Transportation, clean water, power, communications… the profession of engineering has a bright future. But how do you attract and recruit the best engineers?
The days of engineers sitting behind a screen with AutoCAD and no client interaction are limited. Clients want problems solved, solutions provided and relationships that they can trust. Technology can enable this, but not without human interaction. In most cases, companies are looking to recruit engineers who are engaging, confident individuals who can consult with their client base and provide the service levels expected of them.
What do hirers look for when they recruit engineers?
For those managing businesses and attracting talent in the engineering space, this means suitability for a role relies more on the interpersonal skills of engineers. How confident will you be in putting this person in front of your customer? Will they be able to solve issues and provide solutions?
Businesses are less focussed on the projects that individuals have worked on and more interested in the specific role performed, the success achieved and the value added. A significant success as a key player in a $20 million job may be more appealing than a less pivotal role in a $2 billion project.
Why the hiring landscape has changed for engineers
The past five years or more have seen a significant rise of low-cost offshore design centres. Businesses have set up offices in locations such as in India, China, Philippines and South Africa due to their less expensive alternatives to Australia.
Early tales of poor quality work, disjointed communication and work needing to be completely overhauled locally (and therefore negating any commercial value) are becoming thinner on the ground. Better integration of systems, video conferencing technology and investment in upskilling staff in offshore locations have seen company confidence grow.
But what does this mean for those whose roles may have been lost or threatened by these changes and for those whose task is to source and recruit engineers to ensure their business evolves as it needs to?
It is important to note that not all design roles will move offshore. The market in Australia for those with strong design skills will remain. But the comparatively high-cost of work in Australia means that local businesses must do more to represent commercial value.
So the shift we are seeing is that companies want to recruit engineers who can support their business in building or maintaining a strong order book. In other words, those who can bring work in or develop existing relationships to ensure their employer expands their footprint.
So how does HR find top quality when they recruit engineers?
1· Build your personal brand: your standing within your respective market could go a long way to attracting the best. The top talent in the market will be equally motivated to build their own personal brand. This comes down to a strong social media profile, engaging in quality industry discussion, growing a relevant professional network (both internal and external to your organisation), backed up with a reputation for delivering quality work outcomes. Attending that evening networking event after a long day in the office may seem tough, but it could be the smartest piece of work you do that day if you manage to engage with key industry influencers.
2· Use technology to recruit against the softer-skill competencies. Psychometric assessment is good, predictive analytics are better. New generation psychometrics, tailored to the specific competencies you desire provide real insight into potential job fit. Video interviewing is another useful tool providing insights into communication, verbal articulation and presentation skills.
3· Reference checks are crucial and should be conducted before any offer of employment is made, not as a ticked-box exercise at the end of the process. If done early enough, they provide valuable insight, that can guide further probing and assist in building a more complete picture of suitability. References who are friends or close colleagues are pointless, and sadly too common. We should endeavour to speak with the most recent direct manager to whom the candidate was accountable to – if people are unwilling to provide this, then there is usually a reason and it is rarely a good one. Of course if it is a current manager it poses challenges, but wherever possible this should be done. Client input can also be highly insightful, while it is vital to understand how one works internally, client perception is essential in a market where consultative skills are so highly sought after.
Stephen Veness is the group manager of projects & operations at Davidson Recruitment.
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