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8 Easy Ways to Maximise Candidate Hiring Success in the Construction Industry

No one who has the responsibility for interviewing and recruiting construction staff likes to get the run-around from job applicants that turn out to be timewasters.  In boom times, and in boom locations such as Hong Kong currently, this issue can be even more of a problem as applicants often magically forget the need to show respect and professionalism in their dealings with both recruitment consultants and employers.

No method of recruitment can offer 100% success, but I am amazed at how many companies and individuals who employ Quantity Surveyors, Engineers, and Project Managers etc in the construction industry fail to follow basic good recruitment practice. This would cut out most of the timewasters from the recruitment process.  The legal, financial and IT sectors are way ahead of construction in this area and I honestly believe that the construction industry can easily improve.  After all, who’d argue that actually employing the people you want, reducing costs, saving time and positively promoting your company image could ever be a bad thing?

Below, I propose 8 simple areas in which a construction industry employer can maximise their chances of hiring success.  In how many of these areas do you feel your company is working to best effect?
If you’d like further information on how we can help with any of these areas of recruitment, please feel free to phone or email me at any time.

1. Formulate & Communicate a Full Job Description
2. Confirm a Target Salary range & Package
3. Provide Feedback on CVs Proposed
4. Make the Interviewee Feel Valued
5. Identify the USP or Killer Reason to Join You
6. Pursue Interest in a Candidate Promptly
7. Manage Counter Offers From the Outset
8. Manage the Resignation & Start Date Process

1. Formulate & Communicate a Full Job Description
Has the job description been defined yet? What is essential and what is desirable? Has it been translated into a person description or a list of required competences that candidates can be measured against?  Put simply, what is the project/role, what are the duties, what qualifications and experience is required, what language skills or specialist knowledge is required? 
Most importantly, is everyone involved in the recruitment process aware of this information also?

2. Confirm a Target Salary Range & Package
This can be a sensitive issue within a company – this is understood – but the reality is that if an applicant is not ever going to accept the money you are able/prepared to offer we are all of us wasting our time. Stating ‘we pay the market rate’ is just not going to help at all. Agree a broad salary banding if necessary & identify the skills/qualifications/competences that would indicate someone matching the upper end of it.  Take the time to explain any add-ons to the package & the bonus system.
Most of all, only work with colleagues & recruiters you trust to treat this sensitive information with the discretion it deserves.

3. Provide Feedback on CVs Proposed
Putting it bluntly if a construction company only wants a bulk CV delivery service from a recruitment agency, I’d agree that recruitment agencies are too expensive and not usually worth using.  Of course the reality is that all the most successful companies in the world use recruiters and headhunters – its just that the smart ones will use them to add value and tap into candidates they aren’t able to directly access themselves.  If a job description and target salary has been agreed and communicated, short listing & rejecting CVs is a simple task – ask the recruiter to justify their candidate selections!! We can all improve, but my success rate is highest with clients who have taken the trouble to invest their time in explaining their needs and acting decisively as soon as something they want is presented to them.

It’s also important that both agency applicants & direct applicants get the feedback they deserve from their application – many big companies are harming their standing by effectively ignoring these applicants who may not apply again in future.  You might have to pay a fee to an agency to get access to this candidate a second time round!

4. Make the Interviewee Feel Valued
When a candidate is invited to interview make them feel valued, even if they are not right for the role you are trying to fill. It’s a small world – after 15 years in construction recruitment, I know quite a few great candidates who would never work for major companies because of a bad experience at interview – rudeness, poor interviewer punctuality, lack of feedback, even being interviewed for a role completely different to what they had been invited in to discuss.  In a buoyant market such as Hong Kong it is often the ‘personal touch’ and the social ‘pint after work’ where the bond of goodwill is cemented that seals the deal to join a company. People talk – others will also be advised to avoid companies with shoddy recruitment procedures – even if they have good jobs available!

5. Identify  the USP or Killer Reason to Join You
Not every interviewee accepts the first job offer made (would you really want to employ them if they did?) The job of the recruitment agency and the client interviewer is to identify the candidate’s real motivation to move – both negative in their current role and positive in the role you may offer them.  If we take the trouble to look closely in this area, it will be relatively easy to see a genuine candidate/job match where the candidate also sees the real career benefits of joining you.  It is at this stage that the value of all the time invested earlier in the recruitment process starts to pay dividends – no nasty surprises, a good match & high probability of a successful outcome.

6. Pursue Interest in a Candidate Promptly
It is essential that candidates are given prompt and worthwhile feedback particularly in this age of ‘information on demand’ The lack of prompt feedback could cause candidates to make further applications that they may not otherwise have made creating additional & avoidable competition for their services.   Good candidates will often get multiple offers & if they are good enough to employ, they are surely good enough to employ promptly.  A non-binding draft or verbal discussion about a possible offer can be a great holding tactic whilst the formal offer approval process is underway.

7. Manage Counter Offers From the Outset
The possibility of a candidate being offered the same or more money to stay put by a current employer needs to be managed right from the very first candidate conversation.  If a candidate has no other reason to move than money, they are a high risk prospect.  In this situation, knowing what money they would move for and what you as the new employer would pay (probably over the ‘market rate’) is essential information to assess this gamble.  Buying candidates is rarely a good long term strategy.  

Most of my candidates will turn down a higher offer to stay put as their mind has already been made up. They are not leaving only for financial reasons but for the opportunities the new employer can provide.  Regular communication & the re-stating of the agreed benefits of joining you will help candidates follow through with their intended course of action.

8. Manage the Resignation & Start Date Process
Procrastination surrounding a candidate putting in their formal resignation, or a  lack of confirmed start date is a clear sign of danger that things might be falling apart..  Some employers make formal offers conditional on a specific start date that relates to their stated notice period - this can force the issue to conclusion either way quickly.  Regular communication between successful applicant & potential employer remains the essential ingredient. Minimizing drop outs at this late stage is critical as it can impact on day to day operations in a business already planning for the new arrival.

I’m certain that the construction companies we partner with closely have some of the lowest candidate drop out rates in the construction sector. I hope the 8 ideas outlined above however, will do something to start a debate about how best recruitment practice in the construction industry can be further implemented to the benefit of everyone concerned.

Steve Thomas
Maxim Recruitment
Hong Kong
+852 2187 3232 (GMT +8 Hours)

30th November 2011

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