Selecting Employees for the Engineering Environment
Table of Contents
1. The Promise of Skill and Discipline
Future engineers at the university and highschool level must contend with a minimum average grade—one higher than the norm for maths and science. Once degree work begins for engineers at university, their bi-annual score cards are compiled into an academic record.
Often when engineering firms recruit new graduate employees, they look at the candidates’ academic record and decide whether they are interested or not. Other companies may opt for giving bursaries to the top performing student and ensure they attract the best talent that way. Offering high initial salaries to graduates is another frequently employed technique to ensure the top employees can be recruited into the business.
2. Innovative Hiring
The big problem with these techniques is the fact that in many cases the students with the top academic results do not, in practice, get the same results. Offering high initial salaries also attracts the candidates that make their decisions based on salary and not necessarily the work environment they want to work in. This could lead to employees that lack loyalty towards the company.
Engineering and specifically engineering projects focus on teamwork and people. Academic capability is also very important, but in many cases, you find that the top performers do not understand how to work in teams and want to take all the credit for themselves when executing a task.
Some of the latest trends look at tests to determine the employees’ culture and to see if the culture of the employee fits the culture of the company. This sounds great on paper, but in practice, writing tests and having interviews to determine the employees’ culture can easily be manipulated.
So the question arises—how then, do you select graduate employees with very little knowledge of them?
The answer that works—we have found—is to get more knowledge.
This knowledge is not comprised solely of academic results, which are important. We usually try to find all-rounders in our line of business, as most graduate engineers eventually move into a project or engineering management role over time. Even if the employee prefers to remain in the technical field, they will eventually have junior engineers working under them that they will have to manage.
Thus looking for other activities on the graduate’s CV could give a better indication of their people skills and team work. Culture, sports, and leadership are good indicators of team players; staying in a residence or being part of a community in some other way helps considerably when dealing with cultural differences in the workplace.
3. Narrowing Down Candidates
Once a shortlist of candidates has been selected, the next step is to meet them
When meeting your potential employee for the first time, most companies opt for a formal interview process. The employee dresses up in a suit and tie and sits around the table with a lot of old people trying to determine if they are quality.
In reality, this is a terrible process, the poor potential employee is so nervous during the interview, they battle to get their words out. Another awful technique is asking the graduate technical questions from your industry to see if they have the technical ability. There is no way the graduate would know anything from your industry. Accept that you are getting a clean slate with enough logic to have passed their engineering degree.
A better process to follow is to select an informal venue for the interview. Lunch at the local coffee shop would be a better option, for instance. When having the interview—surround the graduate with other younger employees that understands their way of thinking. This ensures that they are a lot more comfortable and you will actually meet the real person as a consequence.
Although it’s very hard to determine from one interview if the candidate will fit into your organization, you should get an idea from these processes.
4. Vacation Work
Another very good technique is to offer vacation work to potential employees during their studies. Many companies follow very formal processes that students have to adhere to apply for vacation work. Students never apply—they don’t like the admin, or feel it’s not the environment they want to work in. In other cases, students phone and e-mail the potential employers to ask for vacation work but the answer is usually negative, with some long story for explanation.
By offering vacation work to a number of students, employees get cheap labour to execute some basic tasks as well as get the opportunity to get to know their potential future employees.
Having a relationship with your local university is also a very important part of recruiting new employees. We have found that working with the university on research and development—while paying the university and students for their work, gives a great platform to recruit graduate employees.
In reality, there is no set way to recruit new people to your business. Every company has their own way of executing this process. Companies and managers recruiting people should however, think about the techniques mentioned above during their recruitment process, in order to attract the correct talent to their company.
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