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Striking a Balance: Tips for Candidates

Over the years, we’ve spoken to many hiring managers who often say the same thing: they are looking for more than just technical ability alone. The best candidates are often those who have a mix of both hard skills (technical knowledge) and soft skills (stakeholder and people management skills, manners, willingness to collaborate and leadership qualities.) If you are looking for jobs in construction, how do you get this across? Here are our top tips for demonstrating your suitability.

Manners Cost Nothing

While it may seem obvious, good manners and courtesy goes a long way during the hiring process. Simple things such as thanking people for their time or adding a “please” to any requests you make of your prospective employer might not necessarily get noticed, but their absence will. Don’t be the rude candidate – put the effort in to be polite.

I was once putting forward a quantity surveyor for a vacancy where the employer had already advertised the role and had a few other applicants. The QS I had proposed got the job because the employer told me he was impeccably polite and had stood out from the other candidates.

Collaboration is Key

Everyone wants to make a good impression and take credit for their part in events. But framing things to sound like you did everything on a project gives the impression that you don’t collaborate or work well with others. Employers know that projects are a team effort and are looking for team players – even if the vacancy is for a leadership role – so remember to give credit to your team members where appropriate and demonstrate your willingness to collaborate.

This can apply to any role, from commercial directors, to project managers, to civil engineers. I’ve observed that the candidates that do the best with employers are those who are keen to work together to get the job done.

Watch Your Temper

Linked to the previous points, controlling your emotions is another way to show that you are a professional. While everyone gets irritated now and then, focusing on negatives and blowing up in the office are no longer acceptable (if they ever were.)

I remember trying to employ a construction manager who had a reputation for having a short temper. Despite having over 25 years of experience, no one wanted to employ him because he caused too many problems on projects and upset the other staff.

Be Decisive / A Leader

Few employers have the time to micromanage their employees, so they need their staff to make decisions without constantly referring to their boss. Showing that you can take the lead when needed is a desirable skill and will make you stand out from the other candidates.

In fact, many employers would rather train a junior person who shows decisiveness and leadership than an experienced candidate who needs constant supervision. I once placed a quantity surveyor in a commercial director job because he had the right attitude as well as the aptitude.

It’s All About Personality

The fact is, technical and software skills can be learned, but a bad attitude can’t be changed – and employers know this. It doesn’t matter how good you look on paper, you need to balance this with the soft skills in order to get through the interview process and progress your career.

If you’re a job seeker looking for jobs in construction, we have a range of career advice for the entire hiring process, from writing a good CV to how to handle a job offer. You can also send us your CV or sign up for job alerts to be the first to hear about our latest vacancies.

About the Author

Steve Thomas
Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada
I am responsible for the Maxim Recruitment office in the UK where our team of recruitment consultants specialise in the recruitment of quantity surveyors, commercial managers, delay, dispute and claims consultants for civil engineering and building contractors and specialist construction consultancies.  I am also responsible for growing our recruitment operation in Canada and the USA where we are increasingly busy.  I have over 20 years’ experience in construction recruitment and enjoy working on both contingency and search/headhunting assignments for our repeat clients.
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Email: steve@maximrecruitment.com

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