Ask a Recruiter: How an Expert Seeks Out Top Engineering Talent

Feb. 21 through Feb. 27 is Engineers Week in the U.S., and March is Engineering Month in Canada. With an emphasis on the highly sought-out profession, Refresh Leadership sat down with a seasoned professional recruiter who specializes in engineers from all industries. Heather Merrick of the Specialized Recruiting Group in Grand Rapids, MI, an Express Employment Professionals company, has been in the industry for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about this niche, yet broad job market. In our first installment of “Ask a Recruiter,” we spoke with Heather on industry insights and what it takes to be successful in her field.

What is your secret to successfully recruiting engineers?

Honestly, we’re more focused on passive talent. Instead of actively recruiting for specific open jobs, we connect with individuals through professional organizations and other avenues. It’s really about connecting with people, not job boards. When you build relationships with professionals even if they aren’t looking for a career change now, they may look for something different in the future or can refer someone to you who is actively looking.

What skills do you look for in the perfect candidate?

The engineering field is so broad, that it is more specialized to a specific type of job. When filling a position, we really try to match the best fit for the company. I look for win-win scenarios for all parties.

What trends are you seeing in this job field?

What we’ve seen the past two years is that individuals who were already employed didn’t want to change jobs and be the new person who may be caught in downsizing. However, engineers are now more likely to be on the move to fulfill professional goals, work-life balance, and remote-work opportunities.

Can you expand on these changes?

There has been a lot more movement in the engineering field. Lots of growth. The automotive industry has bounced back, and these companies are adding to their engineering teams along with anything related to automation and robotics.

What is causing engineers to be open to the Great Resignation?

What we’re seeing in our market is that those who are open to change jobs are looking specifically at potential for growth and advancement. The job they take could be a lateral move for now, but the position offers opportunities to move into new fields that focus on automation and technological advancement.

What type of new engineering fields are hot spots for talent?

A lot of companies in our market are looking for engineers with experience in lean manufacturing. Basically, it utilizes a valued-added, cost-effective process that makes everything more efficient and eliminates time-consuming methods.

With all industries experiencing talent shortages, are you looking past any requirements (like years of experience) to place someone in open positions?

Right now, this is what the market gives you: do you wait for the perfect person, do you hire and train, or do you just get what meets your “must haves” for today. Most organizations that have created new positions will wait for what they want.

However, if it looks like a company is looking for a temporary solution, I’m not going to place an engineer who already has a full-time position in that purely temporary need. But if they see it as an opportunity to get their foot in the door and gain some experience, it may be a good solution. Either way, I have open and honest conversations with all parties, because for me, it is all about trust.

During such a successful career, I know you have many stories of helping great people find great jobs, would you share one success story with us?

I reached out to an individual this past November after finding their resume on Indeed. I was looking for a qualified engineer for a position, and this person seemed perfect. He said he was happy where he was at, and so I moved on. However, he was unexpectedly laid off the first week of January. He called me and we talked about what he was looking for, career goals, salary expectations. I reached out to two companies. One had a position he would be good for, but I knew he fit the company culture of the other a little bit better, so I tried for both. They ended up having a bidding war for him and offered $25,000 over his asking price. And more than that, he was able to get into automation upgrades and facility expansions, which was his whole background. I was so happy to help him find his dream job. That’s why I do what I do. It’s all about relationships and being strategic advisors with companies and career coaches with recruits.

Ask a Recruiter

We appreciate Heather speaking with us and discussing trends and stories of recruiting for this field. What type of stories from recruiters would you like to read about? What specific industries are you interested in? Let us know in the comments section below!

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