Hunter Hamilton
Engineering Recruiters

Find the right mix of transferable skills

The second manager in nine months just gave her notice. She said she’s leaving for better pay, better hours, better benefits and better advancement opportunities. When employees leave a company, there is often a gaping hole to fill and every industry is plagued with its own set of reasons and circumstances for management turnover. And while the tasks of recruitment and hiring can be daunting, staff procurement and retention are vital components of business success and can dramatically affect the bottom line.

A chief component of successful hiring for engineering positions is evaluating candidates who either exude transferable skills or are a “perfect fit” for a position. When it comes to hiring, motivating, and retaining employees, the focus should be on making a good match between the strengths and interests of the employee and the needs of the organization. That said, as the economy lurches along its path to recovery, more and more companies are seeking engineering candidates who have mastered transferable skills that can be useful from one role or industry to another.

Career expert Richard Nelson Bolles pioneered the idea of transferable skills in his perennial bestseller What Color Is Your Parachute? According to Bolles, we are all born with skills we take from job to job. Some common transferable skills that many companies want engineering candidates to demonstrate are good communication, effective negotiation, leadership and process improvement. Today’s educational institutions are reassessing their curriculum to emphasize transferable competencies along with theoretical content. In many engineering programs, teaching transferable skills – such as teamwork; speaking and writing skills; and project, time, and financial management – is integrated with tangible instruction.

According to The Competency Group, a workplace consultancy firm, some benefits of transferable skills for employers include:

    • Larger source of candidates with transferable skills and job-ready potential
    • Increased employee retention with promotion or transfer opportunities
    • Useful tool for succession planning and career path development within organization
    • Targeted skills development with customized training for skills gaps
    • Greater productivity among employees with diversified skill sets

So which transferable skills are required to succeed in today’s marketplace? The 2012 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook Survey, found the top ten qualities/skills sought by employers are transferable:

1. Ability to work in a team structure
2. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
4. Ability to obtain and process information
5. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell or influence others

While technical skills are the talents and competencies particular to a certain type of work and are vital to those professional roles, the recession has also taught engineering professionals the value of staying marketable and having current transferable skills. The nature of an employee’s work responsibilities and growth opportunities will dictate how important their technical skills are relative to their transferable skills. And, the challenge for employers will be retaining a top employee who is motivated to apply all their skills.