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How to Select the Best Massachusetts Engineering Staffing Agency

Kristen Roper
President: TRIAD Engineering Corp.

A Boston-area Recruiter Answers Your Engineering Staffing Agency Questions

Choosing an engineering staffing agency as your partner in recruiting the best employees for your Boston-area or Massachusetts company is crucial to your long-term success.

Massachusetts is home to several dynamic engineering and technology hubs located throughout major cities such as Boston, Cambridge and Waltham; and extending south to Cape Cod and Fall River; north to Peabody, Lowell and Andover; and west to Worcester and Springfield.

Massachusetts engineering staffing infographic.

Competition to hire engineers and technical talent of all types and time commitments – from temporary or contract to full time – is increasingly intense.  Employers in specialty industries such as energy, manufacturing, medical devices, electronics, consumer products, pharmaceutical, and many others can only thrive with consistent access to an on-demand pool of qualified engineers and technical staff.

Whether you need an engineer on a contract basis to bring needed expertise to a critical project, or you need to fill a key technical staffing role on a direct hire basis, the process can seem overwhelming – unless you follow proven, practical guidelines.

What Massachusetts Employers Must Know Before Choosing an Engineering Staffing Agency to Recruit Engineers for Direct Hire or Contract Placement

In my two decades of successfully sourcing candidates to fill engineering positions for employers across Massachusetts, I understand firsthand the practical concerns and challenges of hiring managers vying for valuable employees in an ultra-competitive market.  I’ve also been privileged to witness the success of long-standing clients who understand the value of engaging a staffing agency to gain industry insight and access to otherwise unreachable candidates.

Today’s employers consider their staff as “human capital”. The best staffing agencies work non-stop to maintain deep, confidential relationships with talented engineers – many of whom are currently employed, but may one day be the best fit for YOUR human capital needs.

When you apply proven tips for selecting and working with an employment agency, you too can benefit from the power of a partner that works in your firm’s best interest, to add productive members to your team.

Top 5 Reasons to Partner with an Engineering Staffing Firm

There are many reasons to partner with an experienced recruitment agency dedicated to connecting job seekers with employers who require experienced mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, manufacturing engineers, project engineers, quality engineers, civil engineers, test engineers, designers/drafters and more.

[1] Exclusive Access to Talented Engineers

A top reason why employers of engineers partner with an engineering recruiter is to gain exclusive access to engineering talent.  For example, a “passive candidate” is a seasoned, currently-employed person who is not actively seeking a new job, but may be the best fit for the position you seek to fill.  Local staffing firms that specialize in a particular discipline or industry and maintain relationships with passive candidates are more likely to have strong networks of professionals from which to generate referrals.  This means they can quickly identify the best overall candidate to fit your needs, once they understand your overall needs. The term “overall” is significant, because it represents that a person has both a technical competency as well as a personality-match best suited to your corporate culture.

[2] Job Search Confidentiality

Working with a staffing firm allows you to keep your employee-search confidential, if you desire.  The best engineering staffing firms will function as a true partner to help you achieve your hiring goals.  For example, they will have deep knowledge of the local job market, and the experience necessary to provide you with valuable insider-guidance on dynamics such as hiring trends and the current status of the candidate pool.

[3] Time Savings for Managers

Working with a staffing firm saves time for hiring managers and any other staff involved in decision-making about your team.  It frees managers from wasting valuable time sifting through dozens of resumes and inquiries from candidates that are not the best overall fit.  The best recruitment agency will take the time to get to know your company and develop a full understanding of your job opening and the factors that make a candidate a great fit – above and beyond the list of requirements listed on the job description.  Equipped with this valuable information, they can present you with only the most qualified candidates for your consideration.

[4] Valuable Vetting of Engineer Candidates

Whether you seek short-term or contract placement, or contract to direct (sometimes called contract to perm) employees, a search firm can add enormous value by taking the time to truly understand all of your needs. This means reaching beyond the engineering or technical qualities you require, to learn about your corporate culture and the type of personality that best thrives in your work environment.  This thoughtful process enables the recruiter to consider factors beyond your job description, and work to identify the best overall candidate for you.  For example, non-technical or soft skills, key personality traits, and a collaborative or independent work setting can all be major factors in sourcing your ideal engineer candidate.

[5] Knowledge of Local Job Market

A well-qualified engineering staffing agency can provide you with valuable insight into the local engineering job market in and around Boston and throughout Massachusetts. An engineering recruitment specialist understands the perspectives of both job seekers and employers, and can pinpoint trends in salary and benefit packages, as well as the current status of the local candidate pool for the type of engineer you seek.  An engineering recruitment specialist can also advise you on current trends and techniques regarding resumes, interview questions, phone interviews, negotiation, offer letters, and more.  They can also share hiring trends and provide you with realistic expectations for your search.

What to Consider When Choosing an Engineering Recruiting Agency

Much like engineering candidates themselves, not all engineering recruiters and technical recruiters have the same expertise, experience, personality and background.  So don’t rush into an internet search for Boston contract engineering firms, or try to figure out who the top engineering staffing agencies in Massachusetts are.  Take the time to consider these six key factors that every employer should consider before choosing an engineering recruiting agency – because after all, a headhunter may produce “heads”, but you want a recruiting partner that thoroughly understands your needs, and identifies the “human capital” that will help you to achieve your goals.

Location of Engineering Staffing Firm

Is the contract engineering staffing firm or direct placement agency locally-based, or do they have a national or international presence? If you have multiple engineering or technical staffing openings across several states or regions, you may find success with an agency that has branch offices near the locations of your openings.  If your engineering career opportunities are located primarily in one area or region, you may be more satisfied to partner with an agency of recruiting specialists with long-standing ties to the local professional community.

Specialty of Industry or Career Discipline

Does the recruiting agency specialize in a particular industry or discipline, or are they generalists that recruit candidates for several different professions and industries?  Are they a niche agency that specializes in developing relationships with the type of talent you seek, or do they attempt to place people with every skill set and background?  Recruiting engineering talent is a challenging endeavor, so depending on your needs, a niche agency that specializes in sourcing engineers may be better suited for your search than an agency whose recruiters also place candidates outside of the engineering disciplines.  Ask the agency how many electrical engineers, manufacturing engineers, mechanical engineers, project engineers, quality engineers, civil engineers, test engineers, designers and drafters – or other technical disciplines important to you – they have successfully placed for their clients recently.

Services Offered for Multiple Employment Arrangements

Does the staffing firm offer comprehensive services designed to meet all of your hiring needs? Some agencies, referred to as contract staffing agencies, specialize in placing professionals exclusively in contract roles.  If you anticipate that your needs will include direct hire placement or contract-to-direct placement (also called contract-to-hire), consider partnering with a recruiting firm capable of providing talent in multiple ways.  If you anticipate needing a staffing firm to payroll an engineer employee that you found on your own, be sure to ask if the staffing agency you’re considering provides this service.

Results & Reputation for Matching Employers with Engineering Job Seekers

How long has the agency you’re considering conducted business in your area?  With few barriers to enter the staffing industry, the market is crowded.  Engineering staffing agencies that have stood the test of time and successfully adapted to economic ups and downs have the proven management team, job market knowledge and professional networks that will be there when you need them over the long-term.  A staffing agency relies heavily on its reputation for professionalism and its ability to repeatedly make great matches for job seekers and employers.  Those who cannot generate consistent results for clients will not be around for very long.

Professional Association Memberships & Continuing Education

The American Staffing Association (ASA) is the voice of the staffing industry in the United States, and promotes legal, ethical, and professional practices for the staffing industry. ASA members agree to adhere to a strict code of ethics that guides their operations and their interactions with employees and clients.  They also offer certification programs for staffing industry employees designed to enhance knowledge and professionalism.  As a condition of certification renewal, the ASA provides continuing education courses designed to keep staffing industry specialists – such as recruiters, account managers, managers, and more – abreast of key issues in ethics, compliance, and recruiting best practices.  Many employers believe that the most successful and sought-after recruiting agencies are ASA members.

Communication, Responsiveness & Access to Key Support Staff

Assess any initial communications you’ve had with the recruiting agency.  Have you received responsive, timely support from a dedicated contact person?  Was that person willing to step you through the process of working with an agency, and provide details while setting expectations? Was he or she willing to discuss the contractual aspects of working together?  Access and open communication are the fundamental factors of a successful partnership with your staffing agency contact.

Checklist for Assessing a Staffing Recruiter’s Qualifications

The six qualities outlined in this checklist represent key reasons why successful partnership with an engineering staffing recruiter involves much more than technology.  The best recruiting partner will have the necessary expertise, experience, flexibility, commitment to best-practices, and dedication to help you hire the best employees for your needs.  Much like hiring people for your team, a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for selecting your agency-partner, so take the time to consider if they exhibit all of these qualities.

Recruiter Longevity

How long have members of the recruiting team been with the firm?  Turnover can be high in the staffing industry and the longevity of internal staff is a key indicator of recruiter satisfaction.  Happy recruiters who have confidence in their firm’s recruiting model and believe in the importance of client satisfaction make the best placements for employers and candidates.  Is the firm’s staff certified by the American Staffing Association (ASA)?  Certification indicates that the staffing firm invests in continuing education opportunities and recruiter training, since the ASA requires continuing education as a condition of certification renewal.

Recruiter Experience with Specific Engineering Talent Sourcing

How experienced is the recruiting staff in sourcing the specific engineering talent you seek?  Successful talent sourcing is rooted in recruiter expertise, which depends on deep relationships with a network of engineers. These relationships can only be built over time.  Recruiting in the engineering field is often filled with technical challenges and nuances, so a recruiter who typically recruits for positions such as accountants or manufacturing floor staff probably hasn’t developed the expertise and relationships necessary to fill your engineering career opening.

How experienced is the recruiting staff in sourcing the specific engineering talent you seek?  Successful talent sourcing is rooted in recruiter expertise, which depends on deep relationships with a network of engineers. These relationships can only be built over time.  Recruiting in the engineering field is often filled with technical challenges and nuances, so a recruiter who typically recruits for positions such as accountants or manufacturing floor staff probably hasn’t developed the expertise and relationships necessary to fill your engineering career opening.

Percent of Repeat Business from Engineering-Industry Clients

As with other industries, an engineering recruiting firm’s percent of repeat business is a key indicator of client satisfaction.  The most successful agencies may generate 80-85% of their revenue in a given year from repeat client business.

Willingness to Learn Your Needs and Corporate Culture

It’s critical that your staffing agency partner understands your corporate culture, including the day-to-day operations, working environment, team dynamic, and other nuances.  Only then can they recruit and refer the most qualified candidates for your company’s specific job opportunity.  Do they ask you thoughtful questions about your company and job opening?  Do you get the sense that they understand what you seek from a potential employee – beyond what’s listed on the job description – and that they’re interested in knowing what will ensure a new engineering employee’s success within your firm?

Engineer Recruiting Process and Strength of Local Network

How does the staffing agency or contract engineering firm find candidates?  What is their recruiting process? You don’t want a staffing partner that relies primarily on job postings to attract applicants, since you can do that yourself.  You want an agency with ready-access to talent sourcing that you don’t have.  The agency’s recruiters should maintain a strong and deep network of local engineers – including highly-desirable passive candidates – from which they can generate referrals that you would otherwise not be able to reach.

Screening Process & Professional Reference Verification Policies

It’s important that your engineering staffing agency partner rigorously screens candidates before presenting them to you.  You don’t want to waste your valuable time with reviewing 10-15 resumes that an engineering staffing agency forwards to you, only to discover that most resumes represent candidates that are far from ideal for your job opening.  A professional recruiter adds value by continuously working to discern your needs, in order to ultimately refer about 2 to 4 candidates that he or she deems fully-qualified based on a rigorous vetting process.  Successful technical recruiting is often an iterative process whereby the recruiter incorporates client feedback on initial resume submittals, and adjusts the recruiting approach as-needed to quickly identify the best potential employee for you.  Inquire about the engineering recruiter’s policy and methods for conducting professional reference checks, criminal background checks, degree verification and license verification.  E-Verify is a well-known tool used by some Massachusetts engineering recruiting agencies who perform contract and contract-to-direct placements.

Top 8 Questions to Ask When Interviewing an Engineering Staffing Agency

Here are the best questions for employers to ask a prospective engineering recruiting firm, and why the answers are crucial in helping to source the right engineers for greater Boston or Massachusetts firms.

PDF Download: Click here to download these top 8 questions for interviewing engineering staffing agencies

[1] How long has your staffing firm been in business?

This is a very relevant question because the staffing industry has become crowded, with new firms opening every year.  It’s important to choose an agency with a solid record of successful placements for satisfied clients within your geographic region, in engineering disciplines relevant to you.  Further, well-established contract engineering staffing firms are more likely to maintain deep networks of working professionals – most of whom are not actively seeking new opportunities, which generally makes them the best candidates.

[2] What types of professionals do you place?

If you have engineering positions to fill, you may experience the most beneficial partnership with a staffing agency that specializes in recruiting engineers.  A staffing firm with an engineering-focus may develop a deeper network of engineering professionals than those who also recruit for non-technical fields.  Engineering recruiting is challenging, and recruiters who work exclusively in this field often have a keener understanding of the requirements of technical and engineering positions, enabling them to thoroughly vet the best-fit candidates for you.

[3] How do you find candidates?

A firm’s process of sourcing potential employees is very important.  Many staffing firms and engineering temp agencies rely on job postings to attract interested candidates.  You want to partner with an engineering recruiting firm that can present you with prospects that cannot be sourced solely from job advertisements.  A staffing firm that conducts proactive outreach to a strong in-house database of engineers – many of whom may are not currently seeking new opportunities – will uncover the most desirable candidates.  When performed correctly, engineer recruitment requires countless hours of dedicated effort and relationship maintenance.

[4] Is your firm a member of a staffing industry professional association, and are your recruiters professionally trained and certified?

Membership in a staffing industry professional association is not required, but it certainly demonstrates a staffing firm’s commitment to professional business conduct and ongoing training for its staff.  Member firms of the American Staffing Association (ASA), for example, agree to adhere to a strict code of ethics that guides their operations as well as their interactions with employees and clients.  The ASA offers a comprehensive recruiter certification program, and requires continuing education credits to maintain certification.

[5] What services and placement options do you provide?

It’s wise to partner with an engineering recruiting agency that offers a variety of services and placement options to support your engineering and technical hiring needs.  For example, engineering temp agencies only place contract engineers, while others offer contract-to-direct staffing, and engineering direct hire (also called engineering direct placement).  Some firms also offer payrolling services for employees you find yourself.  A full-service agency partner can best advise you of all your options for vetting, hiring and retaining quality employees.

[6] What are the terms of your client agreements?

Some engineering staffing firms use a client agreement template developed by the American Staffing Association (ASA), with terms that are fairly standard in the industry.  Others may have developed their own agreements.  Whatever the agreement, it’s important to ensure that the terms you require are comprehensive and clearly defined.  Examples of key terms include temp-to-perm conversion period; placement fee calculation; guarantee period; invoice payment policy, and more.

[7] What types of background screenings do you perform?

Ensure that your staffing agency partner has developed an in-depth background screening process that meets the needs of your industry and corporate culture. Depending on the background and seniority of the candidate, this may include professional reference checks, E-Verify, criminal background checks, degree verification, license verification, drug screening, and more.

[8] Can you provide guidance throughout the recruiting and hiring process?

Ensure that the staffing firm is well-established in your geographic area and has deep expertise and experience with placing the types of professionals you currently seek to hire, as well as those you may consider hiring in the near future.  An agency of seasoned professional recruiting specialists will be more likely to provide you with accurate, timely information and advice based on their in-depth knowledge of the local engineering job market.