by Scott Johnson
November 2, 2011
Anyone in the construction industry that is directly involved with recruitment or hiring knows just how difficult it can be to get the right amount of help, or even to find the right candidates from the pool of potentials.

There is always some risk involved, since any company that hires the wrong employee can actually lose valuable time and money on its projects. In some cases, the consequence for hiring the wrong fit for the job costs the company much more than the actual value that person potentially could bring to the firm. In the worst-case scenario, a mismatched new hire can potentially lead to an increased number of accidents and even fatal accidents. Less severe, but very costly in productivity, is the new recruit who brings down the morale of the work crew.

Recruiting is not an exact science, but experience teaches that there are several factors to be considered when bringing new recruits to the workplace. Finding qualified and motivated recruits is a major problem for many construction firms. This is especially true of those companies in regions that experience fast expansion of businesses and related population. Expanding quickly to meet such a surge can be a daunting task. Often, workers with the required skills in the construction trades are scarce, if not impossible to find in some cases.
When recruiting, there are several options to consider to increase the likelihood of finding qualified and available talent for routine hiring needs or when hiring to meet market demands. Consider the following options:
  • Contact your local junior colleges, colleges and universities to hire construction students as interns, co-ops or part-time employees. Often these relationships are beneficial to both sides. The company gets to know the potential applicant and accept the student's help at typically half the price of a full-time employee, while the student gets to gain valuable practical experience, test-drive the company and understand what their future career path holds for them.
  • Another way to find applicants is to go directly to the schools themselves. Many construction schools allow companies to come in and make presentations to the students after or in-between classes. Typically, the only cost to do this is the price of pizza and drinks for the students that arrive for the presentation. Many schools will also have a program where companies can present and sign up interested students for interviews.  This not only helps with current hiring, but also advertises the company's name, which is in many cases, the major factor in the companies for which students desire to work. 
  • Contact your local high school. Many high schools still have vocational education programs. If the schools nearest you do not, check with neighboring school systems. In some places, the high schools are the major source of new recruits, especially from the schools that offer construction trade courses.
  • Network with your colleagues at association, union, Chamber of Commerce and other trade association meetings and functions. You never know when someone may be between projects or retiring and has crew members in need of employment.
  • Place an advertisement in not only your local newspaper, but in local free weekly and monthly newspapers, newsletters and the local business directory. Many directory listings are free since the directories are often advertiser-supported.
  • Remain open to accepting referrals from current and former employees, but keep in mind that relying on this method too heavily can lead to a workforce that is not diverse and may inadvertently lead to being stuck with some workers who are not necessarily the best for your company.
  • Your locality or the largest town or city near you will most likely have an economic development department. In almost every case, these agencies have several programs to provide business growth and development. In fact, many of them offer grants to new businesses and job placement for those who complete their job training programs. Ask about construction training programs and get on the mailing list. Often they offer job placement services for students who complete their courses.
  • Nonprofit organizations exist to serve the community in many different ways. There are grant-funded programs for job training in many industries. Contact your local government offices and your local United Way to find out what programs exist.
  • Do research. It is very possible that some agency near you has received a community-based job-training grant that requires placement of their graduates. These grants exist to increase the capacity of community colleges to provide training in local high schools so there are skilled workers for high demand industries. They are often looking for local companies to hire or offer internships and apprenticeships for their students.
  • Offer to teach an evening class at your local high school or community college. This puts you in front of job seekers every week. You could also offer to do one or two seminars per semester. Most local colleges only require that you be an expert at what you do.
  • Get online! Register your company with one of the many agencies that act as a go between for employers and job seekers. A search using the term "construction jobs" will provide a long list of job placement websites.
At the same time you are trying out the approaches listed above, there are some actions you can take that should lead to more immediate results. There are many companies that specialize in locating qualified recruits for employment in construction. One company that is providing a way to supplement construction firms' needs is StudentResumeBooks.Com.
StudentResumeBooks.Com, and similar services, compiles construction students' resumes from across the nation and assembles books for purchase online. This service provides a fast and efficient means for the employer to sort through the resumes of interested workers. It makes the process of deciding which person is the best for your situation, a much more accurate and efficient use of your time.
When using this type of online service you will have a group of resumes to review and compare all in one file as you make interview decisions. This service can also be a handy tool for anyone hiring construction estimators, managers or superintendents. This resource is helpful for current and future hiring needs. The user will be able, for instance, to hold on to the applicant's resume and contact the applicants at a later time after they have more work experience.  The cost of using a resume book service is much less than the cost of working with headhunters and recruiting agencies.
Recruiting new workers has always been, and maybe always will be a major challenge for the construction industry. Yet, with adequate planning, creativity, partnerships, collaborations and online technology, the process can be less time-consuming and more productive.
Construction Business Owner, March 2007