New Study Finds Engineers Slowest-to-Fill Positions

Even amid what the Wall Street Journal refers to as the “worst worker shortage ever,” many companies seeking to fill engineering positions are still treating the hiring process as a marathon rather than a sprint. A LinkedIn analysis of 400,000 confirmed hires in the U.S. between June 2020 and March 2021 found that out of 15 job specialties, engineering (software, mechanical, civil, etc.) had the highest median time to hire—with 49 days passing between job application submissions and first days on the job. In addition, project managers ranked third with a median 47 days to hire. In a hyper-competitive labor market, such elongated hiring timelines risk turning off job candidates and pushing them to other companies. Why are employers so slow at hiring engineers? Perhaps it’s the technical nature of a field that values precision over speed. The difficulty in finding qualified prospects could be another possible factor. What the study does make clear, however, is that A/E firms that accelerate their hiring timelines could gain competitive workforce advantages. Firms that bring in job candidates for five, six, or even seven interviews with a cross-section of the company in hopes of ensuring the best possible hire may be achieving the exact opposite by frustrating their best prospects who feel as if they are jumping through unnecessary hoops. Limiting the number of interviews and interviewers is an easy step to take to streamline hiring timelines and decisions.


Employee Referrals Could Hinder Industry Diversity

Since employee referrals provide convenient, cost-effective means of quickly hiring pre-vetted candidates, they are understandably popular with employers. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employee referrals are the top source of new workers, accounting for 30% of all hires in 2016. The downside, however, is that employee referral programs could hamper diversity initiatives in the A/E industry since workers tend to refer candidates with similar demographic profiles. The result is that firms keep fishing from the same end of the talent pool instead of casting a wider net. According to an analysis by employer-review website Glassdoor, candidates referred by workers are less diverse than those prospects who have submitted online applications. Since 2019, 54% of referral candidates have been white compared to 48% who submitted online applications. In addition, men have represented 50% of referral candidates compared to 47% of online applications. While some companies have begun offering higher bonuses for referring candidates from underrepresented groups, employers should proceed with caution as federal law prohibits the making of employment decisions based on race, ethnicity, gender, or other protected category. A different approach taken by some companies to reach beyond the confines of their employees’ narrow circles has been to expand eligibility for referral bonuses to include clients, vendors, and social media followers.

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