7 tips for attracting & retaining engineers during a pandemic
Until recently, the demand for engineers has outpaced the number of qualified graduates. This created a job candidates’ market in which high-performing engineering students had their pick of positions, and companies needed to act fast in order to snap up the best and the brightest.
This has changed somewhat in the era of COVID-19. According to one market study, more than half of electronics product launches have been postponed or canceled as a result of the pandemic—reducing the need for new hires. And, in some industries, such as automotive and aerospace, hiring has all but come to a halt.
Strengthened through pandemic
At the same time, the demand for many engineers has strengthened as a result of the pandemic. Companies continue to hire systems engineers, software engineers, technical support engineers and others. The need for all types of engineers is sure to rebound once COVID-19 is behind us.
So, what should companies do today to attract the engineers they need both now and post-pandemic? Also, how can they tailor their hiring practices to ensure they continue to attract the most qualified engineers during this time of virtual hiring?
Here are seven tips to consider based on our own COVID-19 hiring experience at Rohde & Schwarz:
- Make the investment now. Don’t put off your hiring needs until after the pandemic. Instead, consider taking advantage of the employers’ market and the large supply of candidates that now exists. While hiring new engineers may not be perfect for your organization’s bottom line today, COVID-19 will eventually be behind us and the demand for qualified engineers will once again outstrip the supply. Companies that hire now can differentiate themselves in the long run by ensuring they have the highest-quality engineers both now and into the future.
- Adapt your hiring process. With the need for social distancing, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to adhere to all the same hiring processes you’ve used in the past. Yet that shouldn’t stop you from continuing to recruit. At Rohde & Schwarz, for example, we’ve been forced to eliminate the group project we’ve required of job applicants during in-person interviews. While that’s made it harder to evaluate candidates’ team leadership skills, one of the benefits of a virtual hiring process is that hiring managers can now record and directly compare interviews, which allows for a close evaluation of each job applicant.
- Be decisive. Once you start the hiring process, it’s important to carry it through without delay. Recent engineering graduates want immediate employment. The last thing they need is to go through a series of interviews only to learn that the hiring process has been postponed. A clear hiring process with a definitive timeline helps your company preserve its reputation, while equipping you with the top engineers you need for your success.
- Look for good communicators and self-starters. While many companies prioritize innovation and technical expertise when hiring engineers, in today’s at-home work environment, good communication skills are also a must. While communication is always a valuable skill, it’s vital when engineers are working remotely. So, too, is the ability to self-motivate and to work well with other virtual team members. This is true for selling a company’s products, as well as working to complete a project across multiple people.
- Equip your hires with the right tools. To keep your engineers productive, it’s important to provide them with the tools required to communicate and collaborate in a virtual environment. Videoconferencing software is essential as engineers hold virtual meetings, collaborate on files, and informally chat to stay connected throughout the workday. You’ll also want to establish a centralized document management system to make it easy to store and access files, and project management software with clearly defined workflows and timelines.
- Tailor your training programs for a virtual environment. Many companies offer training programs for new hires, and these, too, need to be adapted for a virtual setting. At Rohde & Schwarz, we’ve virtualized our in-person training sessions to include programs about our technical products and sales processes, as well as the history and internal resources of our company. Previously, new hires joined experienced sales engineers on a ride along, which allowed for job shadowing and in-person customer engagement. Today, assigning every new hire to work remotely with a manager on a special project can offer new engineers the 1:1 guidance they need to learn about a company’s products and processes.
- Stay connected. As you integrate new hires into the workplace, it’s critical that you establish opportunities to connect, just as you would in the office. Weekly videoconferencing meetings can be a great way to share updates, discuss project roadblocks, and bond together as a team. And engaging with new hires 1:1 helps you establish a closer rapport, while creating a forum to address issues as they arise.
While COVID-19 has created business uncertainty, it’s important to keep in mind that the crisis is temporary. Eventually, we’ll be returning to business-as-usual, with many companies racing to fill the pent-up demand for engineers. With a proactive hiring process and the willingness to adapt, you can get ahead of the curve, differentiate your business, and ensure you attract and retain the highest-quality engineers both now and after the pandemic.
Evan Melloy is a regional sales manager for Rohde and Schwarz, where he oversees a group of sales and application engineers.