Happy’s Essential Skills: Recruiting and Interviewing


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Hopefully, your career has progressed to the point that you are empowered to recruit your own team or a key person for your team. There are always technical people looking for better jobs, but many times, the most talented are busy doing their work and not looking for a new opportunity. If you are fortunate enough to work for a company that has established a stellar reputation, the job of recruiting becomes a lot easier. This was what I found after working for Hewlett-Packard a few years. On the West Coast, especially California and Colorado, everyone knew about the benefits of working for HP and wanted in. 

I was from Oregon, and didn’t know a lot about HP until I was approached by recruiters at my university. The only exposure I had to HP instruments was negative. If I got to electronics lab late, I would have to use the older HP oscilloscopes instead of the newer Tektronix units (Tektronix is an Oregon company). The older HP oscilloscopes were notorious for not triggering well! I had never seen a HP computer, having used Digital Equipment Corp. and Data General minicomputers in my Unit Ops labs. Analog computers and main-frames didn’t count. 

I. Recruiting

As a result of our rapid expansion and automation, due to the phenomenal sales of the HP-35 scientific calculator, I was promoted to process engineering manager. I needed to recruit more printed circuit process engineers. HP had a unique method of “distributing engineering resources.” It was a kind of “Free Market Method of Manpower.” Management would approve 10 times as many “internal hire only” as they would “authorized for external hire” and “relocation authorized.” What this meant was that there was always a lot of competition for the most talented engineers in the company, as they could transfer easily to any of the open, internal hire only jobs. The recruiting manager pulled you into the new job, your current manager could not stop or oppose the transfer. This placed a lot of burdens on any manager to properly coach, lead and challenge his team. Any team manager that was dominating, lacked delegation skills or was always issuing orders instead of letting the engineer do his job, was soon exposed because people transferred out and no one wanted to transfer in. Without hiring from the outside (and any good engineer would take any job just to get in), the lack of personnel became apparent. 

Printed circuit manufacturing was not one of the jobs that electrical engineers in HP wanted to do. EEs were also not the best choice for printed circuit manufacturing, as chemical engineers, chemists and mechanical engineers had more skills useful to support the PCB manufacturing process. Therefore, I was authorized to recruit external hires. What that meant was, I would be part of the college recruiting team, as 90% of HP engineers were recruited from universities, either BS, MS or PhDs. HP’s process for college recruiting was based on an early form of ‘Networking.’ HP maintained close contact with department heads and head professors of engineering departments of favored universities. To recruit chemical engineers, we went to those universities noted for their focus on industries like electronics, process control and environmental. So I contacted the department heads for chemical engineering at five noted universities, including my alma mater. We would ask these professors to give us the names of their graduating students that were the most talented and would likely be interested in a career in electronics. We would contact these students and set up an appointment to interview them at a time convenient to them rather than the fixed slots at the engineering placement office. Most chemical engineers were not looking for careers in electronics, but rather in petroleum, chemicals, pulp & paper, or energy. This is when I learned that that was how I came to be called by the HP recruiter when I graduated. My head Ch.E. professor had given them my name, fortunately for me, since I had no intention of applying to Hewlett-Packard or signing up for an interview. I was interested in EXXON, Standard Oil, DuPont, and Dow Chemical. 

Recruiting in Good Times and Bad

New university graduates proved to be excellent PCB process engineers. Earlier columns (TQC, Problem solving, DOE, etc.) relate how these skills are essential to supporting and developing PCB processes. But if you are looking for experienced engineers or scientists, then other tactics are in order:

  • Networking with peers
  • Professional organizations
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Internet job posting
  • Industry newsletters and magazines
  • Social media
  • Newspaper ads
  • HR departments and professional recruiters 

Networking with Peers

This is always my first choice. If you have met other engineers that have impressed you and may be interested in your job, then you are on your way. That is one reason for my recommendation that you write technical papers for publications. It makes your name visible in the industry; delivering papers at conferences increases your network and opportunity to meet your peers. Department of Labor statistics reveal that 63% of all jobs last year were found through contacts, so network, network, NETWORK! 

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization is another way of increasing your network. But most POs have a website with job postings or “situations open” that you can take advantage of. The most useful organizations are those that have monthly or bi-monthly meetings. HP was in Silicon Valley (South SF Bay Area) and was fortunate to have the California Circuits Association (a PCB education group), a chapter of the American Electroplaters Association, the AICHE, IEEE, SME and ISA chapters as well as many more. All of these are places to meet and get to know your peers.

Conferences and Seminars

There is always an abundance of conferences and seminars going on in electronics and especially printed circuit manufacturing, design and assembly. The IPC—Association Connecting Electronic Industries is the most visible in North America, but it has its counterparts all over the world (EIPC in Europe, ICT in the UK, JPCA in Japan, TPCA in Taiwan, etc.). Then there is the SMTA and their various conferences and seminars, as well as UP Media and their PCB-West Conference each year in September. 

Internet Job Posting

Younger engineers may be more likely to look to the Internet rather than newspaper ads. There are numerous sites that cater to this as well as professional contacts through LinkedIn. 

Industry Newsletters and Magazines

There are numerous electronics newsletters that may have job postings as part of standard features. The same is true of industry magazines. If recruiting efforts have not returned any results, then an ad placed in one of the magazines may be the ticket. Just remember, magazines have a longer lead-time than newsletters or newspapers. 

Social Media

Social media is a long shot similar to newspaper ads. The readership is general and not selective to an industry. But through networking, an ad here may be forwarded to someone who is looking for something in your field. 

Newspaper Ads

Newspaper ads can sometimes be effective, but they must be focused on the right geographic area and rather than in the classified ads, in the sports pages where a prospective candidate is likely to see it.

 HR Departments and Professional Recruiters

If you are in a larger company, the HR department is going to be involved, especially with newspapers or professional recruiters. For smaller companies, it just depends. But professional recruiters are usually my last resort. Effective but expensive, they offer the service of finding candidates so that they can make their money. 

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