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What Programming Languages Engineers and Employers Love—and Hate

Hired survey shows engineers love Python and hate PHP; meanwhile, companies hunt for the elusive Go programmer

3 min read

Illustration of a programmer sitting in front of a computer with boxes that contain different programming languages names around him.
Illustration: iStockphoto

Online recruitment firm Hired released a report this week designed to paint a picture of software engineering job seekers in 2018. The Hired report combined data from its job sites around the world with responses to a survey of 700-plus developers around the world. Hired dug into the love/hate relationships between software engineers and programming languages, and teased out mismatches between the software skills engineers have and the skills employers seek. (It also rounded up salary data, both globally and regionally; more on that in a future post.)

To figure out which programming skills sparked the most corporate interest in 2018, Hired looked at the number of interview requests received by a job seeker listing experience with a given programming language during the two to six weeks the job seeker was available through Hired.

The winner, globally, was Google’s Go—probably because developers are in such short supply. That programming language is used by only 7 percent of the job-seekers on the site. It’s also a good time to be working with Scala; that’s number two in terms of employer desire, and only 3 percent of developers surveyed listed it as their primary language.

Coding Languages: Hot or Not?

The skills coveted by employers don't always match up with developers' skill sets. On the far left, this chart shows the skills that employers desire most, ranked globally according to the average number of interview requests per candidate posted in 2018. The next five columns indicate those skills’ local rankings. The final entry in each row indicates the percentage of job seekers on the site who work primarily with that language.

Skills San Francisco Bay AreaNew YorkTorontoParisLondonDevelopers
1. Go328137%
2. Scala47131423%
3. Ruby21215410%
4. TypeScript1512112%
5. Kotlin51012892%
6. JavaScript6434562%
7. Objective-C1031011133%
8. PHP7663812%
9. Java91297742%
10. HTML8956636%
11. Swift1181412156%
12. Python12117131042%
13. C++131415101414%
14. C1415115129%
15. C#1513491117%
16. R16161616162%
Source: Hired

A few cities jumped out in terms of local differences. For example, if C is your language, you might consider living in Paris; if you prefer C#, take a look at Toronto. And if you really want to move to New York, brush up on Ruby.

Coding Languages:
Love ’em or Hate ’em

Programming languages developers most love (respondents could select more than one or none at all)

  1. Python (51%)
  2. JavaScript (49%)
  3. Java (37%)
  4. HTML (34%)
  5. C++ (23%)

Programming languages developers most hate (respondents could select more than one or none at all)

  1. PHP (19 %)
  2. Java (12%)
  3. Objective-C (11%)

Meanwhile, at the bottom of all the charts was R. (R has been rapidly trending downward in our annual ranking.) The gory details appear in the chart above.

On the other side of the equation, Hired’s survey determined that, for engineers, the most loved language overall was Python, while the most hated was PHP. (Python also came out on top of IEEE Spectrum’s most recent annual ranking of programming languages.) And as for Java, hardly any respondents were neutral. Java ranked as both the third most-loved language and the second most-hated.

It’s not easy to say exactly why someone loves or hates a language. The main reason engineers gave for not liking a language was simply “It’s not fun to program.” The most loved languages, Hired’s survey found, are those that “have the best resources for learning & development.” And in the perennial debate over tabs versus spaces that has even bubbled over onto HBO’s “Silicon Valley” television show, tabs won, 56 percent to 24 percent.

What’s clear is that there’s a disconnect between what employers seem to want and what programmers most enjoy. The top three languages developers love (Python, JavaScript, and Java) rank 12th, 6th, and 9th, respectively, when it comes to people with those skills being called in for interviews.

A version of this post appears in the May 2019 print magazine as “What Employers Want From Coders: In-Demand Job Skills Vary By Region.”

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