Happy’s Essential Skills: Recruiting and Interviewing

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published online in 2016 and has since been updated.

Hopefully, your career has progressed to the point that you are empowered to recruit your own team or a key person for your team. There are always technical people looking for better jobs, but many times, the most talented are busy doing their work and not looking for new opportunities. If you are fortunate enough to work for a company that has established a stellar reputation, the job of recruiting becomes a lot easier. This was what I found after working a few years for Hewlett-Packard.

As a result of our rapid expansion and automation due to the phenomenal sales of the HP-35 scientific calculator, I was promoted to process engineering manager. I needed to recruit more printed circuit process engineers. HP had a unique method of distributing engineering resources. It was a kind of free-market method for the workforce. Management would approve 10 times as many “internal hire only,” as they would “authorized for external hire” and “relocation authorized.”

What this meant was that there was always a lot of competition for the most talented engineers in the company, as they could easily transfer to any of the open “internal hire only” jobs. If the recruiting manager pulled you into the new job, your current manager could not stop or oppose the transfer. This placed a lot of burdens on managers to properly coach, lead, and challenge their team. Any team manager who was dominating, lacked delegation skills, or always issued orders instead of letting engineers do their job was soon exposed because people transferred out, and no one wanted to transfer in. Without hiring from the outside (any good engineer would take any job just to get in), the lack of personnel became apparent.

Printed circuit manufacturing was not one of the jobs that electrical engineers in HP wanted to do. EEs were also not the best choice for printed circuit manufacturing because chemical engineers, chemists, and mechanical engineers had more skills useful to support the PCB manufacturing process. Therefore, I was authorized to recruit external hires. I was part of the college recruiting team, as 90% of HP engineers were recruited from universities (BS, MS, or Ph.D.). HP’s process for college recruiting was based on an early form of networking. HP maintained close contact with department heads and head professors of engineering departments at favored universities.

To recruit chemical engineers, we went to those universities noted for their focus on industries like electronics, process control, and environmental. I contacted the department heads for chemical engineering at five noted universities, including my alma mater. We asked professors to give us the names of their most talented graduating students that would likely be interested in a career in electronics. We contacted the students and scheduled appointments to interview them at a time convenient for them rather than the fixed slots at the engineering placement office. Most chemical engineers were not looking for careers in electronics, but rather in petroleum, chemicals, pulp and paper, or energy.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the December 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.




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