A computer screen in an office has lines of code on it, representing one of the top engineering skills.
Image: © Seventyfour/Stock.adobe.com

6 skillsets recruiters look for in engineers

2 Mar 2021

Here are some of the technical talents and softer strengths to focus on if you want to be a engineer.

Read more Engineers Week stories.

Engineering skills continue to be in high demand. According to Engineers Ireland’s latest report, 79pc of engineering companies in Ireland are planning to recruit new staff this year. Utility organisations such as electricity, water, gas and telecommunications companies were most optimistic, with 94pc looking to hire engineers in the year ahead.

But software engineering is another significant area. In its recent State of Software Engineering report, Hired said that full-stack, back-end and front-end engineers were in particularly high demand last year, and machine learning engineers could attract high salaries in every major US tech hub.

Based on its survey of companies and jobseekers across the US and the UK, Hired also reported that software engineers in particular are increasingly self-taught, with university degrees becoming less critical. So, if you’re thinking about moving into the industry, what are the skills you should prioritise?

Coding languages

According to Hired, experience with specific coding languages and frameworks is what tends to set software engineers apart. But it’s estimated that there are between 250 and 2,000 coding languages. So where should you start?

Given the demand for engineers across the globe, there’s lots of information available on how different languages are faring in the market. Hired said that Go was a language in high demand last year, followed by Scala and SASS.

Jobs platform Upwork revealed last year that some of the highest-paying languages on its site were Objective-C, Go, Excel VBA and Kotlin.


As with almost every job, balancing core competencies with softer skills is key for engineers. Software company Workhuman has product and technology teams in Dublin, where it hopes to double its workforce to 800 people by 2023.

The company’s vice-president of engineering, Ronan O’Dulaing, shared what he’ll be looking out for in new hires.

“In engineers, I look for people with a clear understanding of the positive impact we are delivering to our customers, innovation and a passion for their craft, and the self-awareness to understand what their strengths and developmental areas are,” he said. “Above all, I’m looking for authentic people whose motivations are well aligned with the opportunities that exist at Workhuman.

“We move at a fast pace, and opportunities abound for those who want to learn new things and take on new challenges. Innovation, fresh thinking and radical candour are very much welcomed.”


On the technical side of software engineering, coding and frameworks typically go hand in hand. While engineers employ programming or coding languages to tell the computer what to do, a software framework sets out the rules that an engineer should follow when writing the code.

Chandan Kumar, application developer at ThoughtWorks, has explained the distinction in more detail. “Since web applications are one of the most common types of applications, there are tons of frameworks for it in practically every language,” he writes.

“For creating web applications using the Java programming language, some of the frameworks available are Spring, GWT, JSF, Struts, etc. If you are coding in Python, you can again choose from an array of web frameworks including Django, Tornado and Flask.

“Some frameworks are full of features and may be an overkill if you only want to create a basic application. Others are lean and focused on doing only one thing. Choosing a framework for your application is as big a decision as choosing the language itself.”

Hired’s report said the most in-demand frameworks in 2020 across the US and the UK were Redux.js, Google Cloud, AWS, React.js.

Passion and problem-solving

Soft skills are also important in pharmaceutical engineering. Brad Holstine, director of engineering, manufacturing, science and technology at MSD Biotech Dublin, told us that while technical competency is crucial, there are other skills a candidate needs to bring to the table.

“As the work we do at MSD is constantly evolving, being able to marry technical capability with critical thinking, business acumen and problem-solving is a critical skillset we look for,” Holstine said.

“This means we’re not only looking for engineers with a deep understanding of core science and engineering skills and capability, but also a demonstrated ability to learn and grow.”


As more companies shift to remote working on the back of Covid-19, demand for cloud-based skills is growing, Hired said. It reported that recruiters are looking for knowledge in Kubernetes and Docker.

These are systems that help engineers with automation, scaling and containers, which allow them to bundle and run applications more easily and efficiently. Other platforms cloud engineers need to be familiar with include AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

A couple of months after the pandemic began, Hays’ global head of technology, James Milligan, told us: “As the majority of the workforce has transitioned to home working over the last couple of months, cloud and infrastructure skills have, and continue to be, key – particularly within cloud-based services such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

“The use of cloud systems looks set to remain prevalent as lockdowns ease and we begin to move towards a more hybrid way of working, and experienced professionals will be required to ensure that organisations are able to scale up or down according to business requirements and to deploy cloud services where needed.

“What will also be vital is consistent and reliable connectivity to these services, with the ability to access cloud systems quickly and easily crucial to employee productivity and operational efficiency.”


Holstine also highlighted the importance of communication skills for engineers. They must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with business partners, collaborators and teams.

“If you can tie technical competency in with great teamwork and communication, the journey of the engineer at MSD can be extremely interesting and full of opportunities,” he said.

“People management skills are also of high importance. One minute you might be dealing with a complicated problem, solving a single issue, the next, you could be managing a team and working across a broad range of diverse stakeholders.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading