Everywhere you look it seems there's an article or video proclaiming the sweet spot .NET developers are in – and the tough one hiring managers are in. It's no secret that .NET developers are challenging to find. But why is that?
The .NET developer is as in-demand as he or she is elusive, and in researching why this might be, I happened upon an interesting thread that posed just the question I was looking to answer: Why is it so hard to find .NET developers?
Clearly there is a disconnect. After all, this hiring challenge is not simply an issue of supply and demand – yes, there is a demand for .NET developers, but there also seems to be a decent supply. So why haven't we reached .NET equilibrium?
Three theories behind the .NET developer disconnect
1. We're using ".NET developer" too broadly.
.NET is a framework. Therefore, you can't actually develop with it so much as you can develop for it. This means that .NET developers are best defined as a type of web programmer with a strong understanding of the .NET framework. They're responsible for developing a variety of online programs, applications and interfaces. So to say you need a .NET developer is like telling your barber to give you a haircut; it's a start, but without any more information, you may not get exactly what you're looking for.
According to one commenter on the thread above, if you throw a rock, chances are you'll hit a .NET developer. While this may discredit any theory that there's a shortage of .NET developers, the commenter goes on to say: "The real question is, 'Why is it so hard to find .NET developers with five years of ASP.NET MVC v3 experience?'" In other words, it's not .NET developers in general that are scarce; it's the more specific expertise and skill sets that are a challenge to find. Next time you begin a .NET developer search, consider whether you are relying on specifics or generalities to find candidates.
2. The supply of .NET developers exists, but it doesn’t match what companies think they need.
Is it possible that what we're looking for is right in front of our noses, but we don't realize it's there (or we do realize it's there, but don't think it's what we're looking for)? While there may not be a lack of .NET developers, there may be a lack of understanding about what would make a good fit, skills-wise.
According to a .NET job-seeking commenter, most employers call for five or more years of .NET development experience despite the fact that the .NET framework has really only become widespread within the last five years. Therefore the question becomes: Should employers consider more entry-level developers who have the potential to grow?
Furthermore, if hiring managers' skills requirements or expectations are too rigid, they can lose sight of the fact that, say, one "type" of programming language may be swapped for another, such as Java and C++. Make sure you're clear about "musts" and "nice to haves" when it comes to languages and other skills, otherwise, you might miss out on a solid developer with great potential and the skills flexibility to get the job done.
3. Companies want a level of experience or skill set that is near impossible to find (aka unicorn hunting), but aren't willing to train to get it.
Staying up to date on .NET can be a challenge given how quickly it changes, thus it can be easy for developers to fall behind. Realistically, no one can know all of .NET. Therefore, either developers need to take initiative to stay current, or companies need to help them do so.
As a third commenter puts it, employers have unrealistic expectations around skills (they want developers to be an expert in everything), yet there is no longer any training at work to help developers meet that expectation.
So who should be held responsible for skills training? As a .NET job seeker, if you want to be competitive, you should consider taking charge of your own training. On the other hand, if companies and hiring managers feel there are too few .NET developers that are trained to standard, offer training in house. Either way, training and certification programs exist and can help lessen the gap between desired and available skills.
Let the .NET developer debate continue
Agree? Disagree entirely? What do you think is causing the disconnect? Share your thoughts on .NET developer supply, demand, skills, et cetera in the comments.
Find out what it takes to become a .NET developer, as well as job descriptions for many other IT jobs: