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.
It was a great group, featuring Ruth Glover of Career Consultations
in Plano, Texas; Gail Houston
a senior recruiter with Intuit and Charles “Charlie” Brown, a Silicon Valley recruiter who specializes in power technologies for Fusion 408.
“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.