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Want to hire medical device experts? 
Better take a number—or learn how 
to jump the queue

Don’t believe the unemployment statistics. To hire a medical device expert, you may need to invest a lot 
of time and effort . . . and you still might fail. But there are ways to improve your odds.

Paul Sturgeon

February 17, 2011

7 Min Read
Want to hire medical device experts? 
Better take a number—or learn how 
to jump the queue

In early 2010, a senior plastics engineer for a major manufacturer of medical diagnostic equipment found out he was being promoted to a management position. His first task was to find and hire his replacement so that he could devote his full attention to the new role. Working with his company’s human resources (HR) department, they started by posting the opening on the company’s website. After an initial influx of résumés, none of whom was qualified, they decided to run an ad on one of the major job boards.

This time they received plenty of résumés from people who had some of what they were looking for, but came up short of the senior, experienced person they needed to hit the ground running. They interviewed a few people, each time adding weeks to the timeline only to find the candidates were not right for the job or in some cases had overrepresented themselves on their résumé. The company then tried a different job board, and posting on social networks. By this time several months had passed, and the new manager, tired from working two jobs plus sorting through résumés and interviewing, was getting frustrated.

His big break finally came when a candidate applied through one of the social networking postings. The candidate seemed like a great fit, and interviewed very well. After several interviews with the team, the decision was made to make an offer. Unfortunately, the candidate was interviewing other places as well, and ended up accepting a higher offer with another company.

Another six weeks had gone by and the hiring manager was back to square one. “This is unbelievable,” he thought to himself. “I have a six-figure job opening, with great benefits and opportunity for advancement, with a great company, and I’ve spent almost six months trying to find someone to take it. Every week I hear on the news that new claims for unemployment benefits are up. This is crazy!”

This is a true story, and one that we hear all too often from companies in the medical plastics field. While the industry is growing, and the technology and regulations are becoming more complex, the skilled professional labor force is not keeping up. We know this story is true because the next thing that happened is that the company called us, and the story has reached a happy ending. Its new senior plastics engineer (previously in a similar position with a competitor) just came on board. This is going to be a recurring story in 2011, however, so we have some advice for those who want to avoid the painful six months, and instead fast-forward to the happy ending.

You’re hiring? Good. 
Five things you need to know
Here are some hard facts and well-proven tips to help you find the employee of your dreams.

1. Forget what you have been hearing about double-digit unemployment. The best people were hard to find before the recession, they were hard to find during the recession, and they are hard to find now. The first baby boomers officially turned 65 on Jan. 1, 2011. Every day for the next 19 years, more than 10,000 will turn 65. The economy will continue to fluctuate; demographic reality will not. There are not enough qualified professionals coming behind the boomers to fill the void, and this equates to a candidate-driven job market for experienced, degreed professionals.

2. Do not wait until you have an opening to think about finding the “A” players for your company. You should have a succession plan for every key contributor, not just senior management. Include in that plan an allowance for planned retirements, new openings created by growth or internal promotion, and typical turnover. And for your anticipated openings, begin the search at least three months before you need the person to be in place.

3. Know how you will find the top talent for your organization this year, next year, and the year after that. Job boards and social networks represent about 15% of the available workforce, so even if you have full access to every one of them, you will never know of the majority of top people, nor will they know that you are looking for people like them. Talk to your HR department about this to see what systems are currently in place, and if there is a gap from where you need to be.

4. Know what it is about your company that is attractive to top talent. It might be the markets you are in, the growth you are experiencing, the company culture, or other factors. Top talent expects to be compensated fairly, but typically they make job changes based on other factors, such as the ability to take on new challenges and responsibilities. The best performers at company A will usually not be motivated to make a lateral move to company B unless there is something that gets them excited. Be honest and objective here; don’t just say, “Well, I’ve been here for 20 years, it’s a great company.”

5. Be organized and ready to act. Before you place an ad or engage a recruiting firm, know your timeframe, who will be part of the interviewing process, what the criteria for making the hiring decision are, and what approvals are needed. Time kills deals, and in a candidate-driven market, you will lose good talent to the company who can make a timely decision to extend an offer.

Looking for work? Just kicking 
the tires? Good. Five things you 
need to know
Clearly, the days of starting and ending a career in the same company are gone. It is an employee’s responsibility to manage his career and to be prepared to move when opportunity calls. Here are some thoughts on being that prepared person.

1. If you have a college degree, experience with good companies, and a stable job history with a record of achievement and increasing responsibilities, you are a hot commodity. No one is going to manage your career for you, so keep your résumé current. Top performers typically tend to forget significant achievements over time because they’re “just part of the job.” Keep a folder where you can put e-mails from the boss or coworkers thanking you for your part in a successful project, or other awards and recognition.

2. Be honest with yourself in evaluating your current situation. It is all too easy to become “the boiled frog” when you have a job where you are comfortable and the company seems stable. If you have not had a promotion or increased responsibilities for several years, then your career may be falling behind where it could and should be. If you haven’t gotten a raise or bonus payout in a couple years, don’t rationalize that it’s the economy. Consider finishing a degree, or getting a certification or professional designation in your industry.

3. Know for which companies in your industry you would like to work. Which companies are financially stable? What are the cultures like? Which ones are in growth markets that interest you and line up with your experience? Watch for job openings with those companies. If the company is using a recruiting firm, then its advertisement, if there is one, probably will not include the company name; you’ll need to look for key phrases as well, such as “a leading extruder of medical tubing” or “a growing molder of disposable medical devices.”

4. Most of the positions you’d like to know about are not posted on job boards. Maintaining a good professional network has always been a good idea, and it still is. Websites such as LinkedIn facilitate staying in touch with former colleagues and getting connected to peers within your industry. Join a few groups and participate in discussions. Keep your résumé with a recruiting firm that specializes in your industry, and update it annually. A good recruiter will never guarantee you a job, or even an interview, but they will guarantee that your target employers know about you.

5. If you are approached about an opportunity, do your homework. Be prepared! Your research on the company will reflect in the questions you ask, and that will convey your genuine interest in the position better than anything else. When you interview, be sincere, honest, confident, and positive. Questions about future growth opportunities within the company are fair game as well; most employers want to hire people with “runway,” an industry term for having the education and skills required to advance further in the company than the immediate position.

Paul Sturgeon is business manager with KLA Industries based in Cincinnati, OH, an executive search firm specializing in the plastics and medical industries.

About the Author(s)

Paul Sturgeon

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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