How to Hire The Right PCB Designer for Your Project

Created: February 11, 2019
Updated: November 23, 2020

Circuit underneath USB device

I’ve watched less than 10 hours of TV for the past 5 years. Many claims that staying away from TV is pivotal to success has influenced my decision. I can’t resist catching up on my favorite superhero movies at the cinema, though, or on certain occasions, some random movies to de-stress for the week.

There are times when I end up with a dull, two-hour-long screenplay with a predictable storyline. Guess, I should have paid attention to all the empty seats during peak hours. But the point is, you have to try to make the best judgment, whether in choosing a movie. In PCB design, you can’t afford to settle on some lousy electrical engineering for your printed circuit board product. You’ll need to be able to trust the application of your electronic design through its design process.

Having been in both ends of the hiring seat in the electronics industry, I can tell you the decision can be difficult. Here are some tips for how business owners, startup founders, and recruiters can decide on how to choose the right PCB for their printed circuit needs.


1. Past Experience

If you’re employing a fresh graduate, you have to be realistic of your expectations. Regardless of the number of electronics design awards, the candidate won during college days, designing for real-life applications is a different game.

A beginner in the PCB design industry may take 6 - 12 months to learn the ropes and produce a functional prototype. If you’re in an urgent need for a PCB, you’ll want to hire an experienced engineer. The higher cost of a salary is justified by faster design turnaround and fewer newbie mistakes.  

On the other hand, fresh graduates may offer a new perspective and creativity compared to their jaded counterparts. It is also less costly to cultivate a fresh graduate into a specialist PCB with a proper mentoring system. Furthermore, the promise of helping to launch a young PCB ’s career can establish a long-lasting relationship with someone who will be able to help you with your growing business.


2. Specialized Area  

Past working experience is essential but what’s more crucial is the specific design scopes that the candidate was involved in. In large multinational companies, design engineers may spend years working on a particular submodule of hardware.

It will be a mistake to hire PCB designers who are the best in building audio amplifier circuits for motherboards if you need a designer who could build general purpose controllers from scratch. Remember that PCB designers come in all sort of skills and experience. Hiring the wrong candidate means paying a hefty salary but with the results falling short.

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3. Understanding Of The Design Process

Having experience doesn’t necessarily mean mastering the PCB design process. A PCB designer’s job goes beyond creating schematics and layout. An experienced candidate should have a decent understanding of what happens before and after the process of PCB design.

For instance, you’ll want a PCB designer who knows the right questions to ask so that the specifications are stated clearly before any actual design work commenced. It will be every project manager’s nightmare to have a designer asking what’s the required range of input voltage after the prototypes of a motor controller have been built.


4. Technical Test

Ultimately, action speaks louder than words. You shouldn’t hire a candidate merely because of their impressive list of accomplishments. PCB designers should be well-equipped with technical knowledge of electronics design in their respective specialization.

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Chances are, you already have a couple of existing PCBs in the company. Without explaining what’s the function of the PCB, get the candidate to study and explain how the hardware works. An experienced candidate will make a pretty accurate guess based on some of the major components on the hardware.


5. Software Proficiency

Companies wanted standardization in managing multiple projects. One of the factors that are worth considering is the PCB design tools that the candidate is proficient with. This is true when there is an urgency in having the candidate to be productive almost immediately, and there’s little time for picking up new software.

Naturally, candidates using Altium Designer caught my attention as I’ve been using it ever since my electronics design firm was established. Investing in secondary PCB software may not be feasible at times when the better option is to shortlist candidates who are already proficient users of Altium.

Utilizing strong software and strong designers are just facets of the PCB design process of getting your electronics project out the door and into manufacturing. Even more helpful, though, is having a CAD tool system that keeps documentation and manufacturing outputs in the forefront. Altium Designer’s is beyond helpful for communicating with suppliers and manufacturers alike.

Have problems in picking the right PCB design candidates? Talk to our experts at Altium now.

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