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Recruiting in the construction field behooves a samurai-level mental equilibrium, for the frustrating reason that you won’t find many qualified candidates. The 2008-09 financial crisis wiped out 2 million workers in the construction workforce. Ever since then, the lost talent pool hasn’t been recovered.

Organizations hiring construction project managers—those who have hard-won business acumen and profession-related skills—fight hard with competitors also on the lookout for mid-senior to senior-level talent.

With an aging professional base, retirements outpace hiring replacements, which has worried firms regarding meeting emerging market demands.

Adjusting to the vagaries of the post-recession hiring scenario has historically haunted decision-makers, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Getting noticed by the right candidate, creating an interviewing experience that intersects between their desires and job needs, and looking after their first few weeks post-selection are all matters often dealt with heavy-handedly.

It helps to ask: Are we approaching candidates through an accessible hiring process? Or are there too many corners being cut in hopes of the ideal person landing at your doorstep?

It helps to check whether you’re making these costly errors—to rethink how you’re hiring.

Top Mistakes at the Pre-Hiring Stage

1. Not Outlining Screening Criteria

Almost every employer outlines job responsibilities across experience levels, but rarely is a clear selection process followed to funnel through the right candidates. Each position demands the right combination of skills.

A senior construction project manager will have cross-functional expertise of legal, financial, and project-based risks, this means that they must be tested for these competencies through a hiring process that verifies more than what their resumes reveal.

A construction manager’s fee is 10 to 15 percent of the construction cost.

Depending on the nature and scope of your projects, you can expect to drown thousands of dollars if a less-than employable person fills the shoes of an otherwise experienced construction project manager.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Design a customized hiring process for junior, mid-senior, and senior construction project managers. A good way is to administer an online simulated test representing your client’s project scenario with checkpoints testing necessary competencies.

Another way is to send out job notifications to different online construction niche groups/forums instead of posting a generic job ad on traditional job platforms.

2. Not Targeting Well to Reach Top Talent

Quoting a 2018 survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, 80% of U.S. construction firms are challenged to hire craft workers.

An accompanying disadvantage of the skill shortage problem is that many construction firms don’t articulate what they’re looking for. To know that, a thorough review of ongoing and pipeline projects is essential.

When employers play with too many unknowns of a particular role, they can easily end up with the wrong person.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Onboard a third-party construction staffing firm skilled in developing project management systems to assess your company’s current project organization. They will then benchmark your in-house talent’s ability to execute projects effectively.

Moving forward with a skill gap rectification plan will tell you who can fill in for the desired vacancy vis-a-vis hiring new employees.

Additionally, construction company representatives need to show up in more venues than owned sources of finding talent—job fairs, exhibitions, industry conferences, campus recruitments, advertisements on niche forums cast a wide enough net to procure relevant talent.

3. Not Financing for the Desired Resource

Shrinking training budgets disable the progression of junior project managers to senior positions since it hinders the requisite skill transfer between roles.

Additionally, companies can wrongly perceive fair compensation for senior talent, under-estimate hiring budgets, because of which they may receive less relevant applications. Taking an inventory of your projects’ budgets, you’re better positioned to budget salaries at market rates.

Bench-marking between $50,000 for junior hires and $100,000 for mid-senior to senior hires should take place as soon as you’re clear about your project budgets.

Skipping this step costs businesses six to nine months of an employee’s salary to induct a trained replacement given that the construction industry has one of the highest turnover rates.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Offer talented applicants the promise of a comprehensive benefits plan with paid time off and yearly bonuses. Several construction firms discard the value of a good compensation package, detracting talent.

4. Not Aligning the Job Profile with Client Expectations

Typically, employers emphasize hard skills over soft skills. A job profile shouldn’t merely contain a templated catalog of routine CM tasks. It needs to provoke applicants to visualize what the job would be like within the purview of your clients.

Unfortunately, many employers fall for the shortsighted appeal of an impressive interview. This denies them a complete picture of how the applicant will weather the risk-laden challenges involved in working with clients of certain niches.

A hospital construction project would demand a certain blend of technical knowledge and design sensitivity that covers a ground different from an aviation construction project.

Mis-aligning or poorly aligning job profiles is also a patchwork of poor competency planning. Firms, as suggested before, need to plan the hiring season who and what they need in terms of strategic and execution acumen.

Firms hire both general contractors and construction managers for a variety of such reasons, having a clear understanding of both these profiles will optimize your hiring.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Ask for a resource planning session with your hiring team three months before a potential vacancy. Layout concrete parameters mapped to project outcomes.

5. Not Automating the Recruitment Process

The recruitment cycle has tasks when performed manually can waste productive hours. Building the right mix of automated and human-driven review of applications can generate invaluable results.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Work to erase error redirects in online applications to avoid candidates abandoning them. While automation eases the human effort and time, you must appoint someone to overlook automated parts of the hiring process to reduce lag times.

Top Mistakes at the Hiring-In-Progress Stage

1. Not Checking for Past Construction Site Experience

Unfocused interviews cheat firms of qualified candidates. Nowadays, interviewees spot blindspots enabled by employers and leverage their candidature through glib talk and putting up appearances inconsistent with who they turn out to be once hired. This is an avoidable hiring gaffe if recruiters focus the conversation on questions like “So help me think of a strategy you would use if a change order comes in over budget?”. Posing scenarios will tell you how prepared your candidate is without letting them exploit unasked crucial aspects of job fitment.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Create important indispensable job scenarios based on projects and plan the best ways to elicit responses from candidates.

Women in Construction - Architect or Civil Engineer

2. Not Clarifying Project Expectations

Every candidate comes bearing an irreplaceable wealth of skills and experiences; however, they may not necessarily understand the performance parameters of your projects. Discussing too little or none of the expectations defined by clients will risk a knowledge gap endangering project schedules and budgets. 

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Make your job posts ridiculously detailed. Alongside writing responsibilities, mention how they affect client bottom lines. Reflect your job site’s personality and energy to invite the attention of the right talent.

3. Not Looking for Leadership and Team-Building Skills

Construction project managers direct multi-functional teams on-site and off-site.

The entire purpose of employing them is to coordinate activities occurring across teams. They are the single point of contact for organizing efforts and hitting targets. This places the virtues of leadership and teamwork at the center of their professional livelihood.

When hiring executives overlook a candidate’s demeanor in a bid to hire the most skilled one, they risk poor leadership on the floor affecting project bottom lines.  

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Design an online personality questionnaire with core leadership traits represented as project scenario-led multiple-choice questions. This will create a more effective funnel of candidates other than leaving it to chance.

4. Not Getting Enough Background-Check References

Goes without saying but often under-implemented. When employers ignore this step, they assume a candidate’s credibility beyond the bounds of reason and fairness.

As implied before, basing decisions on impressive career documents and interview performance will sew bias in your perspective of the job site demands and organizational growth.  

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Contact references, or ask for a minimum of two references from the candidate’s last two jobs, within 24 hours of the interview. One reference could be who they are directly reported to and the other could be a peer or subordinate.

Ask probing behavioral questions without seeming interrogative yet firm on the mindset you’re looking for in the person.

Top Mistakes at the Post-Hiring Stage

1. Not Gathering Candidate Feedback

Once interviewed, within a week, candidates must be asked about their experience interviewing with you. A lot of well-meaning insights are compromised when you let authentic first-hand ideas leave your hiring improvement process.

Was your interview location physically accessible? Was your conversation closely resembling what you articulated in the job ad? Were you clear about your role expectations in a way that helped the candidate position themselves well?

Questions that seek to draw the curtains of your hiring practices will help determine gaps that should follow course correction.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Send out a feedback questionnaire within a day of interviewing a candidate. Build interview sections in consultation with appropriate parties to gather a wide range of insights.

2. Not Following up for Missed Interviewing Opportunities

As in many interviews, employers skip questions of crucial relevance, for instance, ascertaining if a candidate has obtained the latest safety training certification to conduct safety drills for Jobsite workers as many construction firms treat their employees as disposable. When in doubt, employers should follow up not too long after the interview before making a decision.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Create three buckets of questions labeled most-related, somewhat-related, and remotely related questions. Building these lists over time will keep you covered for past, present, and upcoming project scenarios.

3. Not Closing the Hiring Process on Time

While productive procrastination may be sound in some cases, delayed response times do good for nobody. Hiring project managers is overwhelming, more so for the candidate as they’re prolonged on the next steps.

Delayed hiring is detrimental to construction schedules and has inscrutable effects on the firm’s reputation.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Set a time-tracking feature to your hiring tasks at every funnel stage. Onboard a staffing agency or construction recruitment consultant to level up on the recruitment efforts.

4. Not Seeing Through Candidate’s Settling-in Process

Construction project managers move fast. They’ve torn apart between competing priorities and if not looked after in the first couple of weeks, can show signs of job burnout. It’s crucial that the hiring manager touch base periodically to assess job engagement and productivity.

One Hiring Tip You Can Apply Now

Reflect company values in your job ads and branded content. Ace employers invest time and money in running employer branding campaigns targeted to various construction project managers, to give a sense of their employee work culture and their commitment to helping them excel in their careers.

Every one of these recruiters oversights sooner or later snowball into a construction employer’s worst nightmares. We hope you make you are hiring a tad more accessible and fruitful while you’re armed with these insights.

We’d love to hear about more recruiter blunders that either stop or stumble the right talent from reaching them.

Written By
Gagandeep Bimbh is a digital content strategist invested in weaving context-rich stories intuited on the changing needs of diverse audiences. His words are guided by strategic writing principles acquired over the last four years working with communications firms and digital marketing agencies.

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