The population of the United States is more than 300 million. The available workforce is about half that and the official unemployment is about 9 percent of that. But some estimates put the actual unemployed at closer 20 percent.
These are the numbers behind the headlines, which also say things are opening up. The electronics industry has surged in the last year; executives I talked to this week said hiring is definitely picking up to match internal demand.
But you and I know many engineers who are still looking for work, two years after the Great Recession. So what’s the problem? Why aren’t engineers getting hired? We explored these and other questions on a panel this week at the IEEE APEC (Applied Power Electronics Conference) event in Ft. Worth, Texas.
“If companies say their No. 1 business concern is finding, attracting and retaining the right talent in their organizations, then why does it seem more difficult to get hired these days?” asked our moderator, Kevin Parmenter of Exar.
Parmenter teed everything up for our panel (view from podium before the panel, pictured below) with an amusing but edgy slam of any corporate hiring site run by Taleo, a software company based in the Bay Area. These sites, he argued, ask for a resume and then require the user to fill out page after page of information that essentially mirrors the resume. Once you’re done, the resume vanishes into a black hole and the odds of getting a call based on that submission are virtually nil.
My take is that we’ve become a tool- and analytics-obsessed culture at a point where we’re just beginning to know how to use the tool and understand (and leverage) analytics. Still, hiring managers can defend recruitment campaigns by showing raw numbers of applications, status, message threads and so on.
In any event, the platforms are required for legal reasons. “We have to have a trail of information ready when you sue us,” Houston quipped.
The notion of nurture
We agreed that the age-old guidelines of nurture your network and stay nimble hold steady today. “You must be a continual learner,” Houston said.
Glover, who wrote a fine book titled “More than a Pay Check,” which I will review in a future post, noted that more than 60 percent of new hires come from referrals. This was reflected in the reaction we got when I asked the audience how many people had never used a recruiter in their careers but instead had relied on their networks for jobs. A majority of hands shot into the air.
We want to build this panel into a series of webinars on the topic. I’d love your insights and stories about recruiting (both third party and corporate) to help us craft an excellent series.
What do you think? What were your best experiences? What were your worst experiences? And why do we know so many colleagues who have had a hard time finding a job?
I'll follow up with related posts from this panel in the coming days.
It's true that there are more applicants than open positions. Many companies are now able to get "free upgrades", hiring highly skilled, senior people for lower pay. Keeping your skills fresh and doing your homework on the company is important; resume buzzwords may get you in the door, but you still need to ace the interview by showing technical mastery, and "selling yourself" as the best candidate. This can be difficult for some people, but sadly, your work will not "speak for itself" -- you must. Personal networks are THE best avenue of success. Also, you may need to transition into a new field (from design to applications, for example). And yes, age discrimination is still prevalent, largely for cost reasons, so only list the last 10 yrs employment history on your resume.
Stay away from the big companies!!!. I've worked for some well known firms such as Nortel and Emerson Power and I can tell you that the bigger the company, the more idiots you will have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I currently work for a small outfit here outside Toronto that has 44 employees. Just the right size. The pay could be better, but I love my engineering job here. We don't even have an HR person to mess things up. The big boss, who owns the company, does all the hiring.
Is he proactive, i.e., does he have regular contact with academia and request they teach the skill set he needs? Or does he not know what they will need until the day they write the job posting? Reactive types (and companies) are crisis driven. New hires are expected to hit the ground not just running, but sprinting and singlehandedly rescue the company by afternoon coffee break. Management should expect no less from the optimal candidate, selected by their HR software - right? It's more wishful thinking than science.