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Engineers are a hot commodity in today’s employment market so they tend to hold a lot of the control in the hiring process — The best engineers don’t need a new job, but like most passive candidates, they will consider a switch under the right circumstances. 

Because of this, it is important that you (hiring manager / engineering manager / principal) deliver on the candidate’s criteria for a job move. To do this, you need to understand your candidate’s motivations and set consistent expectations on the type and scope of the workload.

Some common reasons for an engineer to change jobs are that they are:

  1. Working too many hours
  2. Traveling too much
  3. Not being fairly compensated
  4. Lacking growth opportunities
  5. Feeling bored with their existing project mix

Working too many hours 

Putting in an 80-hour work week was all good when your engineers were fresh out of college and didn’t have a family, responsibilities and a life outside of work. But as their experience grows and your employees mature, this type of work isn’t sustainable long term.

If you need more than 40 hours of weekly commitment from a new hire, it’s possible you need more than one individual to join your team. Evaluating your needs realistically well help reduce turnover and keep new hires happy. 

Questions to ask during the interview process:

  • On average, how many hours are you putting in each week?
  • How do you feel about your current workload?
  • What does your ideal work/life balance look like?

How to appeal to this obstacle: 

  • Outline your company-wide benefits such as time off, flex work hours, etc.
  • Define your hourly input expectations and how you enforce it. Do you evaluate time sheets on a monthly basis to see if someone is working more than they should be? Do you bring on interns or temp workers to offset any overload scenarios?

Traveling too much

Similarly to above, extensive travel can grow tiresome. 6 years ago, your employee was eager to travel 60%, but sometimes preferences and life circumstances change. Alternatively, we often hear that candidates are told travel is one thing, but after 6 months the expectations increase significantly. When an employer makes these kinds of drastic shifts in commitments without the buy-in of the employee, you’re alienating them and creating a disgruntled worker. 

Questions to ask during the interview process:

  • What do you enjoy and dislike about traveling for work?
  • How could you be better supported regarding work-related travel?
  • What is the most you would be willing to travel each month/quarter/year?

How to appeal to this obstacle: 

Stick to the travel limitations you set. If the position’s needs change, address it with the candidate and relay that their job is not in jeopardy if they choose not to adjust their travel schedule. Strong communication is incredibly important here.

Not being fairly compensated

We dedicated an entire blog post to this concept, so we won’t dive into it here, but the gist: If you want A+ employees, you need to offer an A+ salary. Under-compensation comes from pigeon-holing top engineering talent and there are solutions to this organizational pitfall. 

Lacking growth opportunities

A lack of growth opportunities is a common reason for employees to jump ship. Engineers are no different. These candidates are ambitious and want to see their careers progress, some may want to become managers and executives while others would prefer to be the face of the engineering firm, and some want to stick to the nitty gritty engineering work while tackling additional responsibility.

If an individual doesn’t see their desired career path available at your organization, they’ll look outside the company for opportunities. 

Questions to ask during the interview process:

  • What are your education and certification goals?
  • Do you enjoy interfacing with customers? Describe your most recent communication with a client.
  • Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

How to appeal to this obstacle: 

  • Clearly define multiple career paths for different skills and personality types. This takes some work on the front end, but will help your organization retain employees long term. If they can see the steps needed to achieve various goals and promotions, they will be more likely to stay.
  • Describe your tuition reimbursement or training and certification benefits.

Feeling bored with their existing project mix

A lot of the best engineers are cross functional, meaning they can excel in even the most broad project mix environments. Oftentimes, engineers will leave their current employers because they feel siloed into specific project types or industries. Allowing your employees to work on projects that excite them will help you retain them.

Questions to ask during the interview process:

  • What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on and why?
  • What types of projects would you like to work on going forward?
  • If given the choice, would you prefer to work on a variety of project types or focus on only one?

How to appeal to this obstacle: 

  • Showcase your project mix to prospective employees; share the variety of work you tackle as an organization.
  • Get excited about your open projects. Excitement is contagious, if you are passionate about whats to come, candidates will be too.

The best engineers are loyal to their current organizations unless they are working too many hours, traveling too much, not being fairly compensated, lacking growth opportunities, or feeling bored with their existing project mix. Uncovering these motivators is fairly simple during the interview process by simply asking what they aren’t getting at their current employers. By listening to these candidates and defining key areas of your culture, you’ll be onboarding top-notch engineers asap!

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