Recruiting Quantity Surveyors in the current UK construction market is really tough for employers. The skills shortage in the UK construction industry has been widely documented and Quantity Surveying role appears to be right up as the one of the hardest job roles to fill at the moment.
I spent much of January and early February catching up with new and existing main contractor, sub-contractor and House Building clients about their recruitment plans for 2018. A common theme seemed to run through many of the meeting that I attended.
People are finding it hard to recruit and in particular, they are becoming frustrated about their interview to hire ratios.
A very reputable top 20 main contractor described to me how they’d conducted 40 interviews and had only been able to secure 1 Quantity Surveyor for their efforts.
Another mentioned that they had to conduct 30+ interviews over many month’s to attract the 3 Quantity Surveyors they had been hiring.
This might not be something many construction companies even monitor; particularly smaller companies. However as a Recruitment business, it is something we place a high emphasis in measuring and improving.
I had a Commercial Director circa 2 years ago tell me that due to rapid growth within his division of a very well regarded main contractor, he was spending over 50% of his time on recruitment related tasks.
It seems that for companies experiencing growth, the difficulty to secure Quantity Surveyors and other hard-to-find construction professionals remains a really time consuming process.
Commercial Managers and Commercial Directors who I met described their frustration at the results they were getting from their interview process. Hiring managers were becoming discouraged to interview future candidates due to poor results and were rightly frustrated at the amount of time they felt they were wasting.
The feedback on the quality of candidates seemed positive. The real issue seems to be securing the candidate once they had been deemed suitable for the role.
Common reasons included:
- Candidates accepting counter-offers from their current employer
- Candidates interviewing with multiple companies and choosing alternative offers
- Candidates rejecting offers due to remuneration and package
- Candidates rejecting offers due to factors such as location, type of project, company culture
The truth is, it really is tough to find good people in today’s market. There is no magic wand that we can all wave and make that fact disappear. The way I see the market is there is a shortage of ‘good’ Quantity Surveyors and if one becomes available, you have a competitive market place to firstly find them and secondly secure them against your competitors.
Hopefully I can suggest a few ideas to help companies improve their conversion ratio’s and in turn save hiring managers some time.
1. Act Quickly
I’m a big believer of the old phrase ‘strike whilst the iron is hot’ when it comes to recruitment and it’s particularly true in today’s market for a number of reasons:
- It’s a competitive market. If you delay in interviewing a good candidate, you risk losing that candidate. They likely will not wait for you if another acceptable position is on the table.
- Candidates enthusiasm towards a role will fade as time goes by. If they have to wait 2weeks for an interview or 2 weeks from the interview to receive and offer, you’ll lose momentum and enthusiasm. You’re also leaving the door open for competition to turn the candidates head.
2. Keep the Interview Process Simple
This links into the time issue, however is not exclusively important due to time. I have done recruitment for some companies where the candidate has to meet the line manager, then has to return for a 2nd interview to meet the Director and then finally to meet the someone else involved in the process. It can be frustrating for the candidate and I’ve also had feedback before that it makes the candidate feel like the hiring company isn’t 100% sure on them. Which in turn leads to doubt and negative feeling.
If possible, try and keep the interview process to 1 or 2 interviews.
3. Be Prepared
Candidates know if an interview has been rushed or the interviewer is unprepared and it doesn’t send a great message. Most companies have some form of interview template that they use and if you do not have one, I would suggest putting something in place with some standard questions and a general flow to allow the interview to run smoothly.
It does not have to be a rigid process and you can tailor questions to how an interview is going, however a defined structure is a worthwhile aid.
4. Have a Job Description
Following on from being prepared, having a specific role and a relevant job description is critical. Candidates want to know what they will be doing if they are offered and accept your job. This includes which division/project(s) they will work on, the responsibilities they will be expected to carry out and who they will report to.
If the candidate cannot picture the role you have on offer, it’s very hard for them to get excited about it or decide whether it suits their motivation.
5. Know your Company’s Unique Selling Point
It is your responsibility to sell your business to the candidate as much as it is for them to sell themselves to you. Know your selling points of the business off by heart, including at least 1 unique selling point.
Examples can include:
- You support candidates gain their RICS membership
- You work an hour less per day than your competitors
- The average person who has worked for the business has been with the company for x number of years
- Your benefits package includes contributory pension/gym membership/health care for the candidate and their family etc etc
- You allow candidates to work a day from home per week
- You have an excellent guaranteed bonus each year
- You have a clear internal process which maps a candidates career progression from day 1
There are so many different things that you can use, and you will know them better than most. I suggest having a list of them as part of your interview sheet and gauging the candidates motivations throughout the interview and then ticking the most relevant ones ready to discuss towards the end of the conversation.
6. Vet Candidates Before Interviewing
The truth is there are a lot of timewasters out there. These range from the manipulative who are solely looking to get interest (and ideally and offer) from another company to use as bargaining chip with their current employer to get a pay rise; through to the delusional who believes they can get a role 5 minutes from home with a £15k pay rise and all in between.
The key point here is the candidates motivation. As a hiring manager, you are very capable of seeing on a paper CV whether their skills on paper match your requirements. What you likely cannot tell from a CV is what the candidates motivation to change roles is.
This is where I would advise having a process to vet candidates before inviting them for interview. If you’re working with a recruiter, you can do thus via them. If you have a HR / Recruitment process, you could ask them to do this for you in a timely manner. Or alternatively. You could spend a quick 10 mins on the phone chatting about the candidates motivation before agreeing to invite them in for interview.
7. Try to be Flexible
Understand that most good candidates are already employed and need to take time away from work to attend an interview. For that reason, many prefer to meet early in the morning or last thing. Be prepared to come in 30 mins earlier or stay 30 mins later to meet the candidate.
This may seem a bit backwards to the more ‘old school’ out there who have the philosophy that candidates should be the ones who should be bending over backwards to meet you. However it’s very much a candidates market at the moment and failure to recognise that could be your downfall.
If you’re interviewing 40 people and staying late every night to conduct the interviews then I can fully understand that you would be reluctant to do this. However I would suggest this is where your vetting process needs to come into play and you should only be meeting candidates you are convinced are serious about working for you.
8. Try and Secure The Hire
If you’re 100% sure on a candidate at the end of the interview and you have the authority to make a verbal offer, then why not try and secure the hire there and then?
9. Use a Recruitment Agency
I purposely did not want to make this a sales pitch for Recruitment Agents, however it is relevant to point out that a good Recruitment Consultancy should be saving you time and money. Where is hiring company is working in co-operation with a recruitment agency, I can see where value can be added to many of the points raised above, in particular the vetting process.
I eluded to this earlier in the article that we pay very close attention to our ratios between interviews to offers and offers to placements, and we work very hard to make sure that they’re as high as possible. At Maxim Recruitment, we pay particular emphasis on such ratios and we’re consistently securing our candidates for our clients when they are made an offer. Unfortunately you cannot secure all hires, however we’re consistently averaging between a 50% and 66% conversion rate from offers to acceptances. Therefore if you are an employer offering tens of offers to secure one candidates, it may be worth having a discussion about what processes we have in place that may improve this hit rate.
I hope you’ve found the above points useful and can take at least something from this article.