What engineering employers are looking for in prospective employees

by Heat Recruitment

by Steve Auburn

1. Hard skills

The rise in engineering and manufacturing activity in the UK over the past 18 months has seen a real increase in the number of companies looking for technical staff. According to a recent Engineering UK report, 61% of businesses are not confident they’ll be able to find staff with the necessary skills in future.

Any candidates with a skill set that’s in demand will be invited to interview at, essentially, any company they choose to apply to. In many cases it’s a rat race for employers to conduct interviews and offer candidates roles quickly. Otherwise they risk losing an experienced candidate to the competition.

Candidates should be upfront with companies when interviewing and let them know they have in-demand hard skills. Letting an employer know that you are interviewing for multiple opportunities is a strong negotiating tactic.

2. A range of soft skills

While hard skills are the foundation and the walls, soft skills are the insulation. Communication, leadership skills and adaptability are the attributes that set an industry-leading engineer apart from a skilled one. Putting this across in a CV, however, may seem more difficult than listing qualifications.

But there is a remarkably simple answer. In short phrases, in relation to specific roles, highlight projects completed where these skills were vital. “Led an integration project with Client X” or “mentored a new employee through their career” are phrases employers are actively looking for. Employers want to have an idea of what a candidate could bring to their business.

3. Good character

Good character is often overlooked when reviewing CVs but, in an industry like engineering, working with reliable, sociable people can make or break a career. After all, no one wants to work alongside someone they don’t particularly like.

A recent psychology study found several connections between the personality of an applicant and what was written on their CV. Specifically, the study found “links between CV content and perceptions of conscientiousness and agreeableness”.

This can be a hard thing to get across on a CV. Candidates should have a well-written and eye-catching opening statement on their CV that can demonstrate a little bit about their personality. Readability, positioning of specific categories and attractive formatting are among the best-received items.

4. Long-term potential

One of the main things engineering employers look for today is long-term potential. If they believe an employee will look for a better job in six months, it’s a major red flag.

Employers like to see candidates who have not job-hopped around in permanent roles, although this disadvantage is mitigated significantly in the case of contractors. Owing to the cost of hiring staff, employers want to take someone on for the long term, so they will look at a candidate’s CV and how long they have spent in each position.

Candidates should arrive with a clear idea of their long-term goals and what they want to achieve in their career. If a candidate is looking for a fast-track route to management, but this isn’t something the company could offer, then it likely won’t be a good fit for either party.

5. Value for money

Candidates should come armed with facts and figures on any projects or cost savings they have implemented within a business. In engineering, tying performance in with return on investment is often a key differentiator when an employer is choosing between two candidates. During salary negotiation, it gives a solid figure to work from and puts engineers in a remarkably strong position.

Permanence is highly valued in engineering, as many specialists will know. The cost of recruiting someone can be quite high, so employers will need to see value for money.

As we shift towards a changing engineering sector, the skills required to beat the competition will change in tandem. While many skills will indeed remain evergreen, positioning them in different ways will, in many cases, make all the difference when it comes to winning a new job.

Article featured in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

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