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. “
Indeed, it takes a skilled manager to successfully run a company. Sadly, those kind of people are so very few...
It first starts with inegrity, which has been placed lately on the "prohibited use" list. Unless one does not intend to be hired...
The rest is just a matter of luck!
Reading all these comments makes me strongly convinced once more, that the only way experienced engineers can have a bright future is by becoming masters of their own destiny, that is by moving towards the path of entrepreneurship. We engineers apply our design skills to create new products and solutions that have a positive impact on the world. And yet we get pigeonholed, working for others, over a long period of time. Why don't we focus on creating complete solutions as independent owners of our own companies? The world is always going to need services of creative engineers. By becoming entrepreneurs, we can avoid becoming obsolete and yet find self-fulfilment in all the innovative solutions that we create.
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All comments are very interesting and we seem to agree upon the point that the culprits are HR people who have no clue what to look for. Shouldn't the engineers be in more demand in next 10 years or so because of the scarcity of engineers as the baby-boomers retire? Then it makes sense for the companies that they do not become choosy and invest in people. I do not understand the foresaid trend of the companies becoming more choosy!
zeeglen, your comment is quite hilarious but you do raise a valid question. Tunrayo also moves towards my direction of thinking. If someone has a broad experience then it makes sense to manage the complete projects. I think that is a better way to use the experience and be more productive to the company.
I disagree with Tunrayo that someone with 5 year of experience may compete with someone with 30 years of experience. A person with 5 yr of experience might have some specific knowledges and upgraded theoretical knowledge but practice makes an engineer perfect.
The hiring process, even with the best intentions, has become distorted, misused, and comical if it were not also tragic in its lack of appropriateness for either the prospective hire or recruiting firm. The one statistic that stands out is 70% of hiring comes from personal networking. What has been said above reflects astute observations and reasoning. The personal referral is effective because the hiring persons trust the referral from someone they know, trust, and respect.
In my long history of hiring and being hired, I have one metric/guideline that I look for and that I try to follow and it comes from one of my management heroes, Dee Hock, the founder of Visa International and it applies for us technologists or managers alike. It is the closest I have ever seen 'proven and tested' rule. Here is the gem:
"Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience.
Without integrity, motivation is dangerous;
Without motivation, capacity is impotent;
Without capacity, understanding is limited;
Without understanding, knowledge is meaningless;
Without knowledge, experience is blind.
Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities."
In these tough hiring times, it is imperative that managers take time to identify true achievers and talent without being hung up on formulaic tight descriptions. Teams are strong if they have diverse complementary skills not cookie cutter robots who can speak the language but not convey the essence or the results.
20+ years experience in 10+ jobs. It is close to impossible to explain to someone what I am capable of. But, with my 20+ years of experience, I have enough contacts in my social networks that I can find the hiring manager and bypass the HR. Linkedin is your friend. HR is your enemy.
I am a Component Engineer. Whoever writes the job requirements/descriptions for Component Engineering positions often has no clue what a Component Engineer is, or what one does. I often see Component Engineering combined with positions that are totally unrelated disciplines. Is that because the department is too cheap to hire two qualified people? And just because for instance, a few Component/Reliability Engineers do exist, it does not mean that that is the norm.
In general, I have a feeling that some hiring managers are like ladies that have seen too many romantic movies, or read too many romance novels.
They will remain unattached forever, because they acquire too many unrealistic expectations: Mr Perfect, "the man of their dreams" simply does not exist. (Same goes for guys looking for Ms Perfect.)
I personally often have trouble with the Walking on Water Test.
I am always reminded of "Up the Organization" where the author suggests to hire the first person that meets the job qualifications. At that point, stop interviewing and stop wasting your and everyone else's time.
Background - 20 years experience in ASIC, mostly consulting over the last 10. I also work part time in the entertainment industry.
I work closely with a couple of contract placement agents - 90% of my work over the last 10 years has come from 2 or 3 agents. After working in the entertainment industry, I began to see a similarity - a successful actor usually has a successful agent behind them. I think the same is true for a successful Consulting Engineer.
I was considering putting one of these agents on a permanent retainer - let him handle all of my contract affairs, for a cut of my salary, whatever I am doing - along the lines of an entertainment industry agent. A crazy idea, unheard of in this industry, but the times they are a changing. Getting through the "HR Brick Wall" is starting to look a lot like getting through the "studio brick wall"... Plus, that beats getting a contract through a "bodyshop" where they take a ~50% cut - which I find is outrageous!
One thing is certain, getting past, around, through, whatever regarding HR is the key. It is sad that it is next to impossible to get past the HR gate keepers to talk with the hiring manager. Hopefully some day the practice of having job fairs and getting face-to-face contact with the hiring managers without the HR filters will return.
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