Hiring and Keeping Good Engineers (part 1)

magnifying glass highlighting jobs in the newspaperI recently read a post by John Hunter entitled, “Finding, and Keeping, Good IT People,” and couldn’t help but think it merited some additional thoughts on the subject.  He makes a few main points in his post, namely: look at the hiring process, reduce your requirement count, treat existing staff well, and a good programmer is a good programmer.  I’m going to expand on all of them here.

Look at the hiring process

Your hiring process is intended to filter out the large number of applicants into a small pool worthy of interview.  How this process is implemented can turn good engineers off from of a job simply because it is not robust enough to handle the applicants that apply.

I have worked for an organization where people would apply for a job on the website and hear nothing, *NOTHING*, for four months while the position was staying open.  Every time, those delays were entirely unnecessary because the company had no intention of hiring them.  They were being held in reserve as a “last resort.”

There used to be a hiring policy where, if anyone recommended by an existing employee was hired, the employee would get a hiring bonus for bringing a qualified friend/applicant to the organization.  Who better to know the qualifications of a fellow in your industry, than one who is good friends with someone your organization already knows and trusts?

Reduce your requirement count

As John describes, there is a growing trend (I would concur with his assessment that this is becoming a pigeon-holing problem) for companies to specify the requirements of a position such that it’s nearly impossible to find actual applicants that fit.

In fact, I’d argue that when most engineers who are good at what they do, don’t necessarily think that they can fit into a large number of categories.  They’d look at the position and think… hmm, I don’t know that I can do that job.  Time to move to the next option.  When desperate, sure, one goes and applies for anything they can, whether they feel qualified or not, but in reality, no one likes to look at something and believe that they can’t fill the shoes that need to be filled.

Reducing your qualification count to the essentials is key to ensuring that those shy or unsure of themselves people will actually apply for your position.  I’ve met many an engineer who was not so confident in their abilities, yet could produce outputs that put others to shame.  A job rarely reflects the “duties” the employer claims it requires.  In fact, when I started my first engineering job out of college, I quickly discovered that 95% of the position requirements were company-specific and had no real relevance to my college training.

  • Christian you have a valid point here when it comes to hiring. This practice doesn’t stop with engineers but is standard in (too)many companies. It is hard to feel exceptional when you don’t know where you stand with hiring managers. Miriam

    • Christian Fey

      Thank you Miriam for the comment and reading! I remember when I was hired for my current job, I left the interview process feeling like I had no chance in hell of getting hired. Thankfully, they responded within a week to offer me the position. When I did Human Resources, I was as diligent about sending rejection letters as the acceptance ones. People deserve to know, and in the future would be more likely to reapply when another position opened up.

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