Without a doubt, the civil engineering profession is a candidate driven market. That is, civil engineers are in high demand in most parts of the country and when they conduct a job search they are receiving multiple offers. Great news for the candidate as that puts them in a position of power; not so great news for the companies looking to hire them. How many times have you interviewed THE PERFECT candidate, only to have them accept an offer from your most fierce competitor down the street? If this has happened to you more than once, it is time to re-evaluate your interview and offer process so that your percentage rate of hiring top notch employees trends upward.
Here are 7 tips that will not break your budget or flip your schedule upside down that can help improve your chances of welcoming that next great civil engineer or civil engineering executive:
- Move swiftly. There is an old saying in the recruiting world, “great candidates have a short shelf life.” Great candidates are decision makers, they are movers and shakers, and they do not have time to schedule interviews a couple weeks apart, only to wait another couple of weeks before an offer is made. They know what they want and they go after it. If you show signs of indecision or hesitancy in your process, even if it is of no fault of the candidate (i.e. sketchy work history, good not great references, etc.), they very well may see that as a sign of weakness, and as my kids often jest, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”
- Don’t be afraid of technology. If you are not able to schedule a face-to-face interview in a timely manner, schedule a SKYPE call to get the ball rolling or to keep positive momentum during an interview process. Text message quick updates, feedback, questions, or availability – these messages pop up on the face of everyone’s smart phone and allows for a quick response during busy days, but can keep things moving forward.
- Listen, Listen, Listen. So many times hiring managers discuss all the great benefits of working for their company, but they fail to listen and understand the motivations of the candidate. So ask a lot of questions of the candidates first, listen, and then respond accordingly. What you think may be the most important attributes of your firm may not be the most important characteristics to the candidate. Ask, listen, and then respond. If you make your case before listening and understanding the candidate’s motivation they very well may be walking out the door for the last time.
- Be a Project Manager of the interview process. If you are in a position of authority where you are responsible for hiring, you have likely mastered the art of project management. When you are assigned the management of a multi-million dollar infrastructure project you wouldn’t wing it, would you? Don’t wing the interview process either. Take the time to absorb the candidate’s resume, find out what you can about them online. Develop a plan/process with those who will be involved in the interview process with decision time lines, technical skills to look for, personality traits to look for, specific questions to ask, and make sure everyone involved in the process knows specifically the role that the candidate is being interviewed so that a meaningful conversation can be had.
- Meet in a social setting. Obviously it is important to invite the candidate into the office so they can experience the office environment and witness the hustle and bustle and observe the setting of what potentially could become their second home. But beyond that office interview, meet them outside the office. A breakfast or lunch meeting is okay, but chances are they may be a little preoccupied with the work that is waiting for them when the arrive back to the office, or they may fear their boss may become suspicious of them should they arrive late for work or take an extended lunch. I would suggest grabbing a couple of co-workers and inviting them out for happy-hour after the work day. This way they are not as preoccupied and they can let their guard down, and the same can be said for you. This opportunity will allow for you to get to know the person, not just the engineer. You will also begin to witness if a natural camaraderie is easily developed.
- Send a thank you email. Wait…what? That’s right. We all know it is standard operating procedure for a candidate to send a thank you letter or email to the hiring manager following an interview. But try sending a thank you letter to the candidate. I recently had a client send an email to a candidate in the 48 hours following his interview letting him know of the value that they saw in him and that he could bring to the organization, while at same time reiterating some of the important details of their previous conversation. This simple gesture, an email that may have taken 10 minutes at the most to type, made a very positive impact on the candidate and ultimately “sealed the deal” as he was weighing a couple of different offers.
- Ditch the canned offer letter. We are excited to offer you the role of Vice President, here is your salary…please read the employee manual…we need proof of your citizenship…you are required to take a drug test…Oh, and by the way, our state is an “at-will” state so we can fire you at any time. Sound familiar? “Woopty Frickin’ Doo,” right? It doesn’t make you feel that special, does it? For many companies, this type of terminology in an offer letter is pretty standard. Not that these elements should not be included in the offer letter, but jazz it up, man! Recap the reasons WHY you are excited to have them join your firm and the impact that they will make on your company. Recap your interview conversations and let them know why joining your firm will further enhance their career. Drop in a couple of exciting pieces of company news that may appeal to them. And reflect on a statement or conversation that occurred over the course of the interview that stood out. By adding some strategic personal elements to the offer letter shows that you took the time to really understand their motives and ambitions. A simple gesture like this may be the deciding factor between two or three equally exciting offers that they are considering.
The competition for great civil engineering candidates is at an all time high. By adopting these simple strategies into your hiring process you will make great strides in improving your offer-to-acceptance rates.