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Recruiters for composite companies have enormous responsibilities. They must ensure that new workers brought on are skilled and talented. In an interview, Composites Innovations International (c2i) president and chief executive officer Patrick Hessel, who is responsible for the hiring in his company, explains the process and challenges of finding workers for a growing market.
(Published on April 2006 – JEC Magazine #24)
AN INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK HESSEL, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, C2I
JEC Composites Magazine: I noticed on your company’s website that you were looking for a sales agent and a production manager. When recruiting for these positions, where do you look and where do you post the job openings?
Patrick Hessel: I post openings on the internet and I recruit local engineers through the main Slovak job web portal. However, this is only partially effective. I also try to headhunt talent directly through talking to a lot of people and getting recommendations for talented people. However, many talented engineers have moved to developed countries. Also, there are not really any experienced composites engineers or composites production people in Slovakia so one has to train them up from scratch.
When looking for a sales agent I certainly want to recruit experienced people who worked and live in the main composites markets, for me that is Germany, UK and France. They must have extensive industry contacts.
J.C.M.: Once you receive applications for the jobs, what exactly do you look for? Do you value certain attributes such as experience over others?
P. H.: For production manager I look for extensive experience primarily. I want to see experience with various composites production techniques as my company is not biased towards one specific technique. People who have only worked with prepreg/autoclave technology are generally biased towards using this technique although others may suit the requirements better. I also want the production manager to have practical experience with laminating, gelcoating, tooling design and production. He must be able to train laminators, set quality standards – basically have deep experience at every level of the production chain. Given that c2i is a small company at the moment I also look for qualities such as strong initiative, leadership and drive.
So the person normally comes from a more entrepreneurial company and not from a very large, highly structured company with a narrow job description.
Once c2i grows, I will look for a different profile for a production manager. For high-volume production companies producing many different components with high quantities the production manager needs to be very familiar with quality systems, statistical process control, continuous improvement techniques and production system design. He may not need to have the deep practical composites know-how which I require from the production manager I am looking for at the moment, that is someone to help a small company grow. The production manager of the current c2i would then become part of Engineering or R&D.
Concerning the sales agent, as a composites component manufacturer I need to hire sales people or agents who have extensive contacts with the composite end-users. This is quite different from just knowing all the composite component manufacturers as the composite material agents do. They may know who buys the material to process it further but often do not have the contacts with the people actually buying the end-product. So if you want to supply directly to end-users it is best to recruit someone who works as sales person for a component manufacturer. If you want to assume the role of extended shop-floor for Western European composites companies then material agents can put you in contact with other component manufacturers. I do not really require any specific education for the job, although technical understanding of composite design and production techniques are very important. Professionalism is required when supplying large advanced industries and companies; on the other hand there are many markets in which the style is more relaxed. Sales agents primarily need to have a strong “human touch” to them but not everyone has that.
J.C.M.: Once you have short-listed the best candidates, what happens next?
P. H.: I call all candidates I find suitable, the conversation normally takes 1 to 3 hours. I then may follow up by email on a few additional questions. I then meet the candidates in person, either at my factory in Slovakia but more likely at the candidate’s company, or close to them. Then a second personal meeting takes place at my factory and the candidate meets my employees and visits the site. For a full-time position this meeting will take one day in general.
I like to discuss real projects with the candidate, how he would go about designing a specific part, which production process he would use and for what reasons, how he would design the production system including quality systems. I like to discuss case studies: what would he do in a specific situation. It is important to discuss something real, then you can see whether the candidate thinks logically and in a structured way and how experienced he is.
J.C.M: Could you please tell me about the current job market situation for the composites industry? Is it difficult to find a job at the moment or are many companies hiring new workers? How many applications have you received for these job openings?
P. H.: I think the job situation is quite good though as the industry is growing.I believe that it must be easy for a qualified and experienced person to find a job. It may be more difficult without a composites background. I received 10 to 15 applicants for each of the two job postings. More than half of them were excellent people.
I am quite happy with the results from the netcomposites.net job service.