The 5 top tech skills companies want in new hires right now

February 6, 2020, 9:00 PM UTC

Here’s just one way the enormous (and growing) appetite for tech talent is unique: demand is highest early in the year. Unlike in the rest of the job market, where most employers post fewer jobs in January despite a spike in applicants, a new report from career site Indeed notes that the number of IT openings has peaked at the beginning of every year since 2014.

2020 is no exception, with seven in 10 companies planning to expand tech hiring in 2020’s first six months, according to a Robert Half survey of 2,800 IT managers. Most (86%) of those decision-makers say finding enough people with the right skills is “challenging,” especially in cybersecurity, cloud computing, and database management. So it’s no surprise that many employers (75%) are offering extras like sign-on bonuses.

That’s terrific for techies, of course, but there’s a catch. “IT jobs are notorious for requiring specific, but ever-changing, skills,” says Indeed economist Andrew Flowers. “To thrive in today’s tech world, you need to be adept in a shifting menu of programming languages, web frameworks, libraries, databases, statistical methods, workflow tools, and platforms.” Whew. It can be tough, Flowers adds, for individual job hunters to “find those positions that are well matched with their skill sets.”

To make that daunting task a little bit easier, Indeed dove into its vast database of job listings and analyzed the most in-demand tech roles now, along with the specific skills it takes to qualify for the top four.

The 10 most widely available IT jobs now, according to Indeed’s report: software engineer, senior software engineer, software architect, system engineer, developer, systems administrator, full stack developer, technical support specialist, front-end developer, and product manager.

It’s worth noting that the top two, software engineer and senior software engineer, are the biggest categories by far, accounting for almost 11% of total job openings (including non-IT jobs) posted on Indeed.

Software engineers now need to be expert in “at least one, or preferably several, programming languages,” says Flowers, adding that “the most useful language to know depends greatly on the specific job in question.” The six languages most mentioned in recent software-engineer job postings : Java, C++, Python, JavaScript, C#, C, and NET.

Even if you have all the right skills at the moment, what employers need can change fast, Flowers says, so “people who want these jobs must be quick and agile” about spotting trends and picking up new skills as they go along.

Tim Tully agrees. Chief technology officer at data giant Splunk—whose clients number 92 of the Fortune 100—Tully says that the most important trait IT job candidates need now is “a strong desire to learn.” It might be too broad of a requirement, but consider Tully’s own list of the five most essential tech skills now:

1. Real-time data management

“Data is key,” says Tully, “and the need for understanding and managing data in real time is growing.”

2. Design thinking

“When I started my career 20 years ago, engineers didn’t need to think about design. Now they do. The bar is higher.”

3. App development

“You need a mobile version of every website now.”

4. A.I. and machine learning

They both “power everything, or soon will.”

5. A composite of the first four skills

That is, “it’s important to be at least fairly conversant with all of them.”

If that sounds like a tall order, it is. “You need to be like a Swiss Army knife,” he explains. To shine in tech, “you used to be able to pigeonhole yourself as an expert in one area of IT, or maybe two. Not anymore.”

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A.I. is transforming the job interview—and everything after
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