Automotive and Commercial Vehicles recruitment

Engineering candidate crisis?!

08 December 2020 by RICHARD CLEGG read
Ben Wicks Dvn G7c Zh4 Wm Unsplash

​In common with most industry sectors, manufacturing and engineering companies know what they want from job vacancy candidates – the highest calibre of person they can attract. Manufacturing & engineering companies are looking for the most talented individuals who possess a broad range of skills and who can fulfil the expanded roles open to them, as companies seek to maintain profit margins. This scenario has created an unusual situation, one in which engineering candidates are both extremely marketable and difficult to attract. It also means that the best are in the top jobs and if they can be persuaded to look elsewhere, they become prime targets for counter offers as their current employers seek to retain them. Not an easy business, recruiting.

Right person, wrong job? Or right job, wrong person?

Finding the right person for the right job is a skill in itself. High demand for quality at senior management level has created a supply shortage. And this in turn, has led to ideal conditions for the use of very targeted search. There has been a significant shift in recent times towards targeted ‘head-hunting’ – so much so that it could soon outstrip both other main methods of recruitment, advertising and database services. A combination of all three can be used to ensure every avenue is explored to seek out those highly capable -but rare – “passive” candidates. Traditionally, head-hunting tended to be used at boardroom and senior level among those commanding high salaries. But slowly it has moved down the scale to involve talented engineers and we are now seeing it graduate into the sphere of contract / interim engineering recruitment as well. One of the main reasons has to be that recruitment companies have more than proved their worth in the head-hunting sphere. So, what are the advantages to using outsiders for recruitment as opposed to keeping the job in-house? There are a good number of reasons for letting the experts take the strain. Let’s explore just a handful of them, all pertinent to the engineering sector -market knowledge, recruitment expertise, cost savings, thoroughness of the selection process and sensitivity (also known as secrecy!).

Market knowledge: Recruitment and selection specialists operate in the manufacturing and engineering sectors on a daily basis. Their store of knowledge equips them with the expertise to provide clients, who may only recruit sporadically with the latest state of play. The experts can make sure the company doing the recruiting knows exactly what it is stepping into.

Recruitment expertise: Specialist agencies have the resources, the contacts and the systems in place to ensure they reach out to as many relevant candidates as possible. Doing the job in-house means there is rarely the time, the depth of expertise or the candidate network available to ensure the best available people are delivered.

Cost savings: Put simply -and in terms which will please finance directors and accountants-using a consultancy saves both time and money. Employ a consultancy and it will advise and deliver a solution, which leaves the engineering company free to go about its core business. And don’t forget the ‘hidden’ savings-by using the experts you get the right solution at the outset so that unnecessary expense is not incurred.

Thorough selection process: Agencies’ selection processes are robust, resulting in shortlists of thoroughly pre-screened and well-informed candidates. The processes are designed to increase the client’s chances of recruiting and retaining the most suitable person for a specific job.

Sensitivity requirements: There are a variety of reasons for running a covert campaign-reasons which often negate any possibility of the recruiting company managing the process itself. Examples of the need to maintain secrecy include: running a search or a blind advertisement to recruit for a new confidential role and the thorny question of salary disclosure leading to internal remuneration issues.

Retention is also an important issue. It is not a lot of good filling a post with exactly the right candidate if he or she then ups and leaves in quick time. Recruitment consultancies can help by keeping in touch with their candidates long after they have started work to help them settle in and to flag up any problems before they can escalate.

Experts in recruitment should take the time to listen to the employer and then make recommendations based on their industry experience and their knowledge of the individual role in question. Any recruitment consultant worth his salt will not just agree with the client but also challenge the or assumptions in order to ensure their requirements are realistic and result in the formulation of a recruitment strategy which is both appropriate and achievable.

Check that a potential consultancy has got an extensive network of contacts and a thorough understanding of the calibre and availability of candidates, the types of employer and the issues within each core sector. If they do, they are well placed to advise companies and candidates alike and to introduce people to the most suitable opportunities for them to develop their careers.


  • First, have an attractive salary / rate for the role. Benchmark with your industry sector if you need to, but make sure the remuneration is right to attract the calibre of individual you require (Recruitment companies can help with this).

  • Second, put together a detailed job specification for the role. Include in this any new skills and experience a candidate can bring to your organisation. Then use that specification when tackling the interviewing process.

  • Third, move through the interview process swiftly. Time after time good candidates fall out of the job race because of long time delays!

Richard Clegg is a Director at Expion Search & Selection and specialises in retained search for specialist roles.

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