The Relative Merits of Local vs International Candidates for Construction Jobs

Posted by Steve Thomas , Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada on Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Maxim Recruitment is an international construction recruitment specialist; this means that on a daily basis we see construction recruitment trends both within a country and across boundaries and continents.  One preference we regularly encounter is employers all around the world preferring candidates that have gained previous experience locally in the country they are to be employed in.

Maxim is committed to achieving client satisfaction and providing our customers with candidates possessing the skills they want – but in a very tight and competitive market for construction skills, is the possibility of having no good candidates on an urgent vacancy shortlist better than being open to consider the very best available construction talent from overseas?

The unfortunate reality is that there is a shortage of premium construction candidates across most specialist professional technical skills right around the world including within:

  • Cost Management / Quantity Surveying
  • Construction Disputes (Claims/Quantum/Delay)
  • Project Management
  • Construction Management
  • Planning/Project Controls
  • Engineering

If Good Candidates Emigrate Good Candidates Will Immigrate To You Also!

The contemporary trend is that it is commonplace for construction professionals to find it attractive both personally and professionally to be mobile and to move to work in another country for a number of years or more.  Some may return to their home country to finish their career, but others will stay for the remainder of their careers. Taking advantage of this migration trend will offer an open-minded employer a fantastic open opportunity to hire premium skilled and experienced professionals while other employers aren’t even open to consider them.  Consider the following examples:

Case Study 1

A premium transportation employer in Canada was unable to recruit a local Canadian construction Programme Manager with partnering experience and a knowledge of modern methods of construction risk management and risk sharing. Maxim were engaged on an Executive Search basis and proceeded to identify and successfully recruit suitable candidates form the UK aviation sector.

Case Study 2

A premium construction disputes organisation in Australia was dissatisfied with the available pool of candidates and price point to employ local Australian disputes professionals. Maxim was tasked with identifying Quantum and Delay professionals from other international markets and a number were successfully resourced (both with and without right to work in Australia).  Once the appropriate paperwork was completed the new hires commenced work and the client had engineered a high quality and cost effective solution to their recruitment problem.

Case Study 3

A national UK Cost Consultancy wanted to look at new source markets for their intake of early and mid-career cost manager candidates.  After engaging Maxim, they successfully recruited a number of Chartered and well experienced consultant quantity surveyors from Hong Kong and from Malaysia.

Which are the Best Construction Professionals to Recruit from Abroad?

It goes without saying that not all skill sets, and types of project experience can be transferred around the world and slotted in to a new country immediately – but it is surprising how many can.  For example:

  1. UK & Commonwealth countries often have comparable or overlapping training and qualification protocols and standards that encourage easy mobility in all directions. Language skills are often very good also
  2. Many countries have quite similar methods of construction or similar engineering standards – and Maxim is usually aware of which countries are the best match for a particular role and circumstance
  3. Experience in certain discipline areas such as cost management, programme management, rail projects or specialist construction disputes are usually quite mobile and transferrable to projects elsewhere in the world
  4. Visas for early career candidates are often much easier to obtain that might be thought
  5. Residency/right to work permits in general, with help from local immigration professionals can often be much more easily obtained than you might initially think.

How Do You Assess Suitability of International Candidates for Construction Jobs?

Some construction employer clients worry to me that there is increased risk associated with hiring an international candidate compared to hiring one from the local construction market. Given that local candidates are often also being chased by some or all other employer competitors, may lead you to get into a bidding war raising salary cost, and will also be regularly ‘tapped up’ forever after by agencies and employers who didn’t secure their services that time, local candidate hiring is not a universally positive prospect.

Candidates from overseas do need to be subject to the same rigorous interviewing process as any other candidate. Maxim can offer employers a range of advice on interviewing and selection techniques to ensure competences, attitudes and capabilities have been fully assessed and checked out.

I recruited one candidate into a UK job from Malaysia in 2003 and he is still at the same company in a very senior post.  Another candidate that I recruited between countries in 2003 is now the head of department in a large international consultancy – and there are many more examples.  Perhaps some new employees arriving in a new country will decide to be loyal to the employer that gave them their first job in a new country and backed them and gave them a chance – I don’t know but there are certainly many success stories out there relating to international mobility that Maxim can be proud of having facilitated.

Get in Touch to Discuss Further

If you are a construction employer based anywhere in the world that is suffering the pain of talent shortages and difficulty recruiting, you are not in an unusual situation.  However it may be that you need to take a new approach with your candidate search strategy.  Get in touch with Maxim at the office nearest you  or submit your vacancy here and we will contact you to discuss how we may well be able to solve your construction recruitment pain by using some of our 20 years of international recruitment experience!

Steve Thomas
Steve Thomas
Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada
Maxim Recruitment

Steve is responsible for Maxim Recruitment in the UK and Canada. He is based in the Maxim head office in Leicester, UK and the Toronto office in Canada. He regularly travels to meet employers and job seekers and attend construction industry networking events in the UK, Canada and worldwide. Steve has over 25 years of experience in construction and property recruitment and enjoys working with many repeat clients. He manages dedicated search and headhunting assignments for a range of premium UK, Canadian and international clients.