Engineering recruitment trends

Mar 10, 2018 | Attraction & marketing, Diversity

ISE members operate in over 15 different sectors, each with their own set of interesting dynamics. Engineering firms recruited the third largest number of graduates in 2017 (12% of the total).

Taking data from our latest Annual Survey of recruitment trends, ISE Analyst Samuel Gordon shares some of the characteristics of this sector including a few features that set them apart. 

Market overview

ISE employers in the engineering/industrial sector have benchmarks that are in line with overall averages.

They typically pay median starting salaries of £27,250, compared to an overall median of £28,000. They typically receive 78 applications per vacancy, compared to 75 overall. What’s more, an average of 12% of offers are declined by June and 5% are reneged, compared to 10% and 5% respectively.

One characteristic that sets engineering firms apart is their high use of apprenticeships – 79% took on apprentices in 2017, compared to 62% all employers. This sector hired 18% of all ISE apprentices last year. This year, the volume of apprentices they hire is predicted to grow by 38%.

These companies also tend to vary their apprenticeship starting salaries by the level of apprenticeship they offer. Median starting salaries for apprentices at Levels 2-3, Levels 4-5, and Degree level were £13,000, £14,500 and £17,500 respectively.

Engineering firms invest more than other sectors on year-long industrial placements. The majority (69%) hired placement students in 2017 and median starting salaries were £17,500. Placements are still more popular than apprenticeships in these firms: the former typically received 33 applications per vacancy while the latter only received an average of 17.


Improving diversity is the number one challenge for student recruiters in 2018. Gender diversity is a particular challenge for engineering firms, as typically only 31% of their graduate hires are female. This seems low compared to the 55% of all students that are women.

These numbers are worth a closer look.

Unlike some other sectors, engineering firms have a heavy reliance on subject: 45% require their candidates to have studied specific degrees, compared to just 13% of other employers.

The share of female engineering students is just 18%. This means that engineering firms are doing relatively well on gender diversity. It may be hard for them to do better without changes in the student talent pool.

Engineering employers are actively working to improve diversity in general – 72% took specific actions to improve diversity in 2017. A third ran outreach for final-year students, 30% ensured diverse campus representatives, and 30% tailored their marketing materials or methods. Tailoring selection appears to be slightly more common in this sector with 15% doing this compared to just 12% of other employers.

Attraction and selection

Engineering firms invest a lot of effort to find great hires.

They typically visit 17 universities and hire from 29. The top factors they use when choosing universities are geographical location, historical links and the performance of graduate recruits.

On campus, 86% go to industry-specific careers fairs, and 46% engage directly with departments on the student curriculum.

Their selection and assessment process has a few unique characteristics. These organisations are more likely to use technical-based assessment, less likely to use strengths-based assessment, and more likely to use group roleplay at their assessment centres. Only 44% are using video interviewing, compared to 55% of other firms.

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