Four Common Pitfalls in Construction Recruiting

As we all know, the most valuable asset a company possesses, whether large or small, is its employees.


Great companies by nature attract and retain great people. With a rapidly diminishing pool of qualified talent in the construction industry, companies must pay close attention to their hiring process to achieve a competitive advantage.


There is a finite timeline to every successful hiring process, and many details need to be addressed during this period. And yes, as with most proven business practices, the devil is in the details.


If hiring managers can avoid the following most common mistakes in recruiting prime candidates, their company will achieve a higher return on money and time spent recruiting and improving the company’s bottom line.


#1 Salary Discussions


The first mistake that can quickly derail a deal at any time is falling into the trap of “asking about salary” vs. “discussing compensation.”


We are often tempted to jump to that single magical number when it can be very misleading in more cases than not.


In discussing compensation, you must understand your compensation plan in detail. Secondly, you need to obtain the candidate’s current base salary and salary history of their last two or three companies, along with the annual bonuses they received.


Also required are their current vehicle policy, 401K and company match, profit sharing/pension/ESOP if offered, PTO, and medical/dental/vision company-sponsored premium costs.


There is a vast difference between base salary and total compensation; therefore, the hiring manager and the candidate need to be on the same page discussing and comparing apples to apples with all details compared side by side.


#2 Lack of reference checks.


The second mistake is the lack of reference checks.


Often, when only doing one or two references, a red flag you might have initially ignored will reemerge on subsequent references and prompt further evaluation.


The more reference checks, the better. A negative reference may be further explained or given a different perspective by additional references.


As for the quality of the reference, it is critical to request a list of five or six professional contacts to verify performance capabilities.


Develop a written list of consistent questions to be asked from each reference. Write down the actual statements to avoid misinterpreting the reference’s comments.


Should the candidate still be working, it is crucial to ask which references may be contacted and not jeopardize the candidate’s confidentiality.


To get an appropriate read on a candidate, hiring managers may be urged to contact references without the candidate’s permission.


Beware! Should this reference leak out the recruiting inquiry to others or the candidate’s current company, the candidate’s current position may be at risk.


Do not set yourself up for a lawsuit should they be fired for looking for a new job, and you do not hire the candidate.

#3 Ineffective communication


The third most common mistake is ineffective communication and lack of timely contact.


Don’t lose a good candidate to the competition for delaying positive feedback during the hiring process. Vague or delayed initial and subsequent interview feedback sends the wrong message to an interested candidate.


It is all about managing expectations in many ways, as time kills most deals. Many firms employ inside recruiters, and human resource personnel tasked with locating qualified talent. Allow them to be the catalyst in the process and use their abilities to keep it moving and to be the company’s spokesperson.


Many times, interviews and discussions are rescheduled without any reassurance to the candidate that they are still very much in the running. If candidates are put through the process, fit your criteria, are excited about your opportunity, and fit your culture, make an offer!


#4 Having a reactive approach to a company’s hiring process


The fourth mistake in the hiring process is having a reactive approach to a company’s hiring process instead of a proactive approach.


All too often, companies wait until an employee leaves, i.e., retirement or a position becomes open before they begin searching.


In a tight labor market, this practice can be very costly in lost productivity and the time and person-hours required to fill the position, not to mention the ramp-up time to get that employee accustomed to new policies and procedures.


Once a decision is made to bring in a new employee or a new position is authorized, expect a five-to-eight-week time frame to see that person start their new position.


Constant sourcing and networking with the local building community and talking with “best in class” candidates will yield a more efficient and effective recruiting process. A company half-a-person long on manpower is better than half-a-person short since hurried hiring decisions frequently result in a bad hire.


By putting in the proper time and energy into a hiring process and avoiding these common pitfalls, your firm will end up with more successful hires and a more profitable bottom-line.


Read more about the benefits of working with a heavy civil-specialized construction recruiter.



Are you falling into any (or all) of these pitfalls? If your answer is yes, we can help you at Peterson Consulting Group. 


Gary A. Peterson, founder and President of G. Peterson Consulting Group, Inc., is a degreed Civil/Structural Engineer with 45 years of experience in our industry. In 1996, Peterson opened his first office in the executive recruiting industry and currently has offices in Tampa, Orlando, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Seattle, and Salt Lake City.


The company's primary focus is recruiting mid, upper level, and executive management for Heavy Highway, Public Works, Sitework, and Commercial construction nationwide. Peterson is also available for specific retained searches.


In 25 years, Peterson Consulting Group has acted as the bridge between talented professionals and businesses in the heavy civil, heavy highway, and commercial construction sector that needs the talent to get every position filled by the right person. We have successfully filled over 7,000 positions, and PCG can do the same for you.

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