Broadcast engineers are becoming more difficult to find. The demands
and requirements for the modern radio engineer are more stringent, and
the discipline itself is broader than ever before. Chances are that you
have been faced with unfortunate and uncomfortable challenges in
qualifying an applicant. There are several issues to consider.
What will it cost? If you're replacing a person or creating a new
technical position, the salary should be set when the budget is cast.
If you're budgeting for the position, make sure you're in line with the
proper pay scale. Use the BE Radio Salary Survey as a reference, but
make sure your budget will reflect the prevailing rates in your
To justify a salary budget, outline the benefits of this person to
the station(s). Station managers are often uncomfortable with technical
people and become suspicious of growing numbers, but they understand
that it takes people to fulfill the promises that sales and promotions
departments make. Explain how the job vacancy will affect the station
and the manager's ultimate success. To put it bluntly, many managers
don't want to hear what the person will do, but rather what the person
will do for them.
Often, engineering salaries are an attractive place for a general
manager to cut back, which always amazes me. The entire engineering
department makes up no more than five to seven percent of a typical
station's budget. Personnel changes will usually affect a small
percentage of the typical engineering budget. It seems to me there are
much more effective, less damaging places to reduce costs.
Where to look Finding available, qualified individuals (that haven't
defected to cellular and wireless) is most difficult when a specific
skill set is needed. If you have attended local SBE chapter meetings or
are active with other engineers in town, you probably have a good idea
who may be looking and what talent is available. Be prepared to expand
your search if there is no locally available talent.
Post the position and run help-wanted ads to comply with affirmative
action, but make these efforts count. A classified ad in BE Radio will
provide more qualified responses than a newspaper ad. Also announce
your opening on e-mail list servers, like the those at Broadcast.Net,
and nation-wide e-mail newsletters. Make use of the SBE Jobline
(www.sbe.org). These actions will yield many applicants with skill sets
closer to your needs. When you post these notices, don't forget the
station's EEO plan. It's not just legally prudent, it's good business
and should provide you with a balanced field of applicants.
Look at the mergers, moves, and changes in your area. Ownership
changes often modify or eliminate an engineering job. Mine for talent
with these changes. With the change of regime, many engineers prefer to
start anew. This may seem predatory in nature, but when faced with
having to make a new start, many people would rather do so in new
If you still don't have the kind of applicant you need, the SBE
Member Directory lists local chapters and the chairman in each chapter.
Call the chairmen in markets of similar size and ask for their
suggestions. Chapter chairmen are often the most-connected engineers in
the market. Using this technique, I have found all kinds of job
information, made new friends and learned some things in the
If you can afford the time investment, do the industry a favor and
grow your own engineer. There may be a promotions person or weekend
part-timer who has shown some engineering interest.
I've always found that a well-worded, short note posted on community
college and university bulletin boards is effective. Younger staff
members can provide some insight and may be enlisted to help post
notices. This approach has resulted in a surprising number of
applicants that include a few real stars. The biggest challenge is
focus. Combat this by providing clear instructions and expectations for
the job for which a person is being paid. If the person is determined
to get on the air, he or she will do it. I've had a few technical
people work on the air as well. In these cases, I've enjoyed the
benefit of a first-hand account on studio technical problems.
The pro-audio world is another source of technical talent. Music
store repair techs can be very sharp. Most stores also have a bulletin
board for local postings for bands and instruments. This is another
good spot for a technical person want ad. Sound men, roadies, and
repair techs are often some of the best technical discoveries.
On to the interview You should have a written job description for
the position. Be as specific as possible, but keep the description
fairly short. This will help you remember all the components of the job
and the skill sets you're looking for. Write down the minimum technical
requirements. Make a list of questions that need to be asked. Ask
questions that are not answered with a yes or no to draw out more
You're looking for experience, interpersonal skills and
communications ability. Ask about specific items from the applicant's
resume. The more an applicant discusses his specific experiences, the
better. It is important to listen. There will be awkward silence at
times, particularly if you don't have enough questions prepared or
you've allowed the applicant to get away with a short answer.
SBE certification offers an easy means to qualify the basic skill
level of a broadcast engineer. It is also a real-world test. I
encourage you to make use of this resource and rely on this
certification as an objective indicator of skills. The interview
environment is too emotionally charged and tense to expect an applicant
to accurately depict his or her ability. Listening to the applicant's
answers and following up with the provided references will give you a
better overall picture of ability.
If you are fortunate, you'll have the problem of choosing between
several qualified people. This decision often lies more with how you
think the person will interact with your environment than with any
objective measure. A successful employee is more a result of an
environmental fit than technical skill. Good luck building your staff
and growing the industry.