Ask the Heat Treat Recruiter

The Monty Heat Treat News has worked closely with International Search Partners, a US search firm which is known for being the only recruiting agency in the world working exclusively in the heat treatment industry, for many years now. In 2023, The Monty is pleased to announce that this relationship will continue with ISP offering a regular exclusive feature where they will answer questions about salaries, interviewing, negotiations, and a host of other topics related to recruiting and job searching for companies and/or individual professionals in the heat treat industry.

This month, Sr. Recruiter, Jessica Maier and Managing Recruiter, Josh Hale give some “rapid fire” answers to several questions that came up during last month’s ASM Heat Treat 2023 show in Detroit. 

What are the most in demand positions in this market?

Jessica: Field Service Engineers. In my 8 years with ISP, I have never seen a time when we didn’t have at least three clients (and often many more – we have over a dozen right now) looking for FSEs. Because of this field engineers often get scooped up quickly, so I always advise my clients to jump if there’s any interest in a candidate. If you wait too long, it is likely the candidate will be hired elsewhere.

Josh: I agree with Jessica – FSEs are ALWAYS in demand! Right now, we’re seeing an uptick in demand for electrical engineers and PLC programmers on the OEM side and maintenance on the commercial heat treating side. 

Have compensation ranges calmed down since the pandemic?

Jessica: Yes… and no. We have passed the point where we saw the market demand an increase of almost 30% for a candidate to make a move, however that percentage is still higher than pre-covid times (closer to the 15-20% mark).

Josh: Salaries are on the rise due to demand, inflation, and various other market conditions, but expectations have tempered to more realistically aggressive numbers vs. the crazy numbers we saw during the early stages of the end of the pandemic. 

What are you seeing as the biggest challenge in recruiting top candidates right now?

Jessica: I see two different challenges, one on the candidate end, one on the company end. 

Firstly, on the candidate end, I see a much lower interest in relocating. The best thing to do here is show off your town the best way you can through the interview and hiring process. In any face-to-face interview make sure you leave enough time to allow the candidate to drive around the neighborhood, recommend some hot spots to check out, etc. (We recently wrote an article all about relocation, check it out!)

The second challenge comes from the company side. We often see that the market price for new candidates doesn’t match the compensation the internal employees are currently making. This is an internal issue that is often more complicated than simply giving everyone in the company a raise. Each company needs to look within and determine the best course of action to retain current employees as well as attract new candidates.

Josh: Competition. Good employees are hard to find and if a company has one, they’re doing everything they can to keep that person happy and engaged – making it difficult for a new employer to woo them over without a strong “hook” – be that significantly more money, opportunities for advancement, or flexible work schedules. 

You recently wrote about commissions for salespeople and mentioned that it is common to transition a sale to a “house account” after a certain period – that doesn’t seem fair! Don’t you want to incentivize the salesperson to develop an account and upsell for future new business? 

Jessica: That’s a fair point. The theory goes that you want to keep your salesforce “hungry” and if they get recurring commission in perpetuity then they lose motivation to go after NEW business! That said, it makes sense that you want to incentivize them to grow existing accounts too – maybe there’s a way to include a bonus or special reward for key activity with “house accounts?” Something to consider… 

Josh: We’re just reporting the facts and don’t really hold an opinion either way and that type of declining commission plan with a transition to a “house account” is very common in the industry. 

What does the future hold? Any predictions for 2024? 

Jessica: My prediction for the new year is the labor market will continue to be tight which will drive up salaries, albeit in a more linear progression than the exponential growth we’ve seen recently. Also, and this isn’t necessarily going out a limb, but I’ll say that field service continues to be the number one most in-demand role. 

Josh: I think we’ll see more movement in 2024. While it will continue to be a candidate driven market, more workers will be open to the prospect of shifting careers or moving geographically. As we get further from the pandemic and the market continues to perform well, people will loosen up on taking risks and making changes – this will provide a great opportunity for forward thinking and fast acting companies who are willing and able to move on strong candidates. 

Josh Hale collaborates with companies to identify, engage, and hire top performers as a professional “headhunter” where he’s focused exclusively on the thermal processing industry as part of International Search Partners since acquiring the firm in 2015. He works closely with Jessica Maier to support the practice, and, together, they’ve helped dozens of companies make hundreds of hires in a variety of roles within the industry, including engineering, sales, quality, metallurgy, and management. For more information email [email protected] or call 619-465-9621.