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News & Insights

Attraction is Key

Published on 10th July, 2015

As the shortage of structural engineers looks set to continue, Robert Kilpatrick looks at ways of recruiting effectively in this buoyant market.

2015 so far shows few signs of easing the difficulty in recruiting engineers in the UK. The Review of Engineering Skills, a recent government report1, forecasted a demand for 100,000 new STEM (Science Technology and Mathematics professionals per year until 2020. As a short term solution it recommends importing engineering skills from overseas. Immigrants already comprise 20% of engineering professionals in the UK and half of the 119 jobs listed on the UK Border Agency's Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List are engineering jobs.

When it comes to recruiting engineers in 2015, we continue to see a low level of candidate applications which means that structural engineering firms must stay ahead of the game if they are to attract the skills they want.The UK economy continues to show high numbers in employment and businesses face a real shortage of engineers to choose from. The pendulum has definitely swung in favour of the candidate, and proactively managing candidate relationships and attracting passive candidates who are not actively seeking new opportunities is becoming even more important.

Structural engineers have never been easy to find and the problem becomes more acute in a buoyant construction market. Employers will need to become highly innovative in the way they present their opportunities and attract the skills they require. A high quality approach is needed, supported by a speedy response and a human touch. A rethink is needed.

So how do you recruit effectively in this market? First of all you should consider whether to confine your search to the UK or to import engineering skills from overseas. International sourcing is not as challenging as it sounds, particularly if you work with reputable partners who have an established presence in the locations where good quality engineering skills can be found. Wherever you choose to recruit, your prime emphasis should be on attraction. Most important is employer branding, which is how you explain to candidates why they should work for you as opposed to your competitors. You will realise that candidates are scarce and when a high calibre candidate is found, your company is probably not the only one competing for them. You can entice them with money but you will also need a well designed employment branding strategy.

Other things to consider are your company culture, working hours, and the range of benefits on offer. Many factors, other than salary, are taken into account when a candidate decides whether or not to accept a job. For example work/ life balance is becoming an increasingly important issue and almost a third of Brits believe that a good work/life balance and home life is the single most important factor in leading a successful life, according to research by Crowne Plaza2. 69% of us believe that flexible working hours and remote working are essential to professional success and 70% reject the notion that there is any correlation between working longer hours and getting ahead at work.

Attraction is a two-way street and it is important to design a recruitment process that yields results. It is a good idea to examine what you are currently doing with the aim of adapting it to meet the demands of today's market. A good place to begin is with those who have declined your offers; most of these people will tell you what you need to hear, rather than what you want to hear. In a recent survey3,136 out of the 179 candidates stated that they had withdrawn their candidature/application at least once since 2010 because of things the hiring organisations and/or their recruiters did badly, or because they discovered negative things about the company or its leadership.

Some key areas you will need to consider:

Social media: This means having an active presence on social media sites like LinkedIn, and Twitter and using them as recruiting tools. Talk about your company, about the projects you are working on, or anything that might engage and interest a potential candidate.

The recruitment process: The less people you involve in the approval process the better, you'll be agile and able to quickly find the talent you need.

Job descriptions: These are often task focused, detailed and not very exciting. You may wish to consider replacing them with results descriptions, describing what you want the jobholder to achieve, which will give more focus and be much more attractive for applicants.

Job adverts: You need to provide lively creative content and appeal to the emotional in candidates, this will prompt positive action.

Interviewers: Organisations sometimes are unable to decide who needs to be involved so they invite everyone. This can be intimidating to some candidates and a poor use of time for those who shouldn't have been there in the first place. Invite only those who truly have a say in who gets hired.

Skype meetings: It is well worth investing 15 to 30 minutes on a Skype call before setting up a face-to-face interview, this will ensure that the company will assess the fundamental requirements needed before committing to an interview of one hour or more.

Interviewing skills: The ability to assess people for cultural fit and skills is not innate. However it is something that people can learn and training is a wise investment.

Finally, treat people the way you would like to be treated. It sounds simple yet few businesses actually do it. Develop a process in which all candidates are treated with respect and make it a positive experience.


  1. BIS Engineering Skills Perkins Review 2013
  2. CrownePlaza®Hotels & Resorts: 'Evaluating success: placing a value on values' 2014
  3. Accretis Ltd "Emerging Best Practice in Talent Acquisition" 2014
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