Those who can, do…

My last blog sparked an interesting debate in one of the LinkedIn groups. Many people commented that the level of knowledge a recruiter has is more important than gender to determine competence. I agree that knowledge and understanding of engineering is important. Some commentators pointed out that the author of these blogs doesn’t have an engineering degree, and can therefore not be a competent engineering recruiter.

True, I have a degree in Economics and a Masters in Law and Economics. I started my recruitment career in finance recruitment, in which I was successful for many years before moving into engineering recruitment.

I have worked with many excellent recruiters over the year. They have many things in common: a good brain and a desire to learn, excellent listening skills to really understand what the hiring manager and the candidate are looking for, and a willingness to question in order to increase their understanding. Some of the excellent recruiters I have worked with did not have a degree in their area of specialisation, many did.

I personally do not believe that a degree or experience in engineering is necessary to become a great engineering recruiter. I appreciate that having a different background is a handicap, and it will take a while to build up enough knowledge and understanding of your chosen area within engineering. A curious and intelligent recruiter can achieve this. An outstanding recruiter – in any specialisation – needs qualities over and above knowledge of that field. Candidates do not always realise the communication skills and tenacity required to serve the interests of someone considering a career move. Many large organisations have an automated applicant tracking system (ATS) in place these days. Recruiters are required to find new vacancies and job descriptions through the system, and to submit candidates and receive feedback the same way. Human interaction and communication with the hiring manager is often impossible. A recruiter whose only tool is his understanding and knowledge of engineering will very quickly hit a brick wall when trying to understand the details of the job description, how that role fits into the project or company, and will struggle to get meaningful feedback for the candidate who applied. A professional recruiter will know how to break through the wall and communicate with the hiring community. He or she will be able to get meaningful feedback from a hiring manager to pass on to the candidate before or after the interview. I firmly believe that this can add more value to the candidate for future applications, interviews and even for future career decision.

A great engineering recruiter is an agent. In professional sports, players have agents representing their interests. Whilst these agents will sometimes be ex-professional players, more often they will have a background in law, accountancy or PR. Professional sports people understand that they need people with different skill sets from their own to represent their interest. A good sports agent will be passionate about the sport they work in, have a thorough understanding of the game, and know what skills the various clubs are hiring. They will also be able to advise the player about career steps over and above short term financial reward, and negotiate a contract in the best interest of the player.

Ok, so those who can, do. What do you really want your recruiter to be good at? Do you need another technical sounding board or do you want expert advice about your career opportunities?

Women Engineering Recruiters: So What?

My business partner and I set up Sagent because we are passionate about the art of recruitment. We believe that technical recruitment has become a process driven industry, where truly understanding the needs of candidates and hiring doesn’t matter anymore. We didn’t realise that we had another selling point until clients started pointing it out. “You are a women owned engineering recruitment business”, a stakeholder at a large company told us, “that is great, we really want to diversify our supply chain.”
Really? That was our selling point?

We weren’t so sure how to feel about this. Being raised in a feminist household and having always believed in the power of hard work and my skills as a good sales person, I didn’t want to win business because I am a woman. More importantly, most of our staff, candidates and clients are men, I can’t tell them that this is our selling point!
But we were wrong. Being an engineering recruitment company owned by two women does matter. Our perspective on recruitment is female; some of the values we bring to our business are typical female values. That doesn’t mean they don’t appeal to men. Our consultants joined us because they like our values. Our candidates like dealing with us because we want to understand their career motivations and drivers alongside their technical expertise. Many men value this just as much as women.

Diversifying the recruitment supply chain matters to our customers. Most engineering companies are sincere in their efforts to attract more women engineers. Not just because it looks good on the CSR agenda, but out of sheer necessity. In a market driven by candidate shortage, our clients understand that they need to appeal to everyone, and that excluding skilled candidates will limit their ability to innovate and grow.

For a long time, the drivers in our sector have been around process improvement and efficiency, automation of sourcing to increase response rates etc. Candidates experience a slick, automated recruitment process with little personal interaction with the agency or corporate recruiter. At Sagent, we passionately believe that we will be better able to serve all engineering candidates – male and female – through a more personal approach, were conversations matter and are a real part of the pre interview assessment. Women might be less active job seekers, might welcome more coaching throughout the process, might benefit from a different interview style with the hiring manager etc. We don’t believe in positive discrimination. We will not favour female applicants over male applicants. We do however believe that our recruitment process will give female engineers a better chance to get the job they deserve. And that is why diversifying the supply chain in recruitment matters for engineering companies!