Gary Kline | RADIO ENGINEERING IN CRISIS, Radio World | January 2020

Here are some of the things any manager (engineering or general) should be thinking about when trying to hire a prospective candidate. Having hired numerous people for technical roles for more than 20 years, I’ve met many candidates from all walks of life and geographic regions. Their needs and wants (not always the same thing) may vary a bit; but most want to know about one or more of these things:

Salary— Most candidates do expect to be paid fairly and commensurate with their experience and based upon the requirements of the new job. Title and market size may factor into their mindset. Usually, but not always, they do have an expectation that they will be paid more than their last position. Engineering salaries are climbing as the supply of experienced and trustworthy candidates dwindles.
Be very careful about convincing someone to take the job for less than they are truly worth. It is my experience that they will be plucked away by another station or station group. Again, that’s not a given but it does raise the chances this will happen.
This applies to newer less-experienced candidates too. You could end up training them for a year or two only to have an offer made to them for significantly more than your paying them if you do not pay competitively. And, yes, you might have an opportunity to offer an increase to keep them when the time comes, but you’ll likely end up paying more to do this in the end.

Reporting structure— Many candidates you interview will be very interested to understand who they will be reporting to directly. That may be the director of engineering if they are applying for an assistant or staff level position. It may be the OM/PD if that’s how the station cluster was configured in the past; some GMs thought it best to do this since the DOE/CE ends up working most closely with the OM/PD on a day-to-day basis anyway. And in many cases, the CE/DOE reports directly to the station manager (GM/MM).
It is my experience that in most situations it is best to have the CE/DOE report to the GM/MM and that the position be defined as a department head. They can work day to day with the OM/PD and anyone else that makes sense, but structurally they should be accountable to the station manager. And most engineering candidates going after a top-level position do want that. They should be included in weekly department head meetings in addition to a minimum once-a-week one on one with their direct supervisor.

Job Description— This sounds like a no-brainer. It is important to have a job description that is well thought out so that there are no questions about expectations and responsibilities. Along with accountability comes responsibilities. There’s a very good chance you have this in some form already because you needed it for the recruiting process. You can’t simply think of or list everything an engineer or IT candidate should do as part of their job, but you can properly describe the role such that everyone understands the overall expectations. Any candidate who has experience as a broadcast engineer should come to the table with a decent understanding of what is required of them.
This process ensures that you have something to refer to in the future should there be a need. Broadcast engineers work very hard but do want to make sure that the hours and on-call expectations are reasonable among other unique requirements that come along with the territory. You know, like playing with high voltage. Whether they articulate this or not during the interview, it matters to them.

Growth— Not everyone you interview will be looking to grow. Some technical candidates are content to settle into a nice working environment at a good location, and do their job well. But there are others who are interested in growing.
They may want to know about opportunities to grow within the cluster, regionally if a larger company, or even to a corporate position one day. If you are asked, be prepared to discuss this with them. You may need to talk to regional or corporate engineering management in advance of the interview or telephone discussion. Every company has a plan for growth for those who desire it, the main takeaway here is to be prepared to discuss it. If they are interviewing with different companies at the same time this could be a deal breaker.

Condition of the physical facilities— Good, qualified candidates will ask to see the studios and transmitter sites before they take the job. They should unless your facility is one that’s been published or reviewed in the past few years or has photos online. In most instances, people are looking for a more modern plant that is not a rats’ nest of wiring, has transmitter sites that use newer transmitters and have redundancy, and a general sense that the facility will not consume a majority of their time “putting out fires.” There are exceptions of course. Some engineers do want something to sink their teeth into and clean up, but only if management can convince them that there will be the funds and support to do that. Sometimes, there is a capital budget already approved to build a new site or new studio(s) or purchase new transmitters — it’s just that the cluster needs someone to implement it. Those are also good attractors of top talent.

Station vehicle (honorable mention)— If your market doesn’t have a decent, working, dedicated and properly sized engineering department vehicle, you might consider obtaining one. Especially if any of your transmitter sites are distant and/or hard to get to because of bad roads, snow, etc. Most experienced and qualified candidates do consider having an engineering vehicle an important tool towards performing their duties. This is not always the case, but I have seen it in a majority of the hires I have been involved with.

The author is owner of Kline Consulting and former corporate director of engineering and broadcast IT for several radio companies.

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