The Need for Speed

Jump start the selection process to overcome a shortage of contract engineers

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

“Time kills deals” should be the mantra of managers and human resource leaders who need to keep agile competitors from cornering the market for highly qualified contract engineering professionals.

Recent news reports confirm that pending retirements and a lack of new graduates will create a 51 percent shortage of power engineers in the U.S. over the next five years. In fact, only 14 percent of U.S. undergraduates are currently studying science, technology, education and math (STEM).  After the first year of college, 40 percent of students in those fields switch majors, according to a White House study.

Even the U. S. military could be hurt by a lack of workers with STEM degrees, based upon a newly-released report by the National Academy of Sciences. Worse yet, the problem isn’t limited to the United States. Engineering managers face increased global competition for top performers as Australia, Czechoslovakia and the United Kingdom have recently announced pending shortages of full-time and contract talent.

Laggard firms may have to endure vacancies in high-impact positions or win bidding wars for experienced contractors unless managers act quickly and decisively during the selection process. But the long-term implications could be worse as recruiters vigorously present top contenders to company managers who act with urgency and strategically re-up assignments to keep prized contractors off the market.

You snooze, you lose.  Eventually, engineering firms that refuse to streamline protracted selection processes and leave prospective contractors in the lurch could face depleted talent pipelines or damaged employment brands.  Research shows that candidates subconsciously judge whether they want to work for an organization based on how they’re treated during the selection process.

So how can you avoid the global talent crunch by hastening the contractor selection process?

1.  Source Proactively

Anticipate and communicate projected contract needs in advance so technical recruiters can create a pool of suitable prospects and review opportunities with coveted veterans who are finishing other assignments.

2. Prioritize High Impact Positions

If the predictions hold true, recruiters may be inundated with contract requisitions. Help them focus their time and efforts appropriately by prioritizing contract positions that have the biggest impact on project outcomes, client satisfaction and the bottom line.

3. Set Clear Expectations

Although the benefits of an accurate, detailed job description may seem obvious, engineering managers can’t afford false starts in a tight recruiting market. Meticulously review the project scope and performance expectations so recruiters make perfect matches right off the bat.

4. Interview Selectively

You have nothing to lose by interviewing the strongest candidate and extending an offer if your staffing partner offers a performance guarantee. Otherwise, your top choice may be taken by the time you complete several interviews.

5. Streamline the Selection Process

Facilitate quick decisions by eliminating unnecessary steps in the selection process and consolidating others. For example, save time by requesting contactors who’ve already passed a drug screen and background investigation and scheduling back-to-back interviews with various members of the team.

6. Follow the 24 Hour Rule

Provide immediate feedback on resumes and interviews, because managers who fail to act may have to settle for second best, when top contractors have their choice of assignments.


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