Hiring For Experience Within Manufacturing & Engineering

Diane Smedley

Recruitment can be a fickle business, on either side of the experience. It’s not an exact science, and more often than not it relies on ‘gut instinct’ rather than analysis or data. Recently in the Manufacturing & Engineering industry, I have noticed that candidates who have excelled in job interviews in terms of culture fit and experience aren’t making it all the way to being hired purely because they are lacking in an exact set of technical skills.

This makes things particularly frustrating as a recruiter (and even more so for my candidates). Especially since there is a marked skills gap in many areas of the market. With so many candidate shortages, can companies really hold candidates to a bullet point by bullet point approach to hiring?

In the past, it was almost impossible to get a ‘foot in the door’ at a lot of businesses without matching their job descriptions to the letter. However, now a lot of sectors are recognising the value of a candidate’s transferable skills. The fact that companies are now willing to cast their net a little further means keen and passionate candidates will get an opportunity that wouldn’t previously have been afforded to them. So, why aren’t Manufacturing and Engineering taking the same approach?

Businesses often insist on candidates having a specific degree or experience with a specific programme. They don’t look at transferable skills, attitudinal or cultural fit or ways they could train up great candidates. This is a regressive attitude to take when approaching employment which will seriously damage an industry already lacking in available talent.

Many suitable candidates have come through Apprenticeships and simply worked their way up through hard work, dedication and attention to detail. They will have enhanced their skills through college courses and additional training. They have proven their passion for the industry by continuing to improve their skills set and keep up to date with technical developments. These candidates are entirely qualified to perform these roles across a breadth of disciplines – a lack of degree should not be a barrier to career progression.

There are many benefits to hiring candidates who are qualified through experience or display a good cultural fit. They have already built up a portfolio of expertise and proved their dedication to the industry. Because of their hands-on experience, they won’t necessarily need extra training when they start a new job, and they are far less likely to slow down your productivity. They are used to keeping up with demand and performing tasks on time. Learning can be so much more than writing essays and memorising theory.

Other sectors of Scottish business, such as Technology and Finance have already cottoned on to the fact that utilising the skills set of existing employees (who don’t have degrees) is the perfect solution to plug the gaps in a candidate short market.

It’s important that candidates who have proven to be reliable and willing to improve their skills set are given an equal opportunity when it comes to hiring. Whilst companies should not get rid of technical requirements altogether – they are obviously required for a reason – they should be more open minded when it comes to “time served” experience or cultural fit as opposed to solely focusing on degrees.

If you’d like to speak to me about your hiring process or, indeed, are looking for advice on a new role, I’d be delighted to have a confidential chat with you. Click here to drop me an email.

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