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Meet an Engineering Recruiter: Tim Hooper

Insulating tapeTim Hooper has recruited and managed engineers at two companies. Find out what he looks for in a potential employee, and where he finds them.

Firstly, could you tell us a little about your background and your experience in recruitment?

I studied for a MEng in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath. After university I joined a company called FKI on their graduate training scheme: four six-month placements in four companies, including working in the USA and Germany. I am now a Chartered Engineer and have also obtained an MBA degree.

Since then I have been at two companies both involving some degree of engineering management and recruitment. I have recruited engineers, an engineering administrator and helped interview related functions.

What's the first thing that you notice about an application?

The first thing I have been noticing recently is the length of application. CVs from agencies regularly now run to four sides, which in my opinion is far too long. I also notice the general presentation and spelling/grammar of what has been submitted. For an engineering role where you are producing drawings a good level of attention to detail is required.

Where do you look/advertise to try to find the best candidates for a job?

I try to advertise vacancies on engineering-specific recruitment websites like justengineers.net. However the large general sites like Monster bring in a lot of applications. I have found though that my recruitment options are limited by the company I work for, who may have long term deals in place with particular agencies.

For quality or specific candidates advertising in the relevant journal or magazine tends to improve the general standard of applicant.

What do you use besides interviews when selecting a candidate? (e.g. practical tests, group workshops)

Besides interviews I typically undertake a tour of the factory. I have found it very helpful showing a practical example and seeing both the candidates approach to the problem and the solution. Also I try to bring objects or materials into an interview. At the moment I work for a company that manufactures adhesive tape. So in the interview I bring in a roll of standard insulation tape and ask the question “How is this made?” This brings a variety of responses in both the ability to answer the question and the thinking behind any answer.

Apart from their skills and experience, is there anything that gives you a good or bad impression of a candidate when you meet them in person?

I think a candidate should always appear smart, and they should also have done some research on your company. Being able to give practical examples or evidence (e.g. drawings, photos) of work can help a candidate.

Something that I have seen more of recently in interviews is candidates who think they know all about the job and trivialise what is entailed. This gives me a negative impression. Obviously you want a candidate who has some confidence but with some interviewees this has bordered on arrogance.

What skills do you look for outside specific engineering ability?

Outside of engineering ability the obvious answer is communication skills. You can be the best engineer in the world but unless you can effectively communicate your ideas to others then those skills are wasted. You need to also communicate to different levels of people, for example conveying the application of a complex idea to machine operators to implement, and that same idea to management in order to financially justify it.

Project and time management are also important. Most jobs I have interviewed for require working on more than one large task at a time so being able to prioritise your work on your own is important.

Having a good understanding of financial matters is also useful. Most projects need to be justified so being able to identify in financial terms what benefits your proposals and work can bring to the business is important.

Besides study, what is the best thing a young person can do to prepare for a career in engineering?

Having a job of any sort is good preparation; seeing how a company works. In any role you can identify what problems there are and ways of improvement and try to act upon them, be it in an office or stacking shelves.

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