There is no better person to discuss recruitment challenges in Photonics than… a seasoned recruiter. Ilse de Graaf, recruiter with 20 years of experience, shares her insights about the recruitment business and advises candidates who intend to work in Photonics.
Why did you decide to work in recruitment? When did you realize that this is what you want to do?
What excites me most in my daily work is to find the potential behind the resume. Often, I need to read between the lines of highly technical content in applicants’ documentation to see if there is a potential match between the candidate profile and the offered position. I also keep on developing my recruitment skills: the interview style, visibility and reach in social media – nowadays those are essentials.
It’s almost 20 years I am in the recruitment business. Recruitment and HR are different things: I am a recruiter – I recruit people, and Human Resources (HR) departments take care of the relation with an employee after he or she was recruited and an employment contract was signed.
Why recruitment in Photonics? Is there anything particular in this field that made you direct your career there?
I didn’t choose Photonics, Photonics chose me. I saw a huge opportunity in joining a scale-up environment in which there was not a recruitment department yet. I built my own department and now I’m very proud and honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the development of Photonics.
I started my career with an agency that was KPI-oriented, and to me the deals I made there were not always optimal in terms of quality. Later I moved to corporate volume recruitment at ASML, where I was a member of team composed of 50 recruiters. I have seen the best and the worst in volume recruitment. After I moved to SMART Photonics, I have the unique opportunity also to learn about the newest technology – I’m still bothering my expert colleagues to understand better the technology as I want to ask more accurate questions during the recruitment.
Are there any special characteristics of this branch with respect to other technology areas? What difficulties or challenges you experience when recruiting for Photonics?
Yes, as recruiter for the leading integrated photonics foundry we aim for the top talent. Typically we see many starters and fresh graduated applicants in this field and very limited amount of seniors. In practice you need a mix of both. Shortage of seniors is always the case in new technology areas. The more seniority you require, the more challenging the recruitment becomes. Moreover, employment engagement is also critical for the success of the company, e.g. ones we invest in personnel training and get into the proper workflow rhythm, we should keep the employee within the company as long as possible.
From the viewpoint of candidates, there is a limited number of options to find a career close to their homes. Many people have one or two options in their country of living, but if this doesn’t fit, they need to consider career abroad. I see an increase of international hires in my own company due to this. We currently have 30 different nationalities and last 6 hires were people from abroad.
Besides the seniority level and mobility, entrepreneurial skills are just as important. Curiosity, creativity, thinking outside the box as well as flexibility are a key to success here. Actually, to get to know the soft skills of the candidate is the toughest part in the recruitment process.
Would you give any piece of advice for young people starting their career in the field of Photonics? How about seniors or experts in this field, any piece of advice to the people that want to change their jobs in the field of photonics? What is expected from the young ones and seniors?
We see a trend that young recruits appreciate the possibility of personal development. They focus on not only on developing technical specialism but also leadership skills. I would advice to the candidates that they do not focus primarily on wage and position title. They should not choose the most colorful candy. They should carefully consider what drives them, what their ambition is and how they could contribute to the success of the company.
Secondly, drafting a good resume is very important. It has to be understandable and to the point for both the HR person as well as the hiring manager. I see many candidates trying to put as much information and details in a resume as possible till the level where a resume becomes confusing. The average person in Photonics is highly educated, and their resumes tend to be overloaded with technical stuff. Beware that the first person that looks at resume is non technical.
For the juniors, be aware you have competition, make sure you know your strengths and ambition and you can clearly explain this during an interview. If possible invest in a internship, graduation project or Thesis as closely related to your own ambition as possible before you apply for permanent job position. Develop soft skills as a student already in student organizations. The decision, which you make when you are 20 will impact your position when you are 24. At last, build your own network of contacts from day one of your involvement in the field. You never know when this would bring fruits.
For the seniors, you have more options and might be even headhunted. Make sure you know your preferred career path and select the companies who offer you the right opportunity. Avoid getting lured into jobs that does not meet your future career goals. Don’t get influenced by the sales speech, look what is behind the offer and if the offer is in line with your career ambitions.
Patryk Urban – Long-time active member of IEEE Photonics, including member of IEEE Photonics Industry Engagement Committee and IEEE Photonics Globalization Committee. He has 16 years of experience in the area of photonics for fibre optic telecommunications applications as a researcher, expert in standardization bodies, specialist in business development and commercialization of innovations.
Ilse de Graaf – After graduating in Art and Design in 2003, Ilse de Graaf got a temporary job at a recruitment agency. During the years she gathered experience in commercial, KPI-driven recruitment via agencies to qualitative corporate high-tech recruitment and from multinational chip machine manufactory ASML, were she managed a team of 15 recruiters and 5 assistants, to a scale-up in Photonic. Since August 2020, she’s worked for SMART Photonics as senior recruitment specialist.