Unlocking Untapped Potential: The Case for Seasoned Engineers in Today’s Job Market

A scenario: ABC Company is attempting to fill a position within its engineering department. Candidate A graduated four years ago and possesses relevant experience in the field ABC Company is seeking, but they exhibit some knowledge gaps that need addressing. Candidate B boasts thirty years of industry experience and could write a book on the subject. Both candidates are enthusiastic about finding new opportunities, albeit for vastly different reasons. Candidate A aims to enhance their knowledge and advance their career, while Candidate B seeks to transition into the final stage of their professional journey with retirement just around the corner. So, which candidate is more likely to secure the job? If you chose Candidate A, you would typically be correct. But why?

The notion of an aging workforce is a familiar one. Baby Boomers are retiring at an alarming rate, and there is an evident shortage of skilled workers to fill the resulting void. While this statement holds true, there are also highly skilled workers with extensive on-the-job experience actively seeking new opportunities. Nevertheless, Candidate A is the type of candidate companies typically pursue. Companies yearn for young and talented engineers with 3-10 years of experience who can seamlessly integrate into their teams. There is nothing inherently wrong with desiring fresh talent to invigorate a team. This approach has proven effective, which explains why so many companies seek out this type of candidate. However, there is an overlooked pool of talented individuals who are not being chosen – the seasoned group of bona fide Engineering veterans that make up a significant portion of the job market. In the following sections, we will explore some of the reasons for this oversight and explain why a closer examination of the overall market landscape may change your perspective.

The Cost Factor. Seasoned Engineers are often considered too expensive. Companies are conscious of their budgets and understand the financial implications of hiring individuals who have spent decades honing their craft. While recent engineering graduates often earn less than $85,000 per year, the most sought-after talent with 5-10 years of experience commands an average salary of $100,000 – $110,000. On the other hand, those with more than 10 years of experience earn between $115,000 – $130,000 annually. This disparity amounts to an 18% difference. At first glance, this discrepancy seems substantial. However, when we consider the disparity in skills, productivity, and versatility between the two groups, the output of a seasoned engineer can outweigh the variance in pay. The adage “you get what you pay for” aptly applies in this scenario.

Longevity and Commitment. Employers desire candidates who will have lasting careers with their companies and contribute over an extended period. This often leads business leaders to favor candidates who have 30+ years left in their careers. However, statistics do not support this desire. According to a 2020 report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, an employee stays with a company for slightly over four years, with older employees staying longer than younger employees. Therefore, while the ideal candidate might possess 30+ years of potential service, the reality is that they will typically only remain with the company for less than half a decade before moving on. Consequently, hiring a talented and seasoned candidate with 5-7 years left before retirement is not unrealistic at all. Moreover, these experienced professionals often have significant knowledge to impart, bolstering the department and serving as a valuable source of wisdom and experience for the next generation of talent.

Adaptability. While not as commonly voiced as the previous two concerns, employers sometimes express a desire for candidates who can readily adapt to new technologies and processes. The adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is simply untrue as experience level does not dictate adaptability. Both young and seasoned employees are equally capable of embracing or resisting change. Talented and competent engineers can be found at every stage of their careers, and oftentimes seasoned engineers not only possess the capacity to learn new skills but actively welcome the opportunity. 

In conclusion, it is crucial not to overlook the pool of talented and experienced professionals who can bring immense value to companies. Although seasoned engineers may command higher salaries, the disparity in skills, productivity, and versatility can justify the investment. Additionally, while employers desire long-term commitment, the reality is that most employees, regardless of age, stay with a company for a relatively short period. Therefore, hiring a seasoned candidate with several years left before retirement can be a practical and beneficial choice. Furthermore, experience does not hinder adaptability to new technologies and processes, as both young and seasoned engineers possess the ability to learn and welcome change. By recognizing the untapped potential of seasoned engineering veterans, companies can benefit from their knowledge, mentorship, and ability to bridge the gap between generations, ultimately creating stronger and more well-rounded teams.