Most companies rely on in-house software engineers to create custom apps or software. They believe that in-house development guarantees that their software will be created, tested, and deployed according to their deadlines and requirements. Many companies also believe that in-house teams work harder to deliver high-quality software, especially because they can work in tandem with the quality assurance department.
However, hiring in-house software engineers is often easier said than done, particularly if you're in the US. That's because salaries for US-based IT professionals have reached an all-time high over the last few years. According to Glassdoor, the average software engineer in San Francisco earns a whopping $135,464 annually.
These high salaries have pushed tech companies and startups to seek software engineers from outside the US. By hiring from other countries, you can both save money and continue to produce innovative products. Thanks to real-time technology like Zoom and Slack, remote software engineers can now work just as effectively and efficiently as in-house developers.
Read on to learn more about software engineering, what software engineers do, how much it costs to hire them, and where to hire them.
What Is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is a branch of computer science that includes the creation and development of applications and computer systems software.
Applications software programs — better known as apps — are user-oriented programs that include database programs, web browsers, games, and game clients. Computer systems software includes programs designed to run computer applications and hardware programs. Some examples of this are operating systems like macOS and Microsoft Windows.
What Does a Software Engineer Do?
Software engineers use programming languages, computer operating systems, and software development skills to create software. They apply engineering principles to every step of the software development process to create custom applications and systems for clients.
Depending on their area of expertise, software engineers can create many different types of software, including:
- Computer games
- Business applications
- Operating systems
- Business applications
When working with clients, they'll analyze the client's needs, then create, test, debug, develop, and deploy the software their client wants them to create
Types of Software Engineers
There are two main types of software engineers:
Application engineers create and/or adapt applications for startups by analyzing the end users' needs. They're responsible for designing, creating, debugging, deploying, and maintaining apps for mobile phones, computers, and tablets.
Application engineers typically work in teams. They're proficient in various programming languages and may work with data scientists, graphic designers, and other app development personnel to create applications. They may also work with the quality assurance team to test and fix bugs before an app is launched.
Systems engineers coordinate the maintenance, creation, and growth of a startup's hardware and software. Drawing on their knowledge of engineering, computer science, and mathematics, they analyze each department's needs and offer suggestions for technical development. They also:
- Set up networks that link devices within the company
- Troubleshoot problems that arise
- Provide clients with guidelines for improving user interfaces, system capabilities, and security measures
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Software Engineer?
Software engineers' salaries vary depending on location. Fortunately, you can avoid these costs if you hire engineers from Latin American countries, such as Chile and Argentina. Compared to their US-based counterparts, Latin American software engineers typically demand lower salaries due to the lower cost of living in Latin America. For example, the cost of living for a single person in Buenos Aires, Argentina is approximately $646 per month in US dollars.
Software Engineer Qualifications
Software engineering requires specific qualifications, such as a bachelor's degree in computer science and a thorough knowledge of programming. Here's what you should look for when hiring software engineers for your startup or project.
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science
Most companies require software engineers to have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science. A 4-year bachelor's degree demonstrates that a candidate:
- Has put in the time and effort to learn about software engineering. Most bachelor's degrees take four years to complete.
- Has a strong understanding of at least the basics of computer science.
However, a degree doesn't necessarily make a candidate a better fit for the position you're looking to fill. There are many software engineers with degrees who have lackluster portfolios and limited programming experience. On the other hand, there are many great self-taught software engineers without a degree who have impressive software engineering portfolios.
In short, a candidate's portfolio, experience, and skill set will say more about whether they're a good fit for your team.
Solid Programming Skills
Your chosen software engineer should have honed programming skills.
Specifically, they should:
- Be an expert in one language
- Be fluent in two or three additional languages
If you aren't sure of which languages you should look for, here are the top 10 programming languages in 2021, according to Statista:
Software Testing Skills
To prevent broken and untested code from creating disturbances — like crashes — you need to hire a software engineer who can test and debug their own code.
Many companies believe that testing should only be done by the testing team. But this isn't the best way to root out broken code and bugs. By having software engineers test their own code before it goes to the testing team, they can root out bugs earlier in the development cycle. As a result, both software engineers and the testing team will spend less time on back-and-forth exchanges, leading to improved productivity and efficiency.
There are many types of product testing and many methods that can be used. At a minimum, your software engineer should know the following:
- Unit testing. This is a way of testing a unit, which is the smallest piece of code that can be isolated in a system. For most programming languages, a unit is a subroutine, property, function, or method. Unit testing can give software engineers a detailed view of how their code is performing. On a more practical note, unit tests can be run very fast — for instance, up to a rate of 1,000 tests per second.
- System testing. System testing involves testing and analyzing an already completed product. Software engineers typically use automation tools like Tricentis Tosca and Worksoft Certify for these kinds of tests.
- Integration testing. The most difficult type of testing, integration testing involves integrating and testing software modules as a group. Most software projects consist of various software modules coded by different developers. This testing exposes defects in the interaction between the modules when they're implemented together.
Because integration testing focuses on the interactions between modules, it's also known as I&T (integration and testing), thread testing, and string testing.
Understanding of Operating Systems
Software engineers also need to know how to build and use operating systems.
To do this, they need a strong understanding of:
- Programming languages like C, because C directly interacts with hardware
- How hardware works — specifically, how CPU cycles, CPU architecture of devices, and memory architecture work
- How to create the graphical user interface (GUI) of an operating system
- Computer networking within the kernel, the foundational layer of an operating system
Systems engineers must have proven abilities and experience working with operating systems to coordinate the maintenance, creation, and growth of your software and hardware.
Even application engineers need to have a deep knowledge of operating systems. This is because they need to know how operating systems work in order to build, debug, and deploy apps.
Creating software is impossible without also creating a database to store its data.
A database is an organized collection of data that's stored in a computer system. Typically controlled by a database management system (DBMS), databases are modeled in columns and rows in a series of tables to make data querying and processing more efficient. Software engineers and other developers can then easily access, manage, update, modify, organize, and control data.
Most databases use structured query language (SQL) for querying and modifying data. As such, your remote software engineers should be proficient in SQL.
Besides knowing the basics of how to use and create databases, your hires should also know how to work with different types of databases, such as:
- Distributed databases. Distributed databases consist of two or more files in different places. A distributed database may be stored in the same physical location, on multiple computers, or distributed over various networks.
- Data warehouses. These centralized repositories for data are specifically designed for lightning-fast querying and analysis.
- Relational databases. Items in this type of database are organized as a series of interlinked tables. They are the most flexible and efficient way to access structured information.
- Graph databases. A graph database stores data about entities and the relationships between them. Entities are shown as nodes that are connected to each other. For example, a person in Node A is linked to someone in Node B in three ways: they live with them, they are married to them, and they both drive the same car.
- Object-oriented databases. Like object-oriented programming, these databases represent information as objects.
- Online transactional processing (OLTP) databases. OLTP databases are speedy analytical databases that enable the real-time execution of large numbers of transactions by large numbers of people over the internet. They drive many financial transactions people make every day, including in-store and eCommerce purchases, ATM and online banking transactions, and airline and hotel bookings.
- Open-source databases. These database systems use open-source code. This means their codebases are free to download, view, distribute, modify, and reuse.
- Document/JSON databases. Designed for storing, managing, and retrieving document information, these databases are a great way to store data in JSON format rather than in columns and rows. JSON is used to serialize and transmit structured data over networks, particularly between servers and web applications.
- Self-driving databases. The newest and most revolutionary kind of database, self-driving databases use machine learning to automate security, database tuning, updates, backups, and other management tasks typically performed by database administrators. They're also called autonomous databases.
Understanding of Blockchain
The ideal remote software engineer should also be caught up with the hottest technologies, including blockchain.
A blockchain is a decentralized, digitally distributed, public ledger that facilitates the process of tracking assets and recording transactions in a business network. Many companies use blockchain systems to maintain a high level of security for transactions and personal data protection.
The aim of a blockchain is to allow data to be distributed and recorded but not edited. If someone wants to edit the blockchain — by editing existing information or adding new information to the system — they must obtain permission from all other users. This is done through a consensus mechanism such as proof of stake (PoS) or proof of work (PoW).
Best known for their roles in cryptocurrency systems like Bitcoin, blockchains can also be used in many other applications, including:
- eCommerce stores
- Real estate records
- Decentralized finance (DeFi) applications
Understanding of Cryptography
If you plan to create blockchain software, you need to hire a software engineer with a firm grasp of cryptography.
Cryptography is the study of blockchain protocols that block unwanted and unauthorized parties from accessing data. Without this skill, your software engineer won't be able to create secure blockchain apps and systems.
Here are some popular cryptography concepts that your hire should know:
- Public-key cryptography. Also known as asymmetric cryptography, public-key cryptography uses algorithms to generate two keys: one for the owners of the system and one for the public. Many internet standards use public-key algorithms, including S/MIME, GPG, Transport Layer Security (TLS), and PGP.
- Cryptographic hash functions. These are mathematical algorithms that transform cleartext passwords into enciphered text called hash values. Software engineers can use cryptographic hash functions to protect user data from data leaks and other cybersecurity issues.
- Key management. Key management refers to the secure storage and handling of cryptographic keys. It includes key retrieval, storage, encryption, distribution, and conversion. Specifically, your software engineers should know how to:
- Store keys on the system using cryptographic services keystores, CCA keystores, JCE keystores, and digital certificate manager certificate stores
- Encrypt keys before storing or sending them outside the secured system environment
- How to create and manage a hierarchical key system consisting of master keys, key-encrypting keys (KEKs), and data keys
- Distribute keys using key algorithms
Experience With Cross-Platform Software
With cross-platform frameworks, software engineers can create a codebase for a program that works on several operating systems — for example, a social media app that works on iOS as well as Android.
This means you won't have to hire separate teams for creating apps for different platforms, so you can cut down on hiring costs and improve time-to-market.
Here are some of the most popular cross-platform app development frameworks:
Experience With Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Finally, your hire should have a thorough understanding of artificial intelligence (AI). Even just 5 years ago, AI was simply a "nice to have" skill that made a software engineer stand out from the crowd. However, it's a "must-have" for many industries now, including:
- Finance. Many banks and financial institutions use AI to detect fraudulent transactions. They also use AI to predict the rise and fall of stocks.
- Manufacturing. Many manufacturers use AI to speed up their time-to-market and productivity. Common applications include intelligent systems that can predict machine malfunctioning, AI-driven assembly lines, and AI-based machines that address supply chain concerns.
- Health. AI has been a game changer in the healthcare industry. For example, Babylon Health has created an AI chat app — GP at Hand — for the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS). People can use this app as the first point of contact when they feel sick. The app answers users' questions about their symptoms and gives instant medical advice about what they can do next. It also gives users the option to book a video call with a physician, if required.
- Transportation. Many vehicles now boast AI-based features, including predictive mechanisms that tell drivers about malfunctioning parts, emergency prevention protocols, and driving directions.
How to Hire Software Engineers
After you've made a list of what to look for in a software engineer, you need to create a job post to attract top-notch talent. You also need to develop questions to ask potential hires in interviews to pick the best person for your startup.
Software Engineer Job Post Example
Here's what your software engineer job description could look like. Consider adding the role's pay range in your job listing to make sure neither you nor the applicants waste time in the hiring process because of mismatched expectations.
Senior Software Engineer — Revelo
Revelo is looking for a fully remote Senior Software Engineer to join our team.
Our Senior Software Engineer will be joining a highly collaborative team that functions just like an in-office team. If you're in San Francisco (where our head office is), you'll also have the flexibility to work at the office or in a hybrid capacity.
This role is open to Senior Software Engineers in the following time zones:
- Eastern Standard Time (EST)
- Central Standard Time (CST)
- Mountain Standard Time (PST)
- Pacific Standard Time (PST)
- Create, test, and support the development of software applications, internal tools, and web apps
- Be proactive when it comes to spotting and addressing technical gaps and bugs
- Mentor peers and assist with code reviews and testing
- Contribute to an Agile way of prioritizing, estimating, and understanding tasks
- Use retrospectives to support the growth of our Agile ceremonies and practices
- Collaborate with other departments to continually improve our processes
- Bachelor's degree in computer science from an accredited institution
- Minimum of 7 years in a professional software engineering and development role
- Comfortable working in an Agile development framework
- Experience mentoring and supporting junior and intermediate developers
- Back-end development
- SQL creation and optimization
- Eye for detail
- Front-end development
- Proven ability and experience developing relational database solutions
- Experience working on a multi-disciplinary team
- Ability to focus on priorities while multitasking, as needed
- Experience with Salesforce integration
- Experience with Solidity
- Experience with Amazon Web Services (AWS)
More about Revelo:
Revelo is Latin America's largest human resources tech company that matches developers with companies throughout the world. We are currently hiring software engineers to build, design, implement, test, and deploy software applications, web apps, and internal tools.
Learn more about us at revelo.com.
- 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM PST
- Monday to Friday
- Gym membership
- 20 free hours of upskilling every year
- Paid parental leave
- Bonus pay
- Casual work environment
- Five weeks of paid vacation
- Dental insurance
Software Engineer Interview Questions
After creating a job post, you need to develop some interview questions for remote software engineers.
Many companies ask academic questions like "What is a database?" and "What is MySQL?" However, these questions don't reveal much about your potential hire's experience, work ethic, and personality.
To get a better sense of whether your potential hire is a good fit for your team, you should ask more personalized questions, such as:
- How did you get into software engineering?
- What was your favorite project to work on? Why is it still your favorite?
- What is your favorite programming language to use for software development? Why?
- Which is your least favorite language to code in? Why?
- How do you find the testing process? Which parts of the testing process are the most challenging? Why?
- How do you keep up with software development and engineering trends?
- How do you bake security into your software creation process?
Find Fully Remote Software Engineers
There are many reasons to hire software engineers and many routes you can take to get there. Here are some reasons and ways to find the best person for the job.
Why Should You Hire a Software Engineer?
Have you ever wondered, "Why should I hire a software engineer?"
First, software engineers are experts in app and system development. Without them, you won't be able to create secure user-friendly apps for internal and external use.
But there are several other reasons you should hire a software engineer for your startup:
- To increase productivity. Software engineers are experienced, confident programmers who can write and test code. By adding a software engineer — or better yet, a team of software engineers — to your team, you can boost productivity, decrease downtime, reduce bugs, and increase your return on investment (ROI).
- To develop your startup's minimum viable product (MVP) strategy. An MVP is a product that is ready for launch. It has just enough features to attract customers in the short term but lacks many features that will keep people interested in the long run.
If you hire a software engineering team, they can test your product to give you feedback, insight, and data that you can use for market analysis. Your team can also help with foreign markets if you decide to outsource development.
- To improve workflow specialization. Hiring a new software engineer or a team of software engineers can add new specializations to your development workflow. For example, the new team or hire can focus on improving your product's user experience (UX) to make it more attractive to customers. This will give your current team more time and energy to focus on other tasks.
How and Where to Hire Remote Software Engineers?
There are many sites for hiring remote software engineers, including freelancer sites and talent marketplaces like Revelo.
Many companies use freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Freelancer.com to locate software engineering talent. Unlike traditional full-time employees, most freelancers charge by project or by the hour. They don't require benefits, which means you can cut a lot of costs.
Talent Marketplaces Like Revelo
You can also hire remote software engineers through talent marketplaces like Revelo.
Unlike freelancer sites, talent marketplaces like Revelo come with pre-vetted talent pools, which means you don't have to spend hours manually sifting through applicants' resumes and profiles.
For instance, Revelo has FAANG-calibre software engineers who have been pre-tested for their English proficiency, experience, and knowledge. We also have software engineers specializing in every tech stack and language, including:
- Ruby on Rails
Your new hires will be located in time zones compatible with US business hours. We even handle all of the hiring, payroll, and compliance with local regulations for you. This means you can hit the ground running with the new additions to your team without worrying about all the paperwork.
Interested in building projects with our software engineers? Reach out to us about your project and we'll send you a list of software engineers in 3 days. If you don't think they're a good fit for your team or project during our 14-day free trial, it's on us.
Talk to us today to start hiring.