Best Practices in Technical Hiring: Don’t Miss Out on Top Candidates
The local engineering labor market has tightened over the past few months. The competition for skilled technical professionals is intensifying, and the most desirable candidates are off the market quickly. Many candidates with in-demand experience are receiving multiple job offers.
With this in mind, if you plan to add engineering staff – either contract or direct – over the next several months, you may wish to review your hiring process, streamlining as much as possible. The reality is that we no longer have the luxury of a long hiring cycle.
What You Can Do
Establish a relationship with a local agency specializing in the technical skills or industry important to you. This will provide you with two important benefits:
- An awareness of the local job market for the specific skill sets you are seeking. An agency will be able to advise you on local availability and going hourly rates or salaries for technical staff with your desired qualifications. With knowledge of the local market and an understanding of the relative scarcity of certain skills/experience, they will be able to provide guidance as to when you should begin the search to accomplish your hiring goals.
- An increased likelihood that the agency will make a great match for you.By maintaining an on-going dialogue, the agency gains a thorough understanding of your hiring needs — more than just what is included in the job description. They will get a feel for intangible factors such as work environment, office pace/tempo and management style, as well as the subtle traits you look for in candidates. With this knowledge, they can keep your firm in mind as they speak with engineers, even if you don’t yet have a defined opening.
Streamline the recruiting process. This includes the time required to review resumes, identify candidates to be interviewed, conduct interviews, make a hiring decision and extend an offer.
- Reviewing resumes. Determine in advance who will be involved in the process of screening resumes and selecting candidates to interview. Try not to have more than 2 managers review resumes, as building a consensus becomes challenging as the size of the group increases. Set a goal of providing feedback to the agency within 24 hours of receipt of the resume. Remember, they have generated enthusiasm in the candidate about your firm and the opportunity – enthusiasm that will quickly wane if nothing is heard for days on end.
- Interviewing. Consider a phone screen as a first step. This may help quickly narrow your field of candidates to bring in for a formal interview. Make every effort to coordinate manager schedules to minimize the need for multiple interviews. If you are hiring on a contract or contract-to-direct basis, one interview is generally sufficient as long as management decision-makers are all scheduled for the same day. If you are interviewing multiple candidates, schedule them on consecutive days within the same work week whenever possible. As with feedback on resumes, try to communicate interview feedback to the agency within a day of the interview.
- Making a decision and extending an offer. Once all interviews are complete, try to assemble the decision-makers within 24 hours to review results. The agency will have spoken with professional references, and will be able to provide feedback as desired. Communicate your decision as soon as possible, allowing the agency to share the good news with the chosen candidate even if a formal offer letter isn’t yet ready. This is often be enough for the candidate to take him/herself ‘off the market’, ensuring you don’t lose out on your candidate of choice.
Extend a competitive offer. Rarely do engineering job seekers jump at the first offer. With several offers in hand, many candidates have neither the desire nor the need to counter offer if your offer is below market value. Make a reasonable initial offer and improve your chances of a positive outcome.
Regardless of whether this recent tightening of the engineering job market continues, the importance of a streamlined, efficient hiring process will endure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the economy to generate thousands more engineering jobs over the next several years. Considering the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the reduction in the number of new college graduates in key engineering disciplines, in the long run competition for the best talent will be fierce.