A top recruiter says engineering positions are getting more specialized, which doesn’t bode well for job seekers
Mike Delaney, an EE and founder of the recruitment firm Global Network
Recruiting (GNR), which specializes in the high-tech industry, recalls
what the engineering job market was like when he first got into the
business in the early 1990s: “We were going through this tech bubble
and things were just exploding. There was a ton of money and a ton of
engineers. Everybody was changing jobs--I was taking engineers from the
defense industry who were doing chips and embedded software and putting
them into telecom jobs and vice versa.”
And that doesn’t bode well for engineers who’ve been caught up in a
lay-off or are simply looking for a change, as their skill sets alone
(with the exception of analog power management, which is in huge
demand) may no longer be enough to impress hiring managers. Delaney
does note that individuals fluent in embedded software, C, and core
processors are likely to have better luck, as these skills are more
transferable and in demand.
But with seemingly their pick of qualified candidates, Delany says that
companies are increasingly less willing to cross individuals into
industries. “There’s a learning curve with anyone starting a new
position, and it’s exaggerated when that person is also moving into a
new industry,” says Delaney. “Ideally, hiring managers want to hire
people from the same sector.
Delaney says that some hiring managers think that because of the high
unemployment rate, the ideal candidate will be more easily found. Not
so. “Everybody with that specific skill set is currently employed in
the industry and valued and making a competitive salary,” says Delaney.
So what’s an engineer to do?
While not always of interest to engineers, moving into a non-design
engineering position may be one option.
At Texas Instruments, for example, Manager of Staffing Brian Rankin
says that field application and systems engineers are more in demand
than designers. Currently, he says, TI has 60 to 70 open positions in
these two areas. “We’re looking for engineers who have worked for our
customers, as they have a unique perspective on what our customers need
and how we can support their revenue growth,” says Rankin.
Delaney suggests that to boost their marketability engineers might
consider taking additional coursework to update their skills or even
earn another degree, which he says is going to carry some significant
As for the future, Delaney says he sees no reversal in this trend,
pointing to the fact that technology is getting more complex. “We talk
about the wireless world. In the past we had a bag phone, and now we
have PDA devices that stream video across your phone. Like it or not,
engineering jobs are getting more niched. “