Gee I WISH I had a job where I could get consulting-class revenue and not "do what is assigned to me". It must be nice to live in an alternate universe like that! (Actually I used to consult in computer peripheral design but the advent of the $50 terabyte kind of removed the demand for supporting much in the way of engineering overhead.)
The purpose of HR is not to find the qualified so much as to screen out the unqualified. Yes, they're morons but no engineering manager has the time or patience to deal personally with a few hundred resumes to find 3 or four possible hires. There is no engineering shortage and never was. There is, however, an ongoing, chronic shortage of qualified engineers for any given position.
You seem to have misconceived what the term 'consulting' means. It doesn't mean 'contractor' or 'job shopper'. The term is widely abused. Avoiding 1706 is trivial if you work in your own facility most of the time, set your own hours, have multiple clients, bill using invoices, and otherwise run a legitimate standalone business. Anyone who sits at a desk in someone else's workplace, keeps regular hours, reports to a supervisor, and does what is assigned to them is no consultant. The IRS wisely distinguishes between the often abused title and what actually happens. Real consultants don't have 1706 problems.
I wish there was a web site where engineers and techs could post their resume and employers could download and read as many of them as they want to.
Lots of jobs listings but hardly any sites that show resumes' without the engineer seeker spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars ! No wonder !
PS... I also find it next to impossible to find good engineers ! Hardly any applications even given to us in the alternative energy/power electronics industry up here near Seattle.
My current job was unsolicited. I started with a phone interview, which went well enough to garner a face-to-face interview with a team of engineers with whom I would be working with. I didn't think I did terribly well in the "wow them over" department, but apparently I was the best of those they interviewed for the position because I am now a senior systems engineer for a tier-one mobile phone manufacturer. The intermediary was a local head-hunter firm who found my resume on the ieee.org web site. That provided the intro, and for that I am extremely grateful.
I have also won positions by posting my resume on other web sites (Dice, Monster, et al). So, what does all this mean? To me, it means to be yourself. Show what you can do. Don't gloss over your deficiencies (I don't have a 4-year diploma/degree). Be enthusiastic about the opportunities that the position may offer. I think that my experience and enthusiasm were what won me this position. FWIW, I am a 64 (almost 65) year old engineer. Most of my colleagues (many of whom interviewed me) are in their 20's or early 30's... :-)
"I suspect that since online job search allows for easier mass resume distribution, that's exactly what many people do."
Perhaps the resume screening software should employ intelligent filters, much like anti-spam software, to prevent tangential resume submissions from even reaching an HR person's inbox.
I remember years ago, a friend telling me about screening resumes for a position he was trying to fill in digital IC design. One of the resumes he described had no relevant education or experience, but a statement that the applicant "owns a PC and is really good with computers." LOL!
I've submitted to a job online and to the same position at a career fair. The career fair got me interest and an interview while the online posting got me nothing. This leads me believe that a paper copy handed to a physical person has a much greater impact.
The way I see it is that the resume screening software is not too smart when it comes to filtering. Submitting my resume to software which auto-fills in the boxes showed me how much it relies on my resume being properly formatted to the requirements of the software. I had job descriptions as job titles, no education and a host of other discrepencies.
My advice to anyone is at least make sure that the software will populate with your resume correctly .or. submit a paper copy to a person. Half the battle is to actually have your resume read.
As someone that has recently hired a few engineers, on of the problems I ran across was the volume of completely unqualified resumes. I suspect that since online job search allows for easier mass resume distribution, that's exactly what many people do. A very large portion of the resumes I see look like they are from people that see some sort of technology opening and send a resume without actually reading the posting.
I'm not talking about someone that can program in Java when I need C#. A good programmer can overcome that. I'm talking about needing a C# programmer and getting resumes from people that have spent a little time as a network admin or have done some light weight HTML coding and nothing more. The number of resumes I see from fields that aren't even close to software is staggering.