Engineering Recruiting Three Times Harder Due To Covid-19

Engineering Recruiting tough especially for engineers scientists IT R&D technical and manufacturing for AI VR AR robotics IoT jobs 5 recruitment tips
Engineering Recruiting has become three times more difficult as a result of COVID-19. This is despite Real Unemployment or U6 still being at 16.5% (which means almost 1 in 6 people you know being either unemployed or under employed such as working part time when they really want to work full time).

In contrast to U6 reporting, recruiting talented engineers and technical job candidates has become a nightmare for staffing and hiring managers. This also includes other top technical talent such as scientists, research and development (R&D), information technology (IT), and manufacturing technology experts.

This is especially true in cutting edge fields like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), robotics and internet of things (IoT).

Two Major Reasons For Engineering Recruiting Problems

Frankly, job candidates are afraid to make employment changes during these bleak times. They have two major fears of joining a new company: 1) company layoffs and 2) losing healthcare benefits.

Because highly sought-after engineers, scientists, IT, R&D, technical and manufacturing technology experts are usually gainfully employed, making a job change is particularly risky due to a corporate historical doctrine of “last hired, first fired.”

As a result, employers need to be aware of and address these fears to skillfully recruit key engineering, scientific and technical talent during these uncertain times.

Five Tips For Overcoming Recruiting Concerns

To address the two major concerns of engineers and other key technical talent, I have five tips to help improve your recruitment process during COVID-19.

Tip 1 Develop An Engineering and Technical Candidate Pipeline

The first step is taking a macro view of the engineering and technical recruiting and hiring process and building a pipeline of viable candidates. This is where many engineering technical employers tend to struggle the most.

As part of this process, employers should start by reviewing their branding and ensuring that they’ve positioned themselves as a viable place for engineers and technical talent to work.

Next, identify viable areas to source candidates for that pipeline. This can include a) identifying competitors b) uncovering viable engineering and technical candidates within those competitors c) contributing to engineering blogs and magazines to get noticed by the engineering and technical candidates you seek and d) connecting to LinkedIn candidates who may become future candidates.

Then even if a valued engineer, scientist, technical, IT, R&D or manufacturing recruit turns your job offer down, you will have many ready replacements.

Tip 2 Robust Engineering and Technical Interviewing Assessment

Your next step is to decide how to optimally assess an engineer, scientist, R&D, IT, technical and manufacturing job candidate. If you already have a strong engineering and technical team, make sure to include them in and have them lead the interviewing process.

Your staffing team needs to ask engineer and technical candidates the right questions to best determine if they meet your hiring needs.

That is the essence of several of my 12 Commandments of Recruiting steps, especially the first Commandment – the pie chart question.
Ask your candidates: “Please break down what you did on a regular basis by a pie chart illustration.”

For example, when recruiting for an AI electrical engineer their interview response may be spending 60% of their time on Python programming, 30% on hardware design and 10% on documentation.

Repeat this question for any critical engineering and technical criteria. Ask for example: “Now break down where you spent your time on hardware design (or Python programming).”

The benefit of the pie chart question is it forces candidates to more precisely identify what they actually did on a regular basis. This will help you to greatly streamline your engineering and technical recruiting process and reduce your staffing errors.

Tip 3 Competitive Salaries Only Get You So Far

After you have successfully developed a candidate pipeline and formulated your interview assessment process, you now must uncover what salaries and compensation to offer potential engineering, scientific, technical, IT, R&D and manufacturing technology employees to entice them to join your organization.

Additionally, you need to discover creative ways to compete against giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Tesla that have deeper pockets.

Also, be cognizant that job candidates are scared of making an employment change during these uncertain times. As a result, make things as easy as possible for them. Uncover and address their fears. Remember that great salaries are not enough during these uncertain times.

What matters more than paycheck to engineers and technical candidates are: a) what problems will I help to solve at your company? and b) what will I learn as an engineer, including who will be my mentor and what technology will I work with?

You must research and understand what interesting problems your engineers, scientists, technical, IT, R&D and manufacturing technology talent wish to solve and develop a learning path to help them solve those problems.

Conducting proper research to uncover all this valuable information and then addressing your job candidate’s needs will help you to better compete against tech giants during your engineering recruiting process.

Tip 4 How and when to hire remote workers

You’ve now developed a candidate pipeline, ideal interview assessment process and uncovered what compensation appeals to your engineering and technical candidates. Now you might want to consider the concept of building a decentralized team. This notion is becoming more appealing as technologies such as videoconferencing better enable remote work. This is particularly true during these trying coronavirus times.

Employers must really know how their remote team members will work with their team before committing to building decentralized teams.

Will team members be expected to come into the office? If so, how frequently? What communication platforms will they use? Is the majority of the team located in the office or are they remote?

It is crucial to know who you want on the team once you’ve made conscious decisions about how your remote engineers will work together. You need to effectively assess their communication skills in addition to assessing their pure engineering skills.

How clearly they can communicate and collaborate is extremely important. You need a firm understanding as to who does what, when is it done and what their roles are on the team if you are open to a dispersed engineering team.

My over 30 years of recruiting engineering talent worldwide confirms that engineers, scientists, IT, R&D, technical and manufacturing technology talent generally prefer flexible work arrangements.

Additionally, my firm’s research verifies that the ability to work remotely with regular time in an office setting is correlated with high feelings of success among engineers.

If you go for a fully remote team, perhaps you should establish a set schedule in which the team can meet and learn to work together. It will actually impact the quality of their work going forward.

Tip 5 Assessing engineers with real-world challenges

Your pipeline and assessment process are formalized. You have uncovered your candidates’ compensation desires and determined if your team will be decentralized. Now you need to develop challenging work schedule and environment to keep engineers, scientists, technical, manufacturing technology, research and development and information technology experts motivated so they don’t “jump ship” to another company.

We have found that both employers and prospective employees are increasingly interested in a job application process that simulates what it’s like to actually work at a specific company. Gone are the days of simply testing skills in a university type setting.

Your potential engineering and technical candidates will have a better experience if you can offer them a glimpse of what problems they would actually be solving when they join your team. Develop a method to introduce them to typical challenges they might face and then gauge their reactions. You will also get a better read on their skills as a result of their responses.

This sums up my five tips for assisting your engineering and technical recruiting efforts. Remember that a highly valued engineer, scientist, information technology, research and development chemist, technical or manufacturing technology candidate will also be highly sought after by your competitors.

To the extent that you go the extra mile in your recruitment efforts, you will win the war for this talent. My five engineering recruiting tips can help.

Call me today at 312-944-4000 to discuss how we can assist with your R&D, engineering, scientific, technical, IT and manufacturing recruitment efforts in the highly competitive fields of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) as well as Virtual (and Augmented) Reality. Or click here for my full contact information.

2 Responses

  1. I very much agree. During the last 4 months of the pandemic, I’ve also found that candidates have become more hesitant to consider a job change.. I’ve had some personal experience with Engineering candidates not wanting to discuss a job in their immediate field, even if the role I present to them is an advancement in their career (leadership level, equity position etc.) because of the unknown. Basically, if they are in role at a healthy, stable company, they are less likely to take the “risk” of changing companies in this uncertain time.

  2. Pete,
    I greatly appreciate your insightful comments about COVID-19 and how it impacted jobs and potential job changes for employment candidates. It certainly impacted most recruiting efforts that I am aware of.

    Thanks again,


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