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.
1. What do you think?
Answer: I agree that networking helps tremendously when it comes to landing a new job. Hiring managers are likely to interview/take in employees who have been referred by people he/she knows to be top performers and/or trusted employees than to hire people who have not been referred to by an existing employee. Unfortunately this is one area I have to improve in.
2. What were your best experiences?
Answer: I didn’t have good experience with any recruiter. For me they were a waste of time.
What were your worst experiences?
Answer: I think some recruiters are a waste of time. They ask for mundane information that can be taken over the phone but they want you dress up and give them the information in person in their office. I think we need to be careful of such recruiters and we should just ask up front as to the purpose of the face to face. More often than not it will be something that can be taken care of over the phone
And why do we know so many colleagues who have had a hard time finding a job?
Answer: I will say from my own experience that I was not spending adequate time preparing my resumes for the jobs I was applying to. I was making the classical mistake of using one resume for every job I was applying to. What this did was that I didn’t get an interview let alone a job for more than 8 months. I was devastated and at one point lost all hope. Then a friend of mine reformatted my resume and I used it to modify based on the job I was applying for. Within two months I landed more than 5 interviews and eventually the job that I currently hold. I have used my experience and have been telling my friends and whoever I meet the following: If you are not getting an interview most likely something is wrong with your resume.
Sounds like the argument that there is plenty of parking if you come early enough. the late comers are at fault. So if a building has 85 parking spots for 100 people the 15 remaining cars belong to people who really did not want to park?
I worked at a semiconductor design center of over 200 engineers. The whole company liquidated at the end of 2008, and 100% of the engineers there lost their jobs. This is in an area without a large semiconductor industry presence. Even in the worst part of the recession, early 2009, I would say 85% found jobs within 9 months. The remaining 15% were never really that serious about engineering in the first place. Many found careers outside of the engineering field. The lesson I take from this experience is that even at the absolute worst of the recession, our economy needs good engineers, and there will ALWAYS BE demand. I think it is true that engineering is no longer a place for people who are not really interested or motivated to be excellent as engineers, or who do not have some natural aptitude.
@Brian Fuller: thanks for starting this quagmire! @bcarso, what you stated is much more common than one would believe. Now a days, hiring mangers, swamped with work, defer the prescreening to non-technical HR people who try to literally match job description to the resumes they receive!
This may have been addressed some what in other comments above -many companies are simply not hiring because they have used the rough economic times of the last couple of years to get extra mileage out of their employees; they are simply waiting to see how far this can be stretched.
Good one, Bcarso. Have to wonder how many times this happens, probably more often than we realize. Several times I have been asked by headhunters to explain technical terminology they did not understand.
On this topic of words try to avoid using the word "specialist" in an email even if the word appears in the job title. Also remove the sub-word "cialis" from your spam filter junk list if you want to receive a reply with the word "specialist" in the subject.
On keywords and abbreviations: one of my favorite stories is of the person who applied for a job requesting expertise in digital signal processing. He felt his resume was a nearly perfect fit, and was surprised when he never got a call for an interview. He finally talked directly to the HR person, and she explained that he didn't qualify because they were looking specifically for people with DSP experience. That is, he had spelled it out --- and since she didn't know what DSP stood for, the resume was tossed out.
BecaUSE THIS IS NOT A SUM ZERO "GAME"
for every three or four engineeing jobs at least one if not two moved overseas.
If you are pushing resumes out to job posting on the net...Your screwed basically.
IT makes no sense but most are not real jobs just recruiters tring to get as many resumes as possible for other possible job opennings.
Also 99% are screened for keywords not intelegent logical truthful,writing. So you are dead in the water if each resume is not tailored for each jo posting. Even then it is not very good odds and a lot of work.
I will not say that it is not worth it but for me I have better options that have better probabilities so I do not waste my time on these sites anymore. Unless the job description is specific i do not apply or bother with lame job description "opportunities"
I could not get a job until I went into contracting. It is still chalenging to get work but at least I can eat.
Well age discrimination is one thing when you are trying to get hired... Age discrimination when a company is considering a RIF is the real "tragic moment" and that is based on three things..
A. The cost of keeping highly experienced Old-timers.
B. The notion that there isn't much difference between senior engineers and and juniors.
C. Reinforcement of the "Notion" of equivalence between senior and junior engineers skill-set by under-utilization of Senior Engineers skill-set and allowing skill obsolescence to set in while the "old timer" is working for a company in projects and technologies of limited scope.