Secrets to Recruiting

Thomas C Schleifer, Ph.D.

Most of us in the industry rarely consider construction contracting a service but, of course, that’s exactly what it is. Contractors assemble a team of “experts” who in turn provide construction services to private owners and/or government agencies. 

Assembling a team of experts is a construction organization’s primary function.

Some of my readers may demand more detail than the sentence above. “What about engineering, architecture, procuring materials, providing heavy equipment and all the other functions required to complete a project successfully.

Identifying the functions required, which vary from project to project, is second nature to every successful contractor. So, the statement means: “Assembling a team of experts who can coordinate ALL the functions required to complete a project successfully.”  

How It’s Done

There are four sequential steps to building a successful construction organization: 

1. Recruiting 2. Training 3. Motivating 4. Retaining.

Recruiting—What, Who, Why

What? – A Question of Function

The question of who you want on your team is preceded by the question of what you need them to do. When building a successful construction organization, a functional organization chart is more useful than a typical pyramid chain of command chart that most industrial companies use. Much like a football coach, the contractor assembles a team of the best players he or she can find to execute each function. By way of example: A typical mid-sized construction organization will look something like this:



VP ADMIN          VP CONSTRUCTION            CFO            Marketing Director        

   HumanProject Accounts

   Resource       Management Receivable Marketing

  Insurance     Superintendents Acts Payable     Sales

Office Mgmt. Foreman Gen Ledger Public Relations

Although your organization may look somewhat different, I call your attention to the functions that are listed below each department head. This is a typical construction functional organization chart. All department heads report to the President but each is responsible for distinct functions. 

Before you know who to hire you must identify what they will be doing. Contractors who are successful over the long term carefully weave these functions into a tightly knit team. If your quarterback can throw, and your wide receiver can catch, and your running back can run, you more than likely will field a winning team. (I say the following at the risk that it may offend some) But if your quarterback is your brother’s son, and your wide receiver is your high school gym teacher’s nephew, and your running back is your mailman’s grandson, victory might well elude you. Function trumps familiarity. First the what (function) – Then the who. This is critical.

Who? – A Question of Reputation

Assembling any organization begins with recruiting the team. Recruiting, however, is a double-edged sword.

  • Not only do you have to identify and select the best candidate for the function you are trying to fill, but the candidate must select you. 
  • In the early stages of a startup this marriage is often a generic exercise beginning with relatives and friends or colleagues in the trades. As time passes and a construction organization grows and takes on more ambitious projects, the selection process must become more dynamic. In order to attract the best candidates, your reputation in the marketplace is as important as the reputation and qualifications of the candidate you are considering for employment. 
  • In fact, in the tight labor market we are currently in, it can be harder to attract qualified candidates than it is to identify them. Your reputation for completing projects successfully, having respect for your employees, treating them fairly, paying them well, having a robust benefit package, and offering them opportunities for advancement not only precedes you in the recruitment process, but it also defines your chance of success.
  • Word of mouth is the most powerful recruiting tool. (Whether for good or bad.) No matter what stage of growth your company is in it is more important than ever to carefully guard your reputation by treating every employee with respect and deference. Only the incompetent and the lazy will go to work for an organization that has a reputation for disrespecting their employees. You can be certain that no successful construction team is populated by the incompetent or the lazy.

Why? – The Cast Does the Acting – Not the Director

Operating a construction company is much like putting on a Broadway show. When a producer hands the director a script with a touching story, poetic lyrics, and toe tapping melodies, the director immediately starts to audition the cast. He or she may not be able to sing or dance themselves, but they know that the show will be a hit if they can assemble a cast who can earn a standing ovation night after night.  I repeat, 

Assembling a team of experts is a construction organization’s primary function.

For a deeper look into recruiting, read more here: RECRUITING

For a broader view into labor and labor issues, read more here: LABOR AND LABOR ISSUES

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