Search and Selection

A blog on construction hiring. The two parts, finding candidates in a tight market and selection. I  have a client who used to say "it's better to miss a good one than to catch a bad one". Not sure the two ideas are in opposition, but it highlight s the idea of selecting poorly, and hiring a "bad one."

July 2020

Hire same industry experience

I’ve written about which candidates gets hired first. Your best hires are same industry experience, longer is better. Best is if they started in the ditch or with a hammer in late teens. Ideally they’ve moved up in responsibility and project size. But most important that they haven’t jumped around. Now not yet 40, in their prime, two or three employers over 20 yrs, that's you guy.

You have to see the career. How the person clawed their way up the construction food chain. Could be moving up a level, but similar roles also count, they can be larger and more complex companies and projects. No matter, there is growth and ambition.  "B" candidates sometimes suffer from "I don't see a career track in your resume." How else to say it.

There are no “transferable skills.”  Transferable skills assumes same cultures, network, tools, systems across industries. Not true. Construction GC firms move differently than their consulting counterparts. The owner rep the project management firm is a different place to grow up in than the construction side. Suppliers? Steel bridge manufacturing is different than civil bridge GCs. Similar, yes but you’ll hire a learning curve.

The other point is, avoid people who take life breaks. Could be travel, sabbaticals, or opening up a vitamin store with a brother in law. Later returning to construction expecting to pickup where they left off. If construction is not this candidate’s entire world, don’t hire them.



Repeat, my point to candidates about stepping off and taking sabbaticals.
Nobody’s looking for a controller with 18 months hiking in Patagonia.

Travel is good, it tends to make us a bit less presumptive, boring and provincial. But at the same time, no client has ever asked me to find him a controller with exploration and discovery experience. It’s okay to be a lifestyle person. It’s not useful to advertise it on your resume. If you’re using words like “Two years extended travel through Europe, including, blah, blah, . . . . “ You’re in the “B” pile. I had a great controller candidate with two separate lengthy stints into places you should only watch on TV. Ushuaia, and some other place without hot water. If they think you might go on a self discovery journey on their watch, - they won’t hire you. You may not know the meaning of life but for the sake of your career, just pretend you’ve made peace with it.

PV Aug 2007 close_edited.jpg

July 2020

Management Comment

Good morning –

In the last week I’ve encountered a few hiring decisions I don’t completely agree with. I think the VP had a chance to build the company. Instead, he filled the position.


Hiring a replacement or organization building?

Every hire you make is a doorway into another level. You could look for a direct replacement or you could search for a candidate with the capacity to act at a completely different level. Someone who can do the job, but also bootstrap you into another performance level. A capability level that you didn’t have with the incumbent.

Construction companies are limited by many things but current staff project experience, maturity levels and intelligence are big ones.  Your project manager’s work history governs what type of work you bid on. You might not be doing a lot of clinics and hospitals because you don’t enough of that experience on payroll. Clinics are better work than Starbucks. A hospital is better work than modular camp housing. It depends on what your people are good at.

A civil company is battling it out at the municipal improvement level because those people cost less and are more readily available than bridge guys and “that’s what we do anyway.” But it also constrains any future growth. You can’t move into higher margin, more complex, engineered projects with small diameter pipe and backhoe guys.

The take away –

- Do you want to replace the incumbent, straight across?

- Should you hire at another level to bootstrap your business trajectory?

- Who you hire is defined by either your business problem or your business future.  

Organization building could require different people than you may have been thinking of.

METRIK Management inc.

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