career goals might be. Short-term career goals may address elements you are missing from your current role, such as growth opportunities, better management, salary, or work-life balance, that assist you in moving towards your long-term career goals. Long-term career goals would be addressing elements that form part of your ideal professional position.

At this stage, you may find setting attainable job search goals means compromising on your short-term career goals, but it doesn’t have to mean compromising on your long-term career goals.

Address the current job search market

To succeed in the job search, it’s essential to recognise the current economic cycle and adjust your approach accordingly.

The changes in inflation rates we’ve seen significantly impact how you need to approach your job search. Increasing interest rates lead to companies drawing back on capital expenditure, and, consequently, adjusting their hiring strategies.

As a job-seeking developer, you are entering a more saturated market with fewer available opportunities. You will find companies are a lot more cautious and specific with their hiring than they were during the pandemic.

How this could affect your salary expectations

Craig explains that it’s not only companies that have suffered due to increased inflation rates and the consequent rates increase to combat this. As an individual, you’ve likely found its effect on your everyday life, such as increased consumer prices. It makes sense to opt for a larger salary expectation in your job search, or at least to get a larger increase on your current salary.

“We’re seeing candidates ask for more compensation to accommodate for the cost of living that keeps going up whereas companies are offering salary ranges that plateaued in the last two to three years.”

In setting higher than market-related salary expectations, you may be blocking yourself off from multiple opportunities as most companies are just not able to offer these larger figures.

It may mean making a trade-off on your salary expectation at this stage in order to secure an opportunity where you can grow your compensation in the longer term. It’s unlikely this will be the state of the economy forever or for a very long time considering economies go through cycles (as we witnessed post-Covid-19 and now).

Tips for setting and achieving an attainable salary expectation:

  • Do your market research

Use similar job listings, job search-related platforms and speak to those with experience in the field. It’s important to research according to your seniority level in the specific role you’re considering, as well as the city you are based in. OfferZen has a range of articles on salary trends in the Netherlands and Germany.

  • Consider the industry you’re looking in

It’s important to consider the industry you’re looking in and what salary ranges are typically offered. It’s also important to consider how in demand your skills are in that industry.

  • Think about your other priorities

For example, remote versus hybrid or in-office setups. For remote opportunities, you may find you are paid a little less since you won’t need to travel to an office, but you also may receive a home office setup budget from the company. That could be a worthwhile trade-off if you are able to accept the offered salary otherwise.

It’s also important to take your job search goals as a whole into consideration to determine what you may be asking from a company. For example, if you require relocation assistance, you may want to consider a lesser salary to account for these costs.

  • Be adaptable

In having a fixed salary expectation, you may be blocked from exploring certain opportunities that could address all of your other job search priorities. There are more often than not opportunities to grow your salary within a company, and if it doesn’t need to be prioritised now it may be wise to prioritise another goal.

  • Prepare and practise for negotiations

Since you’ve already done your market research, you’ll be able to leverage this in explaining your salary priorities to a company. It’s important to practise how you will approach this topic. Check out our article on How to Negotiate a Job Offer That’s More Than Just the Money.

How this could affect what companies you prefer to work for

If you are prioritising joining a start-up or a scale-up, keep in mind that some of these companies may have seen a decrease in funding.

Some smaller companies who used to be able to lean into rapid expansion now need to be more stringent about how they’re going to secure funding since it’s become more difficult to secure, and more expensive. Craig explains:

“Candidates need to be somewhat realistic about now being the time to have something secure and stable.”

In speaking to these companies, it will be a good idea to ask them for insights on their most recent valuations, what sort of funding they’ve secured, and their plans for the near future considering the economic climate. This will help you decide whether an opportunity is stable enough for you, especially if you are making a trade-off on one of your short-term career goals.

Make sure your job search goals are realistic

Company and role-specific research is the best way to determine realistic job search goals. Understanding what other developers are asking for and what companies are willing to offer is useful to understand your marketability.

If you are setting job search goals that other job seekers with similar skills are not asking companies for, it’s likely that securing an opportunity will become more difficult.

Shift your focus to your long-term career goals

Making a trade-off now will mean you’re in a better position to continue moving towards your career goals.

When you’re faced with a job-search goal compromise, or trade-off — for example, being offered a lower-than-expected salary, but the offer addresses the lack of work-life balance you have in your current role — it’s best to consider what will move you closer to your long-term career goals. If your career goal is to grow your salary exponentially or you’re unable to accept a lower salary in order to support yourself, then accepting this offer wouldn’t make sense. But if it is to spend more time on your personal hobbies or with your family, accepting this offer may be a great career move.

Either way, the current market may mean you need to make these trade-offs more often, but they don’t need to be forever. It’s better to consistently work towards your career goals, even if they may slow down, than not to do so at all.

Tips to address tougher competition

There has been an increase in the number of retrenched developers with relevant skills, who are without work to no fault of their work performance. So developers are not only being evaluated against stricter criteria during the interview process, but they are also likely to be up against tougher competition during the interview process.

Since companies may be hiring for fewer roles, they’re likely to choose the top developers over taking a chance on capable developers, whereas hiring more developers may mean they can hire and upskill one or two developers. Shara says it’s important to make yourself stand out as a top developer:

“It really matters how you are putting yourself forward and how you are identifying a match with the company. It’s not just about your skills.”

Tips on how to stand out to companies as a top developer:

  • Stand out in the technical interview

Stand out in the technical assessment stage of the interview process by doing plenty of practice and research prior to the assessment.

  • Identify a clear match

Identify a clear match between yourself and the company, as well as the role, by researching them before the first meeting.

  • Share evidence of your past achievements

Share a regularly updated log of your achievements and accomplishments with evidence. Use the evidence of what you have done in the past to speak to how you would positively impact their business.

  • Be honest

Speak honestly about how you determined your salary expectations, especially if you have done your research as you can offer evidence. In cases where it may be relatively high, speak to how your positive business impact justifies this.

Showing a company clearly why they should hire you is how you will succeed in your next job search — come prepared with researched evidence and examples from your past experience. It will take a lot more time and energy to approach the job search in this way, but it’s essential to account for the current market companies are facing if you want to secure your next opportunity.

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