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.

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.

June 26, 2017

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In this instance I’m talking about your current employer’s behavior. Whatever career progress you’ve made with your company in the past five years is exactly what your next five years will look like. Things aren’t going to change much from what they’ve been. If your company won't make your future, then you have to do it. Move.

June 26, 2017

I no longer think there is such thing as "management styles". Business gurus and schools have turned that subject into a reliable revenue stream. Today I know there are screamers and non-screamers. If you employ a screamer, you end up sending people to management seminars, have lots of turnover, sick days and poor productivity. How to not hire screamer managers, - that’s worth studying

June 12, 2017

Some years ago I was reading a book called "Mindhunter, - Inside the FBI's elite serial crime unit. Written by John Douglas. Why? It occurred to me that detectives and hiring managers were in the same business. The business of finding the truth hidden by the candidate's message. The risks were not the same, the FBI was tracking down killers while an HR manager is trying to make the best hiring decision for the company.

At some point Douglas makes it clear the intent of an FBI question is not to get an answer but to limit your future response range, and / or serve as a setup to leverage the interrogator to the next level.

Next time you answer question, remember they're not looking for answers. They're using your answer to get behind your message and at the...

June 9, 2017

For the record, no matter what anyone tells you, your resume can be three pages long. Construction, heavy equipment, healthcare management, $80k to $200k, you should always use more than one page. Tell your story chronologically, give the relevant information. Your picture? Probably not.

June 9, 2017

Equal people end up in different places over the course of their career. Pick good companies, stay in your industry, demand expanded growth, scope and compensation. If you don't get it, move. Working hard is half of it. The other half is managing your career correctly.

July 22, 2016

I love the Coquitlam SuperStore on Westwood Street. Good service, bright, clean, they have everything you can think of, quality, and good prices. I cook and find the meat and seafood are exceptional.

Assuming you've never bought any produce at SuperStore you might agree with me. If you have bought produce, you know they can't sell you a fresh potato if their life depended on it. Everything else, they're pretty good at.

I park in the underground parkade and am facing a sign which says, "vehicle maintenance repairs are not permitted." Only slightly disoriented, I knew that had to be life changing for somebody.

What happened that made SuperStore decide these signs are necessary? Management had a meetings, powerpoint was involved, somebody made the case t...

January 24, 2016

Research says, management styles effect these nine business measures.
Hire managers who change the bottom line

Gallup tells us managers have the following impact
Engagement matters to you, your organization’s success and your bottom line. Here are the results of high engagement vs low engagement workforces in nine business measures. When you read this, remember that managers cause engagement.

· Customer ratings, up by 10%
· Profitability, up to 22% more.
· Productivity, though-put, 21% more.
· Turnover (for high-turnover and low-turnover organizations), lower by 25%
· Safety incidents, reduced by 48%
· Shrinkage (theft), reduced by up to 28%
· Absenteeism, sick days,  down by 37%
· Patient safety incidents, down 41%
· Quality (defects), reduce by...

Interviews aren't great tools for selecting the correct candidate. Among other things, candidates find the interviewer did all the talking, interviews aren't structured, there is no interview strategy, no depth to the questions, group interviews become ego exercises, and more.  If you have an HR manager the quality of the interview goes way up.  Here's how to improve your interview process.

What the research says,
Most organizations use four predictive tools. This is how well each of these tools works for you. 

  1. Testing for ability 53%  (most accurate)

  2. Testing for personality 38% accurate

  3. Reference checking 26% accurate

  4. Interviewing 14%  least accurate

The best way of understanding the true capabilities of any candidate is to co...

How does the credit card company’s computer spot your stolen card?  The same way you spot the wrong candidate. Patterns.

The computer has an algorithm which locks onto certain spending patterns, one of which is; one big purchase, usually a luxury item, followed by a bunch of small purchases. For example, a $5,000 flat screen, or jewellery,  followed by lunch and gas, particularly gas. Thieves all buy gas after their big hit! I made a mental note not to buy gas after my next flat screen purchase.
How do you spot the wrong candidate? Very much the same way, you look for patterns. High or low performance probability shows up in the life and times of the candidate.  Here are a few patterns that we use to spot the wrong candidate before they end up on your...

Two groups of moviegoers were given free popcorn and a soft drink to a free Mel Gibson movie. They were asked to stick around after the move and answer a few questions.  What they didn't know was they were part of a study on irrational eating behavior. The popcorn they received  was terrible. It was engineered not to be tasty, had been popped 5 days earlier and it squeaked when you ate it, (like styrafoam). Two moviegoers, forgetting they had not paid for it, asked for their money back. Half the group received  a large bucket, the other half a medium sized bucket.

The question was, would the group with the bigger buckets eat more than the group with smaller buckets? Both buckets were so large, nobody finished them. The question then became, wo...

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