Trends in Job Search for Technical Skills

Douglas Ketner
Jul 24, 2020 · 5 min read

Note: The analysis below describes trends that emerged in 2019, relative to 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has, in many cases, moderated or reversed the growth in searches for skills. I have added short annotations for trends which, in spite of the pandemic’s effect on the labor market broadly, continue to obtain in 2020.

Introduction

Every hour, Glassdoor fields an enormous volume and variety of queries from people looking for jobs. While the majority of these searches take the form of a job title, many users also search for companies, industries, salaries, employment types, and skills.

One quick way of throwing a bridle on this wild data is to look at trends on a year-over-year basis. Compared to twelve months ago, what are Glassdoor job seekers searching for with increasing avidity? Which of their queries are holding steady, and which queries have attenuated?

This blog post will explore year-over-year changes in search intent for queries that can be construed as “skills of a technical nature” (to wit: programming languages and software, but general domains and fields of study as well). These changes have been adjusted for overall search traffic growth on Glassdoor.

To the extent we can say that search intent for a skill (or a job title, or an employer, or an industry) has changed meaningfully over time, and in a secular fashion, we should acknowledge multiple possible causal factors for said increase or decrease.

Most simply, many job seekers are searching for jobs via the skills they already possess, hoping to find a new position, using a skill as a proxy for a job.

Other job seekers may be responding to signals in market demand for a given skill, and exploring the availability and attractiveness of what’s “out there” — searching more aspirationally than practically — and sussing out the potential reward for proficiency or mastery of a skill the job seeker may not already consider to be part of her repertoire.

In these ways, an increase or decrease in searches for a skill can, after a fashion, be a leading and/or a lagging indicator of just where any given skill exists in the minds and needs of job seekers and employers.

Provisos

Increases and decreases in search intent reflect only adjusted rates of change on an annual basis — not “market share,” or overall raw search frequency. In some cases, large increases or declines in year-over-year search activity can represent aggressive moves off of a base of very low search volume.

Conversely, single-digit year-over-year rates of change in searches for common, established skills should come as no surprise, as competition and innovation work to gradually erode any single skill from ruling its domain roost (with a few salient exceptions).

Finally, across the most popular and ubiquitous skills, incumbency and wide adoption can mask high rates of churn and turnover in job seeker interest for said skill.

The Heavy Hitters

Let’s look first at search trends for the most popular and ubiquitous programming skills.

The noble C programming language (+22%) shows a healthy growth year-over-year, while the syntactically similar Go (+2%, and +70% in 2020) holds its own. Blowing the “competition” out of the water is Kotlin (+123%), clocking in at a growth rate that should make any Android developer reach for her phone. Perhaps just standing still, Clojure (+1%) abides with dignity, while Elixir (+51%) and the indispensable, irrepressible Python (+21%, and +18% in 2020) show their strength and staying power. Holding serve is SQL (+2%), in marked contrast with stark declines in searches for JavaScript (-18%), Java (-13%), and Swift (-19%).

Finally, we’d be more than remiss if we neglected to address the crown status of Rust (+196%, and +19% in 2020) as the Most Loved Programming Language the Stackoverflow Developer Survey, four years running. Rust’s laurels are well-earned, and easily corroborated by its growth in searches from those, all the wiser, who seek jobs programming in it.

Legacy Languages

A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal noted the continuing demand, mostly in the financial and insurance sectors, for COBOL chops. Judging from search intent, we see that the potential of employment if one knows COBOL (+19%) is indeed real, and that awareness of this is likely growing. In contrast with FORTRAN (-35%), Lisp (-42%), and Perl (-37%), COBOL’s resilience seems even more impressive.

The NoSQL Landscape

The use of non-relational, or NoSQL, databases, which have existed since the 1960s, has exploded in recent years. While Cassandra (-13%) appears to be dipping in job seekers’ minds, Mongodb (+47%, and 48% in 2020), and Redis (+131%) are moving in the opposite direction, with gusto, though some of the growth can be chalked up to interest in actually working for the very companies that produce said flagship eponymous product.

Notably, we see a massive year over year deceleration in searches for NoSQL (-55%). More on this below.

The Breadth Exception

In many cases striking declines in queries that comprise broad skill domains are attested, even as explosive growth in search intent of the skills within these disciplines continues. As a case in point, the relatively “slow and low” growth in Machine Learning (+5%) search intent, despite inescapable buzz, is puzzling, especially considered against the roaring pace of Tensorflow (+98%) and PyTorch (+736%), to give a few examples. Startling decreases in Deep Learning (-15%), Hadoop (-54%), and Big Data (-21%), bear out the trend more fully.

The Forest of Frameworks

Web frameworks, for the most part, show robust growth, with spring boot (+118), flask (+140%, and +20% in 2020), and vue.js (+180%, and +27 in 2020) leading the field. Slightly less rip-roaring but still impressive are django (+32%, and +8 in 2020), node.js (+19%, and ), angular (+15%, and +10% in 2020), and react (+17%, and +86% in 2020). The laggard within this cohort is, for one or more reasons, angularjs (-46%).

The State of Continuous Configuration Management

While terraform (+244%) exploded into 2019, and ansible (+13%) was also no slouch, the declension in search intent for puppet (-29%) and saltstack (-55%) is enough to give pause.

Other Skills of Note and Intrigue

Although 3D printing has perhaps moved past its frothy hype phase, the remarkable increase in interest for cura (+396%) suggests that its promise has not dimmed the enthusiasm of job seekers. Perhaps an exception in turn to the Breadth Exception™ outlined above is the muscular growth in searches for nlp (+58%, and +14 in 2020). And though not a skill proper, the allure of working on a chatbot (+279%) will likely never lose its charm.

Next Steps and Further Inquiry

To get a sense of employer demand for our aforementioned skills, we’d start with a look at year-over-year growth in job listings requiring the skills we’re interested in.

We might also explore the way employers characterize these skills as a necessity (“required”) or opportunity (“nice to have” or “preferred”) for employment.

Thanks for reading.

Glassdoor Engineering Blog

Glassdoor’s Engineering Blog

Glassdoor Engineering Blog

The official blog of Glassdoor’s engineering team, sharing ideas and learnings found during our mission of helping people everywhere find a job and company they love.

Douglas Ketner

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Glassdoor Engineering Blog

The official blog of Glassdoor’s engineering team, sharing ideas and learnings found during our mission of helping people everywhere find a job and company they love.