How do gender and ethnic background affect pay in tech?

This short-form, data-led article uses cord data on the ethnicity, gender and salary expectations of engineers to identify the pay gaps that exist between different gender and ethnic groups in the tech industry.

The original can be read here. More articles in the same series can be seen here.

Contextual data

White females have the lowest average salaries of all groups of engineers, at £62,019. The average female from a minority ethnic background earns £67,925, and white male engineers earn, on average, £72,573. Minority male engineers are the highest earning group, with an average salary of £77,576 – 25.08% greater than that of the average white female.

Below, the data is explored by function, job title (among developers), seniority and years’ experience, in order to compare the difference between the salaries of engineers of comparable ability and experience from different gender and ethnic backgrounds.

Unless clarified by context, “engineer” is used to refer to any professional who has created a profile for job-seeking purposes on cord. Engineers are carefully selected to be able to create profiles on cord. They require professional experience in Tech and Product-related roles, and are therefore specifically represent people working in these roles rather than, as many other statistics sometimes cover, the “Technology industry” as a whole. It is therefore felt that the data discussed here gives a unique insight into gendered and ethnic pay differentials among people working in Tech and Product-specific roles.

Salaries by function

Graph showing average salaries of white females, minority females, white males and minority males by function

Minority males are the highest earners in each function, while white females are the lowest earners in every function. Minority females earn more than white males in Development, but white males earn more than minority females in Infrastructure, Data and Product & Design.

The disparity between highest and lowest earners is greatest in Development, where males from ethnic minority backgrounds earn 29.99% more, on average, than white females.

Developer salaries by job title

Graph showing average salaries of white female, white male, minority female and minority male developers by job title

Males from ethnic minority backgrounds earn more than other groups in every job title within Development, and again, white females earn the least.

The disparity is greatest in back end, where males from ethnic minority backgrounds earn 28.57% more, on average, than white females.

Salaries by experience

Graph showing average expected salary of white females, minority females, white males and minority males by number of years' experience

Males from minority backgrounds earn more, on average, than other groups at every level of experience.

Men from ethnic minority backgrounds with 2 years’ experience earn more, on average, than white women with 5 years’ experience.

Key Insights

  • Across all tech and product functions, seniority and experience levels, men from minority backgrounds are the highest earners, while white women are the lowest earners
  • Men from ethnic minority backgrounds earn, on average, 25% more than white women
  • The average white female needs 6 years’ experience to out-earn the average man from a minority background with 2 years’ experience

Data Disclaimer

Data refers to 54,082 engineers across all locations (primarily London, Europe/Remote, and New York) on cord.

Gender is determined by one of two methods. All engineers are given the opportunity to self-ID. Roughly one quarter of engineers do so. The remainder have been assigned a gender (male or female) by a third-party predictive API ( based on their name. The API makes mistakes, but is accurate in 90-95% of cases. The same API is used to predict the ethnic background of all engineers.

All salary data is based on engineers’ expected salaries on cord, which is used as a proxy for actual salary.


This is a short-form piece aimed at letting Back End developers know which skills are most in-demand, according to data derived from cord’s product.

There are others like it viewable here. The original post for this article is here.

Demand for specific Back End development skills is difficult to quantify without hard data.

cord have analysed the average number of messages received by Back End developers with specific skills, allowing Back End developers to make more informed decisions based on relative demand for their skills.

Graph showing average number of message requests received per engineer with different Back End development skills on cord

The data show that TypeScript is the most in-demand skill for Back End Developers. Developers who listed TypeScript as a primary skill received, on average, 16.37 message requests each.

The next most in-demand skills are Go, Node.js, Microservices, React and AWS.

Of the top ten most in-demand skills, the least in-demand was APIs – which averaged 10.19 message requests per Engineer listing API building as a skill.


“Primary skills” refer to the skills that engineers identify as part of their primary skillset when they create their profiles on cord. They can select multiple skills.

“Message requests” are messages sent by companies to engineers, regardless of whether or not the engineer accepts that request.

The ingredients of our best work

This article, which features embedded clips from cord’s Best Work podcast, is aimed at software engineers looking for an introspective overview as to what factors they should consider when determining what sort of work they ought to do.

It can be read below, or at the original location here.

Identifying our place in the world through our work has stretched the minds of philosophers since ancient times – from Socrates and Confucius through to the likes of Marx, Kant and contemporary thinkers such as Alain de Botton. Deeply entangled with questions like “What is the meaning of life?” is that of “How should I spend my time?”

For most of us, answering this question will focus heavily on the work we do. To those of us fortunate enough to enjoy a degree of choice over our work, choosing correctly – identifying our best work – is a key component in living a fulfilling life.

The simplest way to categorise the “ingredients” that combine to produce our best work is generally to divide them into two categories: extrinsic, and intrinsic.

Extrinsic factors are those that come about as a result of doing work. These include money (and similar forms of non-salary benefits, in many modern companies), but also factors that, in one way or another, elevate our standing as individuals within our society, such as prestige, or power and influence.

Intrinsic factors are those that derive directly from the work itself. The sense of fulfilment we gain from performing work, the challenge it sets us, the personal growth we experience as a result of this, and the enjoyment we gain from doing the work in itself. Social impact is, here, included as an intrinsic factor, despite the fact that it implicitly relies on others beside the individual(s) doing the work.Find your best work with cord

Extrinsic factors


It seems natural nowadays, but the idea of salaried work as a route to happiness and satisfaction is a relatively new one.

Aristotle felt that paid labour was incompatible with living a fulfilled life, as it would corrupt the body and stagnate the mind, while Christianity maintained that work was a punishment meted out to humanity in penance for Original Sin. Avarice – the desire for wealth – was considered one of the seven deadly sins by Christian thinkers.

Not until the second half of the 20th Century did (most of) Western society truly shake off this notion and come to view the desire for material remuneration as a positive end in itself; the incentive to productive labour that, in turn, powered economies and enriched societies. The economic policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher during the late 1970s and 1980s embraced the concept at the heart of consumer capitalism; that work could do more than satisfy people’s basic needs, and in fact cater to their ever-expanding wants.

Wherever individuals stand on the political, economic and moral ramifications of consumer capitalism, one thing is clear: salary in the early 21st century is a fundamental element of how people evaluate their current or desired work. It consistently ranks as the most influential factor in people’s decisions to change jobs, and invariably is among the chief rankles of labour unionists leading industrial action.

It is, therefore, entirely natural that financial remuneration is the first component of our best work. For most individuals, work will have to provide the means to meeting certain life criteria – covering, say, the costs associated with children or the pursuit of leisure activities – as a minimum before it can be considered a person’s “best work”.

Counter to this, however, is research suggesting that, beyond sufficiency to cover our basic needs, more money does not necessarily correlate with greater happiness (though some recent studies have pushed back against this view). Additionally, focusing too heavily on financial aspects can blind us to the innate satisfactions of voluntary work or, at the extreme end, ascetic forms of work such as monastic lifestyles.


Not all the extrinsic rewards of work are material. Some forms of work are performed for the reputational advantages they confer.

For example, academia is in many respects a poorly-remunerated field of work (especially in relation to the training or educational inputs required). In this field, the principle extrinsic reward is the prestige of having one’s name appear on, say, the cover of Science magazine, or the moniker of a theorem.

For engineers, building an app that is well-regarded and used enthusiastically by our peers can have as strong an extrinsic pull as work that is financially rewarding, but less prestigious.

Power and influence

In the UK, a member of Parliament earns £84,144 per annum. In addition to this, a cabinet minister earns an extra £67,505, while the Prime Minister earns an additional £75,440 per annum, bringing the maximum salary that can be earned through British politics to just under £160,000 per annum.

This is by no means a small salary. However, many British politicians have net worths several times this amount, and former careers in fields like investment banking that pay substantially higher. The stresses and exertions of a political career clearly aren’t justified on purely financial grounds; it is the power and influence (as well as the prestige) that comes with shaping a country’s governance that attracts people to this field.

This is an extreme example of power and influence as an extrinsic factor in the work people choose. But there are abundant more everyday examples – police officers, teachers, journalists and, indeed, CEOs are all positions that people choose in part because of the power and influence they convey.

Intrinsic factors


The idea that the kind of work we do completes us as humans (or prevents us doing so) dates back, again, to Aristotle, but has received greater attention in recent years.

Roman Krznaric defines fulfilling work as “work that is life-enhancing, that broadens our horizons and makes us feel more human.” He adds that “just as we seek to express our individuality in the clothes we wear or the music we listen to, so too we should search for work that enables us to express who we are, and who we want to be.”

There is, then, a school of thought with a long and proud pedigree suggesting that our work, and how we perform it, is an essential part of who we are, as a species and as individuals. Work that realises our fullest potential selves – through self-actualisation – positions us closer than any other kind to the top of the Maslow pyramid, and in this sense is the closest to what might universally be defined as a person’s Best Work.

Indeed, fulfilment is perhaps the ultimate intrinsic benefit of work: the following intrinsic factors are its contributory features.


Lots of animals experience boredom. It’s tempting to add that humans are particularly susceptible to it, but this may just be anthropocentrism.

What is clear is that evolution appears to have equipped us with a psychological drive to action. Most people, if they remain inactive for extended periods of time, slip into deep states of boredom with potentially serious psychological consequences.

Work challenges us. At its best, work provides us with physical and/or mental stimulation that we depend on psychologically. For this reason, more challenging forms of work (such as playing professional tennis, or software development) are likely to be closer to our best work than more sedentary, repetitive jobs, provided that they are within the bounds of our ability – i.e. are not so challenging that they cause distress.

Learning and development

When our work challenges us, we learn from it. Physically challenging work (within reason) strengthens our bodies, and mentally challenging work broadens our minds. The physical and psychological benefits of work are ends in their own right, but their impact on us enable us to enjoy our time outside of work more, and perhaps even prolong our lives.

For this reason, it is not uncommon to hear people cite length of time in a role served and a flattening of the learning curve as reasons to begin searching for new work. A person’s best work is likely, therefore, to be in a field where as they learn and grow, their scope to take on new challenges, and learn still more, expands accordingly.


Work can, and at its best should, be fun. James Suzman observes that part of the difficulty of even defining what “work” is lies in the fact that the distinction between work and leisure often depends on context: “to a commercial artist, drawing is work, but to millions of amateur artists it is a relaxing pleasure.”

Many software engineers are drawn to the field because of the innate enjoyment that can be taken from solving complex technical problems, and unpicking the inner workings of computers, smartphones and the apps they run. Our best work ought, therefore, to have a kernel of enjoyment at its core; a soft centre of genuine pleasure taken in the activity itself that alleviates the struggles and stresses that inherently emerge when we pour our hearts and souls into an endeavour.

Social impact

Alain de Botton posits that work feels meaningful ‘whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others.’

Many forms of work have a positive impact on a specific person, groups of people, or society more broadly. Some forms of work – such as social care or charity work – are very directly socially beneficial, whereas others – such as writing code that powers restaurant PoS systems – are more commercially driven, whilst still deriving their commercial value from an improvement they make in people’s lives (in this instance, the working lives of restaurant staff and the dining experience of their customers.)

Some forms of work – such as credit card fraud or drug dealing – are generally regarded to have a negative social value and, as such, are outlawed. Such vocations both reduce delight and elevate suffering in their “customers.” Other forms of work are have their social value hotly contested; so, while industries like gambling are not banned outright, they are heavily regulated, and perceived by many workers as incompatible with their personal values (others, however, view the entertainment value provided to consenting adults as full social justification for the industry). This contested status of gambling perhaps stems from the fact that, while it frequently generates delight for its clientele, it can also greatly increase their suffering.

Whatever line of work you are in, it can help to reflect on the social value it provides, and to what extent this aligns with your own values. Or, in a more formulaic ‘do Bottonian” sense, the extent to which it either generates delight or reduces suffering.

It is, however, an observable phenomenon that work with high social impact tends to be poorly compensated, and that work which generates delight tends, on the whole, to pay better than work that reduces suffering. Film and sports stars are paid exponentially more than nurses and social workers. The creators of social networks, e-commerce giants and streaming platforms out-earn those of edtech or digital health services.

This alludes to one of the thorniest problems at the heart of theories of work itself: that over the course of the 20th Century, the “economic problem” posited by economist John Maynard Keynes (i.e., the scarcity of resources required for survival) has, as he predicted, been largely solved by Western capitalist economies, but that, contrary to his prediction, this hasn’t reduced the amount people in these economies work. If anything – given the greater participation in the workforce of women over the period, and a tendency towards longer working hours – the opposite has happened. Technology enables most of the West’s material requirements to be provided relatively cheaply, but we work harder than ever.

A balanced mix

The ingredients in the mixing pot that combine to create our best work fall into two categories: extrinsic factors such as money, prestige, and influence; and intrinsic factors that give us a sense of fulfilment, challenge, self-development, enjoyment, and of benefit to the society around us.

Balancing the precise mixture of these ingredients is a unique challenge for every individual. Some will be more motivated by money, others by power and influence. Some are disinterested in these entirely, and will gravitate towards work that has the greatest social impact over all other forms.

This essay is intended part as a checklist, but more as an invitation and guide to self-reflection; a sounding board against which feelings of disquiet and aspiration towards current and imagined lines of work can be compared, in the hope that more people the world over can find their own best work.Find personalised resources on cord

References and further reading

Leader bio – Dan Mcneil

This long-form piece is based on an hour-long interview with Dan McNeil, a Head of Engineering I’ve known since I was an agency recruiter. Dan’s thoughtfulness on topics like inclusivity and neurodiversity have always made him a distinctive engineering manager to follow and learn from, so interviewing him and distilling his philosophy was a fascinating experience.

The article can be read below, or in its original location here.

If I were a sculptor

One paradoxical aspect of technical leadership is that, in general, it involves a switch from solving technical problems to solving people problems. Being proficient at the former doesn’t necessarily imply any level of aptitude for the latter. A talented programmer of code doesn’t necessarily equate to an inspiring leader of engineers.

Dan McNeil – most recently Head of Engineering at iTech Media – embodies one potential solution to this paradox. From an early age, his focus has always been on solving problems. While coding has been one useful tool he’s acquired along the way to help him in this front, it hasn’t ever been the end goal in its own right. His focus from the outset has been on outcomes, and the particular tool used to reach these has been incidental.

“If I were a sculptor,” he says, “ – that’s a line from a song, isn’t it? – if I were a sculptor, I’d be much more interested in the sculpture than the chisel.”

As someone who has, in his time, managed dozens of direct reports and engineering divisions numbering 70 to 80, Dan finds himself sculpting people – their work and their career trajectories – far more than code or product these days.

Ironically, he has assembled a suite of tools with which to do so, centring on authenticity, transparency, and inclusivity. These differentiate him from the crowd of engineering managers, and indeed directly challenge many of the industry’s unspoken assumptions.

And then it was maths

Dan’s journey into technology reflects his focus on the end result.

“Maths was always my first love,” he says. This love led to a string of home computers, starting with the ZX81 and continuing with a Spectrum 128 and a Commodore Amiga, to appear in his early life. Back then, his mother would diligently enter the software code, which was then required to be entered by hand from magazines, into the machine, at which point young Dan would become obsessive about understanding how it worked.

“Nowadays, I would talk about things such as flow of control, but back then, it was just: ‘how does this sit together?’”

Despite this, it never occurred to Dan to study computer science.

“When it came to picking my A levels, it was maths, further maths, further maths special paper, Cambridge entry papers in maths… and then it was maths!”

The toolkit

Despite his preference for the end result, it’s worth examining the toolkit Dan uses, as a manager, to create these flourishing careers – or, more accurately, to create the kind of environments in which they can flourish.

This toolkit is rooted in one of his first positions after university. Dan spent a combined ten years at Symbian and, following the company’s acquisition by Nokia, the Symbian Foundation. For most of this period, Dan was a Customer Engineering Consultant: the face of Symbian, embedded within the engineering teams of the phone manufacturers implementing Symbian’s software.

Here, Dan was introduced to the other type of challenge that grabs his attention most: those concerning people. The demands of acting as the face of one organisation within another taught him the fundamental tenets that now comprise his managerial philosophy: transparency, authenticity, and inclusivity.

Everything that can be shared

Management, like consulting, often involves acting as an information gatekeeper between two parties. Dan’s take on transparency takes account of that.

“I believe that everything that can be shared, should be shared.

“If somebody came to me and said, ‘What’s my colleague’s salary?’ I can’t tell them, but I can tell them why I can’t tell them. And that’s what I mean by transparency. It doesn’t mean that I blurt everything out to everybody, but it means that I either tell people things or I explain why I can’t share that information with them.”

At Symbian, Dan was privy to information that couldn’t be shared with its customers, and conversely gained insights through working with its customers that couldn’t go back to Symbian.

“If the manufacturer said to me, ‘We’d like to do this,’ I might just say to them, ‘I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but I can’t tell you the details of why, because it’s confidential.’ Obviously, if they don’t trust me, that’s useless. When they trust that I’ve got their best interests at heart, they’re going to say, ‘Okay, we trust you.’”

The right way of doing things

As such, authenticity is a key pillar of Dan’s approach. His take on transparency falls apart if it isn’t met with trust, which in turn relies on authenticity on his part.

“If you are authentic, honest and kind, you can still have tough conversations. You can still have conversations about performance. You can still do all the tough bits of management, but you do it within a space where people feel safe. So people feel comfortable to have a conversation with you where you say, ‘Look, I don’t think this is working out,’ during their probation, or to have a performance conversation with somebody whose performance has dipped.

“If you come from a place of kindness and curiosity, you will actually get to the bottom of what’s going on for that person. I don’t believe anybody wants to come to work and do a bad job. So you understand what’s happening and you can genuinely support them.”

He tells an anecdote from a previous company, which posed an exercise to its managers. A youth sports team, with a squad of 20, has progressed to the next stage of a competition. Only 15 squad members can be taken through to this stage. The managers – all of whom, besides the HR Manager, were men – were asked how they would decide who to progress.

Besides the HR Manager, Dan was the only person whose solution suggested including the squad members themselves in the decision-making process. Everyone else suggested some form of quantifying each squad member’s performance, then informing them of the decision once the ideal 15 had been identified.

“I came away from that initially thinking, ‘Great, I’ve got something different to offer.’ But actually, my voice got smothered. The others tried to coach me into thinking more like them, because that would make me ‘a better manager,’ rather than this lone voice who was saying ‘Maybe there’s another way of doing this.’

“I think that taught me to be more true to my belief in the right way of doing things.”

Being himself at work was a long journey for Dan to begin with, and in many respects it is still ongoing.

“I’ve been openly gay now at work since back in my Symbian days, but every time you start a new job, there is the question, as a leader coming into the organisation, of ‘Is this a safe space for me to come out or not?’ And it’s very easy in 2022 to say, ‘Well, all tech companies are.’ Well, actually, they’re not.”

Over time, Dan has learned that authenticity is less to do with conforming to those around him, and more to do with being himself.

“If I conform to think the same way and do the same things as the people around me, that’s the opposite of diversity. You want people to come in and think differently.”

Everyone tries to fix introverts

Dan’s own journey and learnings, especially to do with authenticity, have fed directly into the third pillar of his managerial philosophy: inclusivity.

As above, Dan feels that progress is still required on the industry’s inclusiveness as far as the LGBTQ+ community is concerned. Women, also, are under-represented. Dan cites figures suggesting that female representation in tech is actually falling from 10-15 years ago.

Corporate cultures that centre around stereotypically male activities may, in part, fuel this problem by creating non-inclusive environments for women.

“Let’s hire more women. Let’s aim for a gender balance. But it’s not just about finding and hiring women who fit the existing culture, but about changing the culture to make it more attractive to women.”

It is, however, in neurodiversity that Dan thinks the industry has the most ground to make up.

“Generally, it’s seen as not acceptable if corporate culture is exclusive of a group of people because of their gender, or their gender identity, or their sexuality or their religion or their race. Where we haven’t yet got is where we interrogate company cultures to say, ‘Is this inclusive of people who are not extroverts? Is it inclusive of people who are on the autism spectrum? Of people who are not comfortable speaking up in loud groups? Is it inclusive of people who suffer with anxiety?’”

There is a counter-intuitive aspect to this. The extrovert-heavy tech company culture is seemingly at odds with the “non-social” IT geek stereotype. When pushed on how this discrepancy can exist, Dan says:

“Entrepreneurs tend to be extroverts. And I know people will say, ‘Oh, there’s quiet entrepreneurs who aren’t social,’ but it’s different to being social. Somebody who has founded a company has had the self-confidence and the self-assurance to put themselves out there and talk about the company.”

In other words, company cultures have a tendency to reflect their founders’ personalities. This has consequences for the people who work there, and how genuinely diverse and inclusive they can be.

“Everybody tries to fix introverts. ‘Oh, you should come out of your shell more. You should relax more. You should learn how to enjoy yourself.’ Nobody tells the extroverts to calm down and meet in the middle!

“If there was somebody in the office who never talked to anybody, a manager who wasn’t that aware of neurodiversity might say, ‘I don’t feel like you’re communicating very much. Is there anything we can do to help you speak up more?’ But if somebody’s walking around the office, high-fiving everybody and whooping, is any manager actually going to have a word with them and say, ‘Look, your behaviour is actually making some people uncomfortable’? Probably not.”

Over the years, Dan has cultivated the art of honesty when giving his reasons for not attending company events.

“For years I said, ‘I can’t go to the Christmas party because my second cousin’s dog is having a wash,’ and that kind of thing. But in the end, I just said, ‘I’m not comfortable in that environment.’”

Taking this bold approach has prompted two forms of response in Dan’s colleagues. Some attempt to cajole him, imploring him to give the big, loud social events a try.

“The number of people who say, ‘Just try it, I’ll go with you. Why don’t you come and talk to me?’ But if you organised a mountain climbing expedition and you had somebody in the office who had a bad leg, you wouldn’t say, ‘Why don’t you just try harder on it?’ You’d say ‘No, you can’t do that.’

Others, however, have confided in him privately that they envy his honesty in giving his authentic reason for not attending such events. While Dan doesn’t consider himself a self-assured person, those around him seem to perceive him as such.

“I still don’t think my self-assurance is real. The ‘self-assured’ me is a learned behaviour that I have gained by watching other people who appear self-assured and thinking, ‘What can I do to appear like them?’

“Sometimes it misfires. Sometimes I come off as cocky. Sometimes I come off as arrogant because I overshoot it and it’s not because I am those things, it’s because I have seen other people acting that way.”

Enjoying the challenge

Speaking to Dan reveals a complex, nuanced picture of what a person’s best work might look like. He eschews the traditional quantitative metrics by which we tend to evaluate managers – “How big is your team? How many direct reports?” – and focuses his energy on the qualitative aspects of his leadership remit.

“The complexity of the people stuff increases as you get more people. The coaching you need to give to managers increases because as you get up to 70 or 80 people, I can’t get directly involved. If it’s a team of 20 or 30 people, if I need to or if it’s useful, I can get involved in the more complicated HR cases or I can lean in closer to technical decisions. And I could do that to a certain extent in a team of 70, 80, but not really because there’s just so much, so actually it involves a different style of management.

“I think that’s a useful, healthy style anyway: to empower the managers within the teams to be able to run their teams in a way that works, and have checks and balances to make sure that everything’s okay and that I’ve got evidence everything’s okay and I can spot when things aren’t, but without me being in the detail of what’s going on in the teams every day.“

Carving a group of sculptors who can shape themselves and their teams autonomously, in other words, is more productive than trying to chisel every detail into place himself.

Ultimately, for Dan, the defining question over whether he is doing his best work is: “Do I enjoy the challenge? Or do I find the challenge frustrating?”

This typifies his own approach to the two fundamental facets of technical leadership: technology, and people. For a man who found coding in many ways frustrating, but who was drawn into it as a means to the end of solving interesting problems, the cost-satisfaction scale was perhaps inevitably going to end up tipping towards the more human problems.

It is tempting to be surprised that a natural introvert should be drawn in this direction, but as Dan has learned along the way, it is often what makes us different that conveys our true strength. His transparent, authentic and inclusive style has been directly informed by his own experience, and enables him to act as an example to others who lack his learned self-assurance over how to pursue their own best work.

Hiring without FoM: What does it mean for the UK’s IT industry?

In March 2016 I wrote a piece arguing that, whether or not the UK remained in the EU, the current visa system needs a rethink if the growth of the country’s tech sector is to continue. Bluntly speaking, that hasn’t happened.

In the two and a half years since writing the article I’ve spent time in-house at ClearScore, one of the UK’s fastest-growing tech firms, and now know first-hand that visa application processes are slow, clunky and so unfit for purpose for these companies that they are effectively a non-viable option. When she announced an end to EU migrants “jumping the queue”, what Theresa May really meant is that UK-based employers will be disadvantaged compared to those of the other 27 EU member states. In the absence of any change to the Tier 2 visa system, rather than making it easier for UK companies to hire (more) non-EEA nationals, ending free movement only makes it harder to hire those with EEA passports. Put another way: pre-Brexit roughly 7%of employees in the tech sector (around 92,000 people based on latest ONS figures) needed a Tier 2 visa before starting work; post-Freedom of Movement, this number will double.

Irish border proposals notwithstanding, there’s been scant focus on technology in the Brexit debate so far. While many politicians and pundits lament the decline of the UK manufacturing, the country’s future should be seen in IT, a sector growing more than twice as fast as the UK economy as a whole. Per person, technology is also £10,000 more productive annually than other sectors. Access to talent is consistently one of the greatest challenges to digital companies. And while precise data on the makeup of the UK’s tech workforce more recently than 2015 is hard to come by, TechNation then painted a picture of an industry roughly equally reliant (for a total 13% of its employees) on EU and non-EU migrants, with the number of EU workers growing faster than non-EU. The equal split between EU and non-EU migrants is misleading; this indicates that tech hires a disproportionately high proportion of EU migrants compared to non-EU since net migration was more than three times higher from outside the EU than from EU27 countries in the twelve months to June 2018.

Table 1: Immigration, emigration and net migration to and from the UK by citizenship, UK, year ending June 2018. Source: Long-Term International Migration, Office for National Statistics

Most disturbing about those ONS figures is the sharp decline in net EU migration since 2015. 145,000 EU citizens emigrated last year. No small number of those will inevitably be IT professionals seeking more hospitable climes in the burgeoning tech hubs of Dublin, Lisbon, Amsterdam and Berlin. Despite this increase in emigration 74,000 more EU nationals moved here than left, but here’s the thing: that’s 10,000 less than in 2015, and there are still no legal hurdles involved in hiring an EU citizen. As things stand, from March 2019 the equivalent of the 219,000 EU nationals who migrated here will each have to out-compete (and thereby deny) a non-EU national for their place and the right to do so. In effect, this will more than wipe out the net 74,000 increase from the EU and will even come close to turning total net migration negative. In that scenario, an industry already facing major staff shortages whilst disproportionately dependent on migrant labour simply cannot grow.

What I consider the cream of the UK’s IT crop – small, agile, lean start-ups – will be worst hit. These companies struggle to access Tier 2 visa licenses compared to larger firms, and operate in a way that makes them more vulnerable to staff shortages and less able to shoulder the administrative burden of clunky, time-consuming application processes. Faced with the constant challenge of delivering promises to demanding investors and too cash-strapped to compete in a shrinking talent pool already teeming with ravenous sharks, these companies – that have spearheaded innovation and delivered disproportionately high tax revenues for their size over recent decades – will be snuffed out, their place taken eagerly by Irish, Portuguese, Dutch and German entrepreneurs.

The rapid growth of the UK’s IT sector has been made possible by freedom of movement from the EU, avoiding the cumbersome bureaucracy involved in the administration of Tier 2 visas. In the absence of a streamlined visa process, as well as a massive increase in the number of visas the government plans to issue annually, ending FoM spells the end of the most innovative edge of this high-growth, highly productive tranche of our economy.

How ClearScore Discovered Job Seekers That Use Glassdoor Become Better Candidates

First published on the Glassdoor for Employers blog at 

At ClearScore we love data. Since I joined the company unfamiliar acronyms like ‘UMARUs’ and ‘PUDL’ have bounded into my life like enthusiastic but confusing labradoodles. While data drives nearly every business decision we make, when recruiting in a fiercely competitive market we need tools that allow us to blend emotion with hard data.

Glassdoor has a suite of capabilities it offers in-house recruiters, beyond merely functioning as a research tool for prospective job applicants. Its focus on transparency and openness mirrors ClearScore’s mission to inject clarity and control into the world of credit scoring and personal finance, but this isn’t the whole story.

Without impacting or influencing this transparency, employers have a surprising degree of control over their Glassdoor profile. This includes the content on the landing page – company description, photos etc. – and like LinkedIn there’s the ability to post updates. It even (if you subscribe) functions like a “free” job board that most ATSs can post jobs onto. Which is where it gets interesting.

Having reviewed our sourcing data for the last 18 months, we’ve seen that applicants who apply through Glassdoor (i.e. click on a job vacancy directly from our Glassdoor page rather than going from there to our website) are 20% more likely to receive a job offer than applicants who apply through other free job boards. They tend to be better-suited to the roles they apply for and better prepared for our interview process. This greater efficiency afforded to in-house recruiters is invaluable when time is at a premium.

This is relatively minor, however, compared to the part Glassdoor plays in the applicant journey as a whole. While the majority of candidates who apply to ClearScore via external job boards will check us out on Glassdoor on their way through the process, the same doesn’t apply the other way around. The company’s strong presence on Glassdoor, particularly the blend of mostly positive reviews and especially our CEO Justin’s personal responses to the occasional negative review, played a central part in convincing me that this was the right opportunity when I applied. Best of all, because of Glassdoor’s transparency, this impression was accurate: I’ve found life at ClearScore to be just as good as I expected, and I feel I went in already aware of the company’s growing pains and the steps it was taking to address these.

Glassdoor tracks total impressions month by month, allowing these to be correlated with PR and tactics such as recruitment events and their effectiveness (in terms of impressions and applications) measured and compared historically. ClearScore’s product, as well as the company’s success, are built on the premise that “What can be measured can be improved”, and with ambitious plans to rapidly scale our team both in the UK and overseas over the next six months this ability to monitor the effectiveness with which our message is broadcast is a key part of our hiring strategy.

Finally, Glassdoor affords employers a measure of control over the nature of this message. As a Glassdoor partner we have a dedicated account manager on hand to answer queries and offer advice on how to optimise our profile, and ensure that our employer brand is communicated clearly through an increasingly important channel.

All in all, it’s tough to recruit in the modern world without a well-curated Glassdoor profile, and the more internal recruiters engage with the platform the more they can gain from it. It’s well-placed to provide the hard data behind subjective questions like “How well are we perceived by jobseekers?”, something any rapidly-scaling company needs to know.

Two Years and Two Weeks of ClearScore

First published Oct 17, 2017 soon after I started at ClearScore at

Most tech companies’ CEOs are almost synonymous with their brand. Bezos, Page, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates and… Moose? When I crashed ClearScore’s end of race event just before starting here, it was Moose’s face that watched down on us from above the seven digits that tracked our number of users.

With Moose keeping an eye on the numbers, Justin Basini, the CEO and co-founder, congratulated the team (I had to remind myself that this probably didn’t include me just yet) for their efforts over the last three months. Then, with perfect timing and a big round of applause, the 4 at the start of the number ticked over to 5 – officially taking us over the 5 million users milestone.

ClearScore at that point was almost exactly two years old, having launched in August 2015. Two years after they were founded, Facebook had 5.5 million usersTwitter 5 million. When Justin and the other founders first made a plan for ClearScore, they made three predictions about how quickly the business might grow: one pessimistic, one realistic and one optimistic. The optimistic model had ClearScore on roughly 3.5 million users by the end of year two, with 5 million not predicted for another two years.

Despite the celebrations kicking off, Justin was quick to remind the team that the achievement was no excuse for arrogance. Rather than complacency, five million users demands humility. After all, that’s a lot of people relying on our work for their financial wellbeing. It’s this attitude of both pride and humility that stands out about my first two weeks at ClearScore.

My first week was a whirlwind of new information, from fumbling my way around a Mac to discovering that the director of our latest ad also did the music video to A Design For Life (which should really be our coaching plan’s subtitle). Four days in I had a briefing, along with ten other recent starters, on the “ClearScore Operating System”. Justin talked us through his vision for the company, the benefits ClearScore brings, and why our working culture is central to achieving these goals. In such a highly independent working environment, taking the time to understand how our working culture and key principles tie into the importance of the jobs we have to do, is a useful focal point.

In a flash, it was the end of the week one. This also meant it was time to take part in a ClearScore tradition for new-joiners: saying hello to the team while decked out in an item of novelty fancy dress. I’d already seen a few ClearScore rituals by this point, like the post-probation wall-signings and 1-year-service mug awards, but this was the first I was directly involved in myself and it’s a great way to quickly meet everyone.

With week one a crash course in new ways of working, week two is an exercise in applying them. Whilst still constantly learning about the working environment here and the capabilities of the product we’re building, I’ve also been flat out conveying these things to job applicants. There’s also been a lot of work with the People & Potential team to discuss upcoming initiatives that will help to improve and nurture this culture. ClearScore’s Glassdoor rating is 4.6 and while that’s high enough for us to have been featured on Glassdoor’s list of exciting places to work, here that also means plenty of room for improvement.

Before I started, a friend congratulated me on landing a job with ClearScore but asked if they were worried that other big agencies were now following suit by offering free credit scores. I didn’t know the answer at the time, but as soon as I started it became clear this was seen internally as a huge success – disrupting the credit scoring industry was one of ClearScore’s main goals. But, as our vision states, free credit scores are just one part of our goal to help give people control over their financial wellbeing. What sticks in my mind two weeks into ClearScore, two years into their mission, is there’s plenty we’ve done to take pride in, and plenty more to do.

If you want to join the team, we’re hiring and have a number of exciting roles open. Just check out our Careers page for more information.

It’s OK To Hate Recruiters

First published on LinkedIn November 2015

I was chatting last weekend to a friend who works as a project manager at a digital agency renowned for not using recruitment agencies. They basically brand themselves on it. A typical call to them is usually answered “Hello, we don’t work with agencies, how can I help you?”

I asked him why they’re so intent on not using agencies, which seemed bizarre given that they are an agency, and the service provider concept is fundamentally the same whether you’re supplying marketing campaigns or software developers. I was told – matter-of-factly – that “you use a lot of really underhand tactics to get hold of people”.

Do I now? Thanks for letting me know. As a project manager you presumably exceed your budgets and fail to meet your deadlines, while alienating everyone in your team with your Machiavellian approach to leadership.

I know the guy well, and I know he’s too intelligent to apply that kind of blanket generalisation in everyday life. So I was too surprised and, to be honest, amused to come up with a response as apt as the above paragraph on the spot, or point out the obviously flawed, baby-bathwater logic that underpinned it. I can’t actually remember how I responded – being a recruiter I imagine I consoled myself by checking my bank balance and cackling sadistically.

Which leads me onto this article, which was passed around work last week. It’s a decent read – lazy stereotyping, dogmatic vitriol and a social finesse reminiscent of Linus Torvalds in his less diplomatic moments notwithstanding. The last thing I want to do is defend the kind of recruiters the writer condemns, personified by the piece’s antihero “Shithead”. Anyone familiar with the concept of Rec-to-Rec will know that being a recruiter does not make you immune from recruiters – I get all the same spam emails and LinkedIn messages you do (and because it’s important for me to make my contact details public, I probably get a lot more cold calls to my desk than you do – that’s annoying). For the record I always send polite “No thanks” responses to well-written, individually-tailored messages because I know first-hand the time and effort that goes into writing them.

What I would like to do is point out a few reasons why it’s inevitable, given the role we’re performing, that the recruitment industry as a whole will always piss people off. You’re right to hate recruiters. It’s OK to hate recruiters, and to the verbal genius who penned Don’t Feed the Beast I’d say I didn’t take any of it personally (I’d add, of course, that I know where you live). The article however follows current fashion in overlooking a few important points about what it takes to be not just a good as in “ethical” recruiter, but also a good as in “successful” recruiter – which leads to a very widespread misconception concisely summarised in the phrase “they are not incentivised to act honestly”.

Recruitment consultants are effectively sales consultants, which in the good old days (before Management Speak really got its act together) were called middlemen. It’s a matter of opinion whether or not sales consultants generally are a good or a bad thing, but there’s an important distinction in play for recruiters which a colleague of mine, on my first day in my company, explained neatly: “this is the only sales job where the thing you’re selling can say no”. Shithead and the other morons hackerfall slams can’t force anyone to take a job they don’t want, no matter how much they’d like to.

Let’s for now park the debate over whether recruitment agents have any sense of empathy, morality or professional ethics – I could write an entire article on that – and for simplicity’s sake go with the assumption that they don’t and are to a person feckless, money-driven moral degenerates. As sales consultants, their job is to mediate between prospective buyers and prospective sellers, in crowded markets where specialist knowledge and tools are needed to help the two find each other. As recruiters, they’re mediating between a company that wants to hire and a person that wants to work, and representing both simultaneously.

Think about that. The two parties can have widely divergent interests. Jobseekers want the funnest jobs, the shortest hours and the most on-the-job training, with the highest salary possible. Companies want the most diligent, talented, innately-motivated people for as cheap as possible. Our job is to mediate between these two extremes of expectation and find matches that benefit both parties. In individual cases, and for good recruiters more often than not, the match exceeds what both parties were hoping for in the first place. But no market is perfect, least of all recruitment, and our industry exists as a professional punching bag for employees and employers to vent their frustrations on – the client’s minimal, unhelpful feedback is our fault to the candidate, the perfect candidate’s ludicrous salary expectations are our fault to the client. Across the board, we bear the brunt of the opposed interests of the two groups we represent, each of which will look at the balance of our industry as a whole and say “They’re not doing a good job”. Who can blame them?

If the perception of recruiters as a whole is then unavoidably negative, the onus is on individual recruiters to rise above the rest. This brings us back to the earlier point about what we’re selling. Companies keep coming back to agencies when they need to hire quickly, or hire specific niche skill sets, and when agencies do it right they get repeat business. I’ve since learned that what we sell isn’t a person – this would be human trafficking and illegal – but a relationship. Essentially, trust. To be a successful recruiter it’s crucial to build trust, both with candidates and clients.

As above, no recruiter can force anyone to take a job. With Glassdoor and other similar sites, the amount of information available on prospective employers is almost infinite. If I lied to a candidate about what a company is like, they’d find out quickly and would neither take the job nor work with me again. So why bother? Trying to talk someone into a job they don’t want is not only unethical, it’s pointless hard work that saps not just their time but mine as well. When your time is worth as much as mine and Shithead’s, you don’t waste any of it. Good (successful) recruiters only put people forward for jobs they’re genuinely interested in in the first place. Yes, from then on your job is to make the offer as appealing to them as possible – but to be successful in the long run this can only be done by presenting relevant information accurately. Recruiters who lie to candidates to make them take offers don’t last. They also miss out on the one bit of the job that is most satisfying and completely unique: the genuine gratitude you get from someone you’ve just found the dream job for. I can’t think of any other profession that offers that.

Clients equally will only work with recruiters they trust – they pay us to find qualified people that want the job they’re offering, not to waste their time. If the first few people you place aren’t up to it, or realise it’s been mis-sold and leave after a few months, you lose trust and you lose the client. Nothing is more valuable to us than a reliable client who trusts us and offers a constant stream of roles we understand and know how to source. I see lots of agencies marketing themselves on the massive percentage of their turnover derived from new business. I always think they must do a terrible job if so few companies want to come back to them. Most service providers pride themselves on the amount of repeat business they generate, and recruitment shouldn’t be any different.

Like all companies any recruitment agency exists somewhere along the spectrum between high-volume, low-quality offerings – “Spam and Send” recruitment, Shithead’s forté– and high-quality, low-volume models that invest more time and training in their staff. In my previous post I discussed how the recruitment landscape has changed since the UK employment market recovered from the crash. In the aftermath of the crisis, with jobs in short supply, spam-and-send worked for a lot of recruitment companies that now dominate the scene, since the market was so short on jobs that developers responded to generic mass-marketing emails. They had to.

With the recovery, and the resulting saturation of channels like LinkedIn, jobseekers are now in a position where they can tell mass-marketing recruiters where to stick their generic advances. The REC’s latest report shows that larger companies (35 + branches) make on average, per branch, less permanent placements, at lower per-placement fees, than smaller companies (1-9 branches). Shithead and his kind are losing market share using an approach which prompts angry reactions in the very people they hope to build trust with, and they aren’t trained to do otherwise. There are still a lot of these recruiters out there, but that’s changing.

So hackerfall, and my PM friend and your digital agency – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Every decent recruiter I know loves the buzz of finding someone their dream job as much as, if not more than, they value the commission they get for it. Despite this, whether or not individual recruiters have a well-calibrated moral compass (the answer, as in all industries, is that some do and some don’t) the nature of our job, being positioned between employees’ and employers’ interests and representing both at once, means it’s inevitable you’ll hate us as a group. And that’s OK.