Engineering recruiters have been a valuable asset to connect companies with the industry’s top talent, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to scale back their normal operations, including efforts to recruit the best engineers.
Before the pandemic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected the engineering industry would gain 140,000 new jobs between 2016 and 2026. However, experts believe that the pandemic has boosted the demand for engineers even higher, further exacerbating longtime labor shortages in the engineering field. The industry’s growth is fueled by new technology in artificial intelligence, robotics, manufacturing, virtual reality, and other computer advancements, according to a study by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Similarly, a 2015 Engineers Canada Labour Market study projected a growing need for thousands of trained engineers across 14 engineering occupations in the coming decade. The report highlighted a national need to replace retiring engineers from the baby boom generation.
In this post, we’ll provide a few tips and best practices to keep in mind while recruiting the top talent available in the engineering industry in a post-pandemic workplace.
1. Companies across the board are doing more with fewer resources as the demand for talented engineers grows
The economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic was felt across virtually every industry as workplaces shut down, supply chains got disrupted, and millions of workers were laid off.
In Canada, the national employment rate fell to a historic low in April 2020, with only 52.1% of the workforce employed, national employment statistics show.
The Canadian workforce has begun to bounce back in 2021, but the country still has nearly 600,000 fewer people in the workforce compared to a year ago, according to a March 2021 CBC report. As the economy recovers, companies will need to strategically fill vacant positions and recruit talented engineers to meet the demands that have not gone away during the pandemic.
2. Engineering recruitment efforts are an investment that will pay off in the future
Corporate recruiting requires significant money, time, and manpower. Large-scale engineer recruitment efforts can quickly overwhelm in-house recruitment teams who need to field a large number of job applicants while staying up-to-date on the latest in-demand skills the industry calls for. It’s common for in-house recruitment teams to get bogged down with sorting through a dizzying number of under-qualified applicants and completely miss their chance to connect with a highly skilled engineer that gets hired by another company. All of this inefficiency caused by lack of resources can leave important positions vacant for weeks or months on end.
Although relying solely on internal recruitment may save your recruitment team time and money, you are likely missing key opportunities to recruit those prized candidates. Even when your company’s budget may be tight, it’s important to put serious focus on recruiting for the positions that require a highly technical and in-demand skillset to ensure your company is poised for future growth and success.
If you take a step back and consider what in-house recruiting is costing your company on a wider scale, you may be surprised at the overall impact it has. Consider the cost of job postings, sourcing, outreach efforts, applicant screening, scheduling, interviews, drafting offers, and onboarding. The hiring process is likely eating up more time and resources than you realize, and it will be important to look for ways to streamline that process as the workforce continues to grow even more competitive after the pandemic.
A well-planned recruitment strategy can make your hiring process faster and less expensive, and keep your company staffed with highly qualified engineers who can help boost your company’s productivity and reputation.
3. COVID-19 has polarized the engineering talent pool
As technology advances at a rapid pace, today’s engineers need to constantly work to improve their skills and workflows to be more competitive. New engineers come into the workforce with a drastically different technical background than what their older coworkers had when they started their careers.
As in-demand skills change and evolve, the engineering industry’s talent pool can quickly become smaller and smaller if engineers do not prioritize improving their skills.
This makes it even more vital that companies continue external their recruitment efforts. Early-career engineers, or engineers that are up-to-date with the latest technology, will be an asset to companies as they continue to operate in a competitive global environment.
The pandemic has also forced many people, particularly women, to leave the workforce to care for family members during the pandemic, although employment statistics are showing that women are slowly regaining employment in early 2021.
4. Recruiters may have better luck poaching talented engineers from competitors
People have changed jobs at an unprecedented rate during the pandemic, and that trend is expected to continue into the coming years. A national poll found that 1 in 4 Canadian workers was considering a job change by the end of 2020 as workers reconsidered their professional futures during the pandemic.
All of that moving around is due in part to shifting worker expectations and feeling that their employers do not support them, according to new reports.
Hard-to-fill positions often require a specialized strategy that nurtures personal connections between sought-after applicants and the company. These well-qualified individuals are likely already happily employed and may feel loyalty to their current companies. In the past, these engineers may not have been receptive to recruiting efforts from the competition, but the coronavirus pandemic has led many talented professionals to take a new look at their current jobs.
Does your in-house recruitment team have the time, connections, and the ideal approach to reach out to candidates who are not looking for a change, but may be open to the right opportunity that fits with their lifestyle and goals?
Reaching these engineers requires experience and understanding. A qualified recruiter should be able to delicately introduce a conversation about a potential job change, but perhaps not necessarily be explicit about a specific job opportunity. These conversations can be eye-opening about the current demands workers have, and how companies can adjust their operations to attract the top talent.
Finding these top-notch candidates goes beyond the “post and pray” method using online job boards, social media, or automated chatbots. It often requires a specialized recruitment firm that has a team of recruiters with the following skills and attributes:
- Technical knowledge of the engineering industry
- Experience in recruiting the type of worker your company wants to hire
- A deep network of professional contacts
- A results-driven strategy
- A sincere desire to nurture relationships
- Motivation to guide the best talent to the right opportunities
5. Recruitment teams need to understand what they have to offer and build trust with workers following a tumultuous year
Recruiters need to have a solid understanding of the engineering field, specific technical skillsets, and the ability to identify competency among candidates. However, as many companies continue with remote work and remote job interviews, it can be difficult to gauge exactly how compatible a company and applicant are.
Recruiters will need to be able to clearly communicate job expectations, necessary skills, the company culture, work-life balance, and other benefits fully and in a memorable way.
A recent poll conducted by The IBM Institute for Business found that more than half of workers now prioritize their work-life balance, and 43% prioritize career advancement opportunities when looking for a new job. IBM researchers stated that employers will need to meet these shifting worker expectations if they want to retain their younger employees. In the engineering field, engineers new in their careers provide valuable skills and are comfortable with the latest technology - making them a vital group of workers to attract and retain.
6. Job recruiters need to gracefully pivot to virtual strategies to accommodate health precautions
Engineering companies may be hesitant to pivot to at-home work, but many workers are prioritizing remote work opportunities over positions that require them to come into the workplace every day. The first step in appealing to these workers is ensuring your recruitment team is able to successfully communicate and draw people in using virtual communication strategies.
Talented applicants who want to work remotely will need to be confident that the company they’re interviewing with is capable and willing to accommodate workflows now and possibly into the future. Companies will also find themselves competing for many talented applicants based on how well they can accommodate this new way of working. A poll conducted in September 2020 found that the number of remote engineering teams has increased 74% since the start of the pandemic. Also, more than 65% of executives say their companies will likely allow remote work after COVID-19 threats subside, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
When to know it’s time to bring in an engineering recruiting professional
PHM has been recruiting engineers in Canada and the U.S. since 2001. Our team has shifted to remote engineering recruitment efforts as we continue to grow and evolve along with the rest of the engineering industry.
If your current recruitment strategy is not leading to the results you want, consider reaching out to us to discuss your hiring options.
Visit our Client Services page to learn about how we can future-proof your business to recruit the best talent for your company so you can collectively move forward from the pandemic.