steve ermak


Are you having trouble finding qualified engineers to fill crucial roles in your company? 

If so, you’re not alone.

Talented, qualified engineers are in increasingly high demand right now. This is due to a number of factors, many of which you’re likely already seeing in your firm. 

One of these is the post-COVID recovery, which is leading to a booming economy across all sectors. As the economy stabilizes and the future becomes more certain, budgets are opening back up. This is likely why you’re able to start filling those crucial roles now. 

There’s also a generational shift that you’re seeing as well. Many Baby Boomers are retiring, and you need qualified Millennials and even Zoomers to replace them.

The problem is that although there are more students graduating with engineering degrees, fewer of those graduates have the necessary skills to succeed at top engineering firms. 

With an elevated demand and depressed candidate base, the result is a talent shortage.

So how do you as the employer navigate this market? A great place to start is by understanding the top 2021 engineering trends, and how you can and should respond. Here are four that you should keep top of mind.


It’s a job seeker’s market. 


Just a few years ago, we were experiencing a talent surplus and highly competitive market. In that environment, you as the employer had all the power.

Now, that script has flipped. Candidates now have all the power. 

This means that you’ll be competing against all the top engineering firms for qualified engineers. If you want to attract them to your firm, you need to come at them with an enticing offer. 

This includes going above and beyond when it comes to: 

  • Salary + benefits (some candidates can ask for $20K more than what they were making just a few years ago)
  • Responsibilities and upward mobility
  • Specific projects, particularly innovative and leading-edge work
  • Additional education and training

By “sweetening the pot,” as it were, you can not only attract active job seekers, but you can also potentially engage those who are happy at their current firm, but would be willing to go somewhere better. 

For those people, offering opportunities to make a substantial contribution to innovative work can be even more meaningful than simply raising the starting salary. 


Job seekers are looking to upskill.


Given the growing demand and lucrativeness of many specialized skills, there are a number of engineering candidates who are looking to upskill in their next role. 

This means that engineering firms need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Will this role help candidates gain new specialized skills?
  • Will this role give candidates experience on projects that are innovative and cutting edge?
  • Will this role serve not only as a great job, but a great step forward for their overall career? 

For example, in automotive engineering, there is a lot of talk around autonomous & electric vehicles. The autonomous vehicle sector is slated to grow 39.4% by 2026. Additionally, most of the major OEMs have set net-zero emissions goals before 2030, meaning that they are investing heavily in electric vehicle development. 

In my conversations with the market, I’m seeing increased demand for these skills as well:

  • Electrical engineering
  • Embedded systems
  • Software systems
  • Hardware design
  • Program management
  • Technicians
  • Engineering managers

Since gaining these skills will make candidates much more marketable, providing opportunities to learn them will make your firm a much more appealing and enticing option. So during the job posting, interview process, and more, be sure to highlight these exciting opportunities. 

You may just attract a great engineer who’s looking to level up in their career. 


Candidates want to prove themselves as leaders. 


Many senior engineering leaders are aging out of the workforce. You may be seeing that happen within your organization. If so, you know first hand that this is leading not only to a skill gap, but a leadership gap. 

Replacing qualified engineers is one thing. But replacing leaders is a whole different ball game.

While you may be able to attract experienced leaders from other organizations, they’re more difficult to convince to make a change. So you may have more success bringing on younger candidates who aspire to leadership. 

But how do you tell which candidates have that desire? It’s true you could ask them, but someone who says “I want to be a leader” may not be cut out for it. 

However, there are a number of soft skills you can look out for during the interview process: 

  • Active listening and response to your questions
  • Empathy
  • Initiative (i.e. they don’t wait for you to ask questions, they’re asking questions too)
  • Curiosity (again, they’re ask lots of questions)
  • Positive response to constructive criticism (e.g. they ask you if you have concerns about their resume/experience)

If you have a candidate who seems to excel in these areas, that could be a sign that they aren’t just a great engineer, but have what it takes to be a leader as well. 


Conclusion: Sell the experience of working at your firm. 


All of these market trends boil down to one thing: you can’t just expect engineers to come flocking to you. Instead, you have to sell the experience of working at your firm.

This involves collaborating with the marketing department to work on building your brand. If you’ve had bad experiences with employees in the past, some reputation management work is also in order. 

And if you don’t consider yourself the best person to “sell” someone on your company, then you need to find someone else in the organization who is.

Overall, engineering candidates are going to need a great reason to choose you over the competitors. If you put some work into the process, offer a great package, and present them with the chance to work at a top-tier, cutting-edge firm, you’ll have some stellar candidates lining up to take the job.

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