Advancing Your NDT Career in the New Normal
By Jill Lutz and Christopher Brenchley
Even before COVID-19 changed the employment landscape for practically everyone, finding a job within the skilled industrial trades has been evolving for quite some time. With the growing use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) in many mid- to large-sized companies, applying for and landing the next best job can be challenging if prospective candidates aren’t using technology to their advantage. According to research conducted by the résumé optimization platform, Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems. How do nondestructive technicians and industrial inspectors make their capabilities stand out, so they can plan—and position themselves for—their next best career move?
Résumé uploading and online professional profiles are now the “new normal” for industry veterans and new graduates alike. Whether applying for jobs on company websites; through generic job sites like CareerBuilder and Indeed; or creating a detailed profile on skilled trades hiring platforms like Surehand, NDT techs and inspectors need to be mindful that data plays an increasingly important role in the job hunt. And as with all data, the details—most importantly: completeness, accuracy, and whether it’s up to date—matter.
For example, Surehand has a profile wizard that lets industrial inspectors easily create a trade-specific profile that includes work and training experiences; industry certifications and qualifications; and OJT hours associated with individual inspection methods. Along with inspectors’ work (e.g., full-time, call out, turnaround, or contract) and travel preferences, the profile data is used to match inspectors with best-fit employment opportunities on the platform.
Well-known job site Indeed offers two ways to upload your résumé. Prospective candidates can create a résumé using Indeed’s template or upload a professional résumé for prospective employers to review. Uploading a professional résumé is ideal—but employers will still consider a candidate’s skills and experience with the Indeed format. Either way, ensure that the résumé is done in reverse chronological order, includes accurate job titles, dates of employment, and concise job responsibilities. If work experience changes, always update any professional profiles you have on employment sites, job boards, or professional networks like LinkedIn.
Peter Roy, Corporate Recruiter at Acuren Industrial Services, advises that it is “important to control your professional narrative. Inspectors should be selective with where they post their résumé, versus just blanketing the web with it. That allows you to stay on top of whether your information is current and accurate; know who's looking at it; and better understand why you are (or aren't) landing new opportunities.”
Professional networking in NDT has moved online as well. A staple for white-collar professionals for almost a decade, LinkedIn has become an invaluable resource for industrial employers and workers. It allows inspectors to connect and engage with their peers around the world; stay current on the latest nondestructive trends and technology; and develop their professional brand for prospective employers.
While many nondestructive technicians continue to use word-of-mouth and offline networks to find work, many professional associations and alumni groups use LinkedIn and industry networking sites to stay connected and nurture new or existing relationships. Companies join these groups, too, to promote all that they are doing in the nondestructive field. They prove their value and commitment to excellence through these groups long before advertising job openings; they build their reputation as a top employer.
“Connecting with candidates through social media platforms and building relationships with them online are key to our recruitment efforts,” underscores Leo Pena, Vice President, Human Resources at Versa Integrity Group. “Our corporate LinkedIn and Facebook pages and Surehand’s sourcing platform have played vital roles in finding candidates to meet our hiring needs. Given the obstacles we’ve all faced over the past year, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Building your network is key to employment in this industry.”
Keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Use it to share relevant professional articles and updates related to the nondestructive field. Any content you share on social media—whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter—is generally viewed by prospective employers. In 2017, CareerBuilder reported that over half of employers decided not to hire a candidate based on content posted to social media sites. However, the same article cited that over 40% of employers decided to hire a candidate based on their social media posts, especially if the content was professional, relevant, and showcased the best attributes of the candidate. Roy agrees, “I look at all those things when screening prospective candidates. I don't want to see your political opinions or photos of you with a twelve-point buck. Keep it professional.”
Though there are many differing perspectives on what makes a résumé stand out, keywords are a trend that is here to stay. What are keywords exactly? They are the words and phrases that are unique to an employer’s job posting. For example, if an employer seeks a Level III UT NDE technician in the Oil & Gas industry, then an applicant’s résumé needs to reflect those words somewhere in the résumé. Even in a tight labor market, résumés containing keywords often land on the top of the recruiting pile. Candidates also need to tailor not only their résumés, but also cover letters, and intro emails when applying for work—emphasizing their work experiences and skill sets relevant to a given job opportunity.
“Top 5 Tips for Landing Work in the ‘New Normal’”
Be proactive: Job seekers who connect with companies or peers online stay in the forefront when job opportunities develop. Avoid connecting only when opportunities are there. Develop an online connection with companies and people where you would like to work.
Stay professional out there: Both your personal and professional online presences are out there for the world to see, even if you delete compromising posts. According to Inc.com, 70% of employers use social media as a screening tool prior to hiring.
Post thoughtful online content: Material related to the NDE field, such as earning a certification or even legislation that could affect the NDE industry, should be shared and celebrated. Avoid providing controversial opinions on any online post—keeping it neutral is your best bet.
Join online networking groups: Search for professional NDE groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, professional associations, and even with your alma mater. It’s a great way to connect with other professionals, plus you will be one of the first to hear about new jobs and other NDE updates.
Keep your information current: Many of us create profiles on Surehand, Indeed, CareerBuilder and LinkedIn and then forget to update them. When a recruiter or hiring manager searches for candidates, you want to show the best, most updated version of yourself. Add your professional résumé to your profile—avoid using job board templates; ask someone else to proofread it to catch grammatical and typographical errors.
Résumé formatting can prove equally important; avoiding graphics and complex layouts gives it at least a fighting chance at being properly processed by an ATS. For example, many ATS systems do not recognize PDF résumé files; use .doc, .docx, .txt or .csv files instead. In addition, use a traditional circle bullet point instead of small squares or arrows. An ATS recognizes square or arrow bullet points as a special graphic, and résumés containing those will be blocked.
Despite applicants’ best efforts, résumés today typically end up being scanned by document parsers; stored away in a candidate database; and are often never reviewed by a recruiter or hiring manager. Which is one of the reasons why Surehand—taking a cue from today’s popular online dating apps—does away with traditional résumés altogether, using trade-specific worker profiles, advanced search technology, and matching algorithms to directly connect skilled tradespeople with best-fit job opportunities and the employers who are trying to fill them.
NDTMA Executive Director Marybeth Miceli, C.Eng. emphasizes, “the main benefit of the digitization of the talent sourcing and hiring processes in NDT is that technicians are no longer wholly dependent on their own personal networks. Inspectors have much better access to opportunities in other regions or industry sectors. And technology makes it easier for companies to find candidates who have the methods, skills, certs and experience that best fits their needs. When it’s done responsibly, online talent sourcing can be a win-win for all involved.”
While we are all going through unprecedented challenges from the global pandemic, inspectors and other skilled tradespeople are well suited to our changing world. As API-certified utility inspector Nicholas Burke observes, “it's essential to maintain the proper safety guidelines established by whatever company you and your team are representing. COVID-19 adds one more dynamic to the ever-changing situations that we deal with on the daily. It's not tough, just tedious. If we all do our part, we will get through these challenging times and hopefully return to normal.”
Seasoned technicians and recent graduates in the skilled trades are used to learning on the job, quickly adopting new tools and processes in the field or lab. NACE inspector and FAA-licensed drone pilot Curtis Harms also recommends “taking full advantage of the availability of online courses and continuing education. Our industry is changing—with increasing use of artificial intelligence, robotics and unmanned aerial vehicles—and will continue to change. Now is a great time to learn new skills, sharpen existing skills and future-proof your industrial inspection career.”
White-collar professionals have similarly embraced new technology in the workplace but have benefitted from a head start on understanding how technology and data can make or break their career advancement. It’s now just as important for blue- and gray-collar professionals to use new technology to their full advantage. The days of printing out a stack of résumés; submitting applications in the office or at job fairs; or calling up a friend or former colleague for work being good enough to land your next best job are quickly going by the wayside.
Concludes Acuren’s Peter Roy, "I've been recruiting in the NDT market for 34 years and lived through all the upswings and downturns. Recruiting is—and will always be—about positional fit. Do you have the skills, certifications, and experience that we need for a given job?"
About the Authors
Jill Lutz is the employer relations specialist for the NDE Technology program at Central Piedmont in Charlotte, North Carolina and founder of the HR consulting firm Let’s Build Talent. For nearly 20 years, she has dedicated her career to connecting businesses of all sizes to top talent, working in both the recruiting and education industries.
A digital evangelist for almost three decades, Christopher Brenchley is co-founder and CEO of Surehand®, the self-service hiring platform that instantly matches industrial employers with skilled tradespeople. He is deeply committed to expanding awareness of blue-collar career paths; reducing labor shortages; and ending underemployment in the skilled industrial trades.