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Hiring Engineers – It’s an art, Engineered to a science!

Secondments | Motovated Design & Analysis

Hiring engineers starts with a great job description:

  1. Know what you need your engineer for, have a place in your structure that highlights the value they are expected to add, then get very clear about the short, medium and long term objectives of that role within the organisation.
  1. If you’re only clear about the short term objectives, consider using a contract engineer. It could save you time and money, as well significantly reduce your risk and frustration in the long run.
  1. Be clear in your role description what their short term actions, including those of your induction team, are. Medium and long term actions can be adjusted as the employee progresses. One truth is that, whoever you hire, they won’t be exactly what you expect! So be prepared to modify their seat on the bus as they and your team grow, implying medium and longer term actions will evolve.
  1. Be clear also about how their initial responsibilities, authorities and accountabilities are to be delegated in the short term. Rarely should someone be accountable for much the month they start. The responsibilities and required authorities should be handed over in a process from your induction team. Accountabilities come later!
  1. Know how you’re going to manage them. The single biggest factor in job assimilation and satisfaction is how someone is managed. Bring them up to speed in a structured process, and make sure they can win each day, each week and then each month. Feeling that they are contributing makes all the difference in job satisfaction.

  1. A great job description makes a great job advert easy and attractive!

Once your job adverts out – wait!

  1. Have a generic email address that they reply to.
  1. Create an automated message that genuinely thanks them for applying, and lets applicants know when they can expect a further response.
  1. Create a rule that moves all applicants from that advert into a subfolder, so they don’t get mixed up with general enquiries.
  1. A common mistake is to monitor and manage applicants prior to the closing date of the applications. Sometimes the best applicant wait until the last minute! If you have an immediate need however, it is sometimes helpful to monitor this and pounce if the right applicant presents themselves. If so, let the rest of the applicants know immediately that the vacancy has been filled, they often have lots of hope resting on your great position!
  1. Some applicants will find their way around your systems before the deadline, and find ways to reach your hiring team indirectly. Treat them well. They are creative and motivated, so nicely remind them there is a process…

Once you’re ready to review candidates, this process will convert candidates into employees:

  1. Triage your applicants. Many will be obviously unsuitable for one reason or another. Online employment websites like Seek or TradeMe Jobs provide good triage tools, even doing the next step in your process for you…
  1. Reply to all unsuitable candidates thanking them for their time and interest, and suggesting they can try again for other roles if that seems suitable. Deleting their applications from your server at this time might be appropriate as well for privacy reasons.
  1. Once you’ve got a list of possibles, email a list of questions you’d like answered to all possibles, with a method of rating their responses according to your weighting criteria. Note that employment websites and Survey Monkey etc. provide tools for managing these responses. Provide a short deadline for responses to make sure they are interested and to keep your process moving.
  1. Input relevant responses into a decision matrix. This is the heart of shortlisting, and the first place where our engineering really comes into the hiring process. The decision matrix is based directly from your job description, and highlights what’s important in this role. It automatically weights all applicants based on their previous responses and provides immediate ranking feedback. If the ranking isn’t coming up with the answers you’re expecting, something isn’t quite right in either your job description or the decision matrix.
  1. Once three to five applicants have clearly come up as great candidates phone interview them, again with a consistent set of questions. These questions should be weighted as well.  Some input into your decision matrix will be based on non-tangible but important factors. For example, if phone or communications skills are important, you will be evaluating these elements independent of the actual questions. This is the place to start measuring engineers for their soft skills. Engineers tend to be very analytical, and so can be quite literal, and direct as well. It is important to start to evaluate whether they are listening for your intent as well as your words, whether they can mirror or paraphrase back to you what’s been requested. Do they communicate, empathise and engage well? Basically whether the can work and play well with others!
  1. This should result in a short list of a maximum of three to actually interview. If you feel something is missing, go back to your decision matrix and try two or three more applicants to ensure you haven’t missed out, possibly due to rigid criteria, someone you have a gut feel may be better for the role.
  1. Interview the shortlisted applicants. If it’s down to one this can be easy, but what if they are unsuitable for some reason? Try to keep three applicants on a short list until one has accepted, signed a contract and actually has a start date.
  1. Always ask for examples, and dig into their individual contribution to actual solutions for problems similar to those your firm faces. Another place to use a bit of engineering is to have some very simple test problems to validate their capabilities first hand. Because the interviewing process is stressful it won’t take much to trip them up, so the problem can’t be difficult. Chose these test problems based on the main skills they will need in the role. For Motovated these are a simple analysis problem and a simple CAD modelling exercise for example.
  1. Interviewing is an art in itself, so I suggest you google techniques often, as great new insights seem to come up regularly on LinkedIn and employment websites. Use a good script, keep the questions the same as best you can for all applicants, but let them have some time to reveal their personal goals and interests. Make sure you’re clear about your culture and where you want them to fit in that culture. At Motovated we’ve sometimes intentionally hired someone that’s a bit different, because we needed some new blood and diverse ways of thinking. While it’s comfortable to stick with what you know, new and different employees can offer opportunities for your teams and firm to grow that you might not otherwise pursue.
  1. Communication with all applicants throughout this process is key. For those who haven’t had a thanks-but-no-thanks email, now is the time to let them know if they haven’t been selected or if they are on the short list. Be generous and gentle in all dealing with applicants.
  1. Once your actual applicant is all signed up, respond to the short listed applicants thanking them for their time, interest and persistence. Ask if you can retain their applications for future positions. Delete all applications for which you do not have specific acceptance to retain their information.

Honour your commitment to an actual Induction Process.

Getting the best applicant on-board is useless if you haven’t maintained their interest, expanded their skills, ensured they can contribute and made their contribution visible through the first three months.

These lessons have been hard earned at Motovated, ignore them to your peril!

If you’d like to get great engineers without the burden of all of the above, contact Motovated today. We have amazing engineers that you can either offload to, or have onsite sitting alongside of you. All while “Engineering Your Vision!”.