Hands-on guide: 9 tips for job seeking in the STEM sector

Recruitment consultant Maximilian Rudek has helped hundreds of STEM professionals secure great jobs. In this comprehensive guide he provides hands-on tips for landing a new role.

Welding sparks in a tube

If you’re looking for a new job in STEM, you’ll find there are plenty of options due to the current skills shortage. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of competition for the best positions, and not every potential employer is all that they seem.

Working with a specialist recruitment consultant who knows your sector well is a huge benefit that will help ensure you’re placed in your ideal role. Maximilian Rudek has been working with STEM candidates for Progressive Recruitment, an SThree brand, for five years. Here, he gives his tips for getting the most out of negotiations with a prospective employer and landing a top job.

  1. Make sure the job you are applying for will be fulfilling
    In my experience, STEM professionals want jobs that will be professionally fulfilling. They look for organisations that provide both challenging work and pathways to develop and learn. Many like to know what their career trajectory will be and what the development opportunities are before accepting the job. Some STEM employers still haven’t recognized the importance of career development but those with highly sought-after skills don’t need to settle for less.
  2. Ask for the working pattern you want up front
    Sought-after specialists want flexibility, in all its variants, and it is often non-negotiable. You may want to work from home, work at times that suit you, or enjoy a hybrid working pattern, and employers have become much more open to the idea since the pandemic. In fact, many employers now consider flexibility as an essential benefit to attract highly skilled STEM workers. Whether you live further away and don’t want to commute every day, or you have family responsibilities that make it difficult to work nine to five, many employers will find that making allowances for your needs a small price to pay for your expertise.
  3. Make connections in the sector where you want to work
    Who you know as well as what you know can make a huge difference to your STEM job search. Attend industry and recruitment events and speak to recruitment professionals who specialize in your field and have connections of their own. There may well be a STEM skills shortage but for the best jobs there will still be plenty of applicants and you will give yourself an edge if you have already met the employer or someone the employer is connected to. You should also remember that every job may not be what it seems so challenge the story you have from a prospective employer, do your research and understand the organisation.
  4. Understand the challenges you will face in the role
    Both the pandemic and the STEM skills shortage have led to a change in the way that employers approach recruitment. Virtual interviews have become much more common, and decisions are being made very quickly as they seek to secure key talent before it can be lured away. Despite this haste, candidates should expect a good employer to be honest and to give a clear view of the challenges they will face and the development opportunities on offer. If you suspect an employer is being less than open, you should consider whether it is somewhere you want to work.
  5. Find out about the challenges the company faces
    You should ask employers about the biggest challenge they are facing and what they are doing to find a solution. This is particularly important in difficult economic times since it could help you to understand how stable the company is. However, it should always be a key question, since STEM employers face unique challenges that can impact employees, whether it is the emergence of new and competing technologies or difficulty recruiting key people.
  6. Do your research
    Understanding and being able to reference a company’s situation in an interview is very powerful for an interviewer because it proves you are genuinely interested and that you are committed enough to find out this important information. When a candidate suggests solutions to a company’s challenges or improvements to the way they do things it also demonstrates that they could be a valuable new hire.
  7. Find out if the company’s culture will be a good fit
    You should aim to get a sense of a company’s culture to understand if it will be a better fit for you than other companies you may be talking to. For example, does the company listen to its employees and take on board the suggestions they make? Employers that present candidates with a personal development plan from the outset are usually attractive to ambitious STEM professionals and help to create a real sense of ‘being in this together’, which can be very attractive.
  8. Take a view of the recruitment process itself
    Slow and strict processes that seem out of step with the fast-moving and agile world of STEM are among the important indicators that should certainly make you look harder at a company before accepting a position. Also, if the job description seems unclear it should raise some concerns. Ultimately, you should go where you feel wanted.
  9. Expect more and don’t be afraid to ask for it, especially with these key things
    You should expect to see some real information about the work you will be doing, the goals you will be expected to reach, the team you will be working with and potentially the clients you will be expected to deliver for. Some job descriptions simply provide a list of competencies the employer is looking for, but you should expect much more than that. We frequently find that a job description alone is not enough and that it should be accompanied by your own networking and research.

If you have sought-after STEM skills remember that employers are anxious to bring your expertise on board, so don’t be afraid to tell them exactly what it is you want from a job – it’ll be much harder to do once you have accepted the position.


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