Automotive Quality Hiring Forecast for 2014 and 2015

It doesn’t take much research to see that auto sales predictions for 2014 will top 16 million units, as sales will grow for five years straight (only the second time since World War II). In my opinion, it looks as if we will see a sixth year, since suppliers are starting to expand their plants for the first time in my many years in this industry.

With the stock market making new highs (By the way, my prediction is that there will be a strong pullback later this year, resulting with a great buy point.), the wealth effect will be in full force and should continue as such. What I never knew before spending 2007 to 2010 intensively studying investing, market movement (Elliott Wave), mass psychology, seasonals and trends is that years ending in the number five were never down years, over the course of the last 100 years. That is right! The years 1905, 1915, 1935, 1945, 1955, and, even 1975 were up (and all Reagan fans know 1985 was up.). My best prediction is that 2015 is going to be a very good year for stocks. This will raise all boats and keep cars flowing off the lots. That is really great for all of us in automotive.

The real question is: What do I see coming from the trenches, in the way of demand and hiring in the niche of automotive quality? In automotive quality, the market remains strong for talent, from Quality Engineer to Quality Manager. As the pyramid gets narrower at the top, vice presidents and directors tend to have less movement. There are, literally, hundreds of positions throughout the country in quality that remain unfilled.

Some trends:

Companies are so desperate they are considering folks they haven’t in the past, such as candidates with online degrees, but who bring excellent experience to the table. Companies that are holding firm with the requirement of an “Engineering Degree only” are finding their positions open for significant periods of time. My clients, however, are not budging on people with too many job moves and/or a lack of solid references confirming past performance. In total, 2014 is definitely a candidates’ market, as salaries continue to rise at all levels.

This year has also ushered in an unprecedented number of counteroffers being made by companies to retain top people. Here are a couple of recent examples:
#1. Quality Manager (formerly automotive and wanted back in) had two reasons to leave: more money and to get back into automotive. Was making 92k. I got him an offer for 98k + signing bonus of 5k. The company offered him 108k to stay! He turned it down in the end because he truly wanted to get back into automotive and felt his word (to the new company) was more important than being bought after he put in his notice.
#2. Quality Manager in the South. Was making 84k. Prior to A.Q.S. sending him on interviews, he approached his company (now a Chinese-owned Tier-1 supplier) and asked for a raise, and they told him no. Now, he had two reasons to leave: not commensurate pay and was unappreciated. My client came in at 100k, and his company immediately countered with 96k even though they balked at the honorable way earlier. He turned it down telling them, “You had your chance, and I’m a six-figure guy now. Thanks, but no thanks.” Turns out he’s one of the few guys the Chinese can’t buy. These are the kind of candidates we represent—folks with passion for what they do and a strong sense of values.

The list of stories goes on and on. These companies are making necessary business moves since it is much cheaper to counteroffer than to start a search for a new person, pay a recruiter and finance a relocation. The tradeoff, of course, is wage inflation within the department and the moral issues with a person saying they are going to leave (putting their loyalty out the window) and then deciding to stay. Everyone notices.

Bottom line is that wages are going up at almost all levels. Companies are also starting to actually add plant space for the first time since the 1990s. These are all positive signs. Look for my future articles talking about counteroffers, as well as the increasing role Mexico is playing in our globalized business and how that country is going to continue to boom.