Why Your Firm May Not Be Securing Top Talent

Why Your Firm May Not Be Securing Top Talent

One of the interesting elements of my job as a recruiter is that I spend my days interacting with candidates over the telephone.  My goal of course is to uncover the top talent in the civil engineering profession for my clients and present to them what very well may be a better career opportunity for themselves.  Over the course of time I learn what inspires and motivates candidates, I learn about their compensation patterns and benefits, and of course the types of projects they work on and what their roles are specific to those projects.  Over the years, after having scheduled and coordinated and absorbed candidate feedback from 1000 +/- interviews, I have learned to understand many of the large and small ticket items that prevent outstanding candidates from accepting offers, or even choosing to interview with specific organizations.

I realize that there are many deeper issues candidates consider when considering a new opportunity, as most civil engineers are very thoughtful when it comes to their career. That said, it is often the little things that can make-or-break one’s decision to accept an offer. Here are some of the “deal killers,” some more subtle than others, that may be preventing your firm hiring the best and the brightest, in no particular order:

  • Your website is outdated and not “responsive”.  You should evaluate your website every few years to make sure the look and feel is up-to-date, and that the platform that it is currently on is responsive – that is, it can be easily viewed on multiple devices.  This is really the “curb appeal” element of your firm.  If your website is sleepy and dull, or if it looks exactly the same on a desktop computer as it does on an iPhone, perspective candidates won’t last 5 seconds on your site before moving on to your competition.
  • You have wood panel walls.  Seriously.  If the interior of your office is reminiscent of Mike Brady’s office in the Brady Bunch, it will be hard to have a candidate commit to a second interview.
  • Zombies dressed in professional attire.  If those who interview candidates are experiencing “burnout,” candidates can detect it from a mile away.  And they will be staying at least a mile away from ever joining your firm.
  • Ever been to a restaurant with no ambiance? Have you ever gone back? If your office is filled with stuffy professionals and there is no unique or at least energetic “vibe” to the office environment, don’t expect the candidate to return for a second interview.
  • Your work-from-home policy is as stiff as a board. You do not allow the flexibility of working from home on occasion.  Sure sometimes if you give an inch people take a yard, but that’s up to you to keep that under control.  But if an employee has to stay at home for the day to monitor a sick child as they lay in bed or sit on the couch watching Sponge Bob or Cake Wars, and you force them to use it as a sick day when they could easily be productive working from home, well then you are stuck in decades past.
  • You are not fully utilizing at least 3D CAD technology.  Engineers want to see progress, they want to know that they are going to be in an environment that will be competitive.  Imagine car shopping and having a car salesman try to sell you a car with crank handles that control the windows.  You feel me?
  • One computer monitor per desk.  I literally have three screens on my computer desk…if I had a bigger desk I might have four!
  • No bonus program OR no overtime pay.  Most engineers are working 50+ hours/week…time to distribute some of those profits…or at least use them to remove the panel walls.


If any of these apply to you, please don’t murder the messenger 🙂

These are just a handful of reasons why some firms may have trouble attracting top talent. In fact, it may seem as though I am “nit-picking,” but when candidates are evaluating multiple offers they begin evaluating even the minor details, and often the devil is indeed in the details.

What have YOU seen over the course your career that caused you to navigate away from a particular opportunity?


Barcus headshotMatt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.

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