Recruiting works on always getting one more

AK ANY EXPERIENCED contractor about how he recruited his good crews and great supervisors and he will tell you the secret in one word: "Years." No mystery. We have to go through a few people who look good on paper (their resume) and discover that their behavior is not what it should be. Only after mostly trial and error, do we find that one professional who is the right person for us. Unless you are

AK ANY EXPERIENCED contractor about how he recruited his good crews and great supervisors and he will tell you the secret in one word: "Years."

No mystery. We have to go through a few people who look good on paper (their resume) and discover that their behavior is not what it should be. Only after mostly trial and error, do we find that one professional who is the right person for us. Unless you are paying well above market salaries, this reiterative process is the realistic way to find quality people who want to work. Some luck is involved, but it is mostly patience on the contractor's part.

With drug testing, criminal records and other background checks disqualifying a high percentage of potential hires, we need to increase the number of applicants. Finding more people who could potentially work for us gives us a choice. Always having one more prospect gives us a plan "B" in an emergency.

So, what is the major part of building a great set of crews and managers? Finding sources of prospects. We have listed a few unique ways to find more people who could be your next employee. Take a look and see if any of these ideas will help you. There is never a danger in having too many applicants.

  1. Did you know 45% of people who start college don't finish? Think of that engineering or construction management student who doesn't care for the classroom. He may be your next field superintendent. Certainly, his level of education is higher than average. Get to know the deans of your local colleges. That person may be able to direct or refer you to a soon-to-be ex-student.
  2. Is there a local "boot camp" for younger people who have made mistakes early in life? After the exposure to a military-style program, these youngsters are on a more disciplined path. Most of them certainly don't want to go back to that life.
  3. Look to countries with political problems. It may be legal for them to immigrate to the United States because they could be persecuted or even tortured. This type of individual has proven to be reliable and hard working. Giving anyone a piece of the American Dream will make him loyal.
  4. Consider recruiting Canadians. Most of them love the United States, can move here freely and most speak English already.
  5. One contractor has found staff by running ads in depressed parts of the country. Currently, some states' construction activity is slowing down. This contractor has run the ads in the sports section as opposed to the classified section of the newspaper.
  6. One possibility is to develop and present a qualified training program for the local vocational school. The training is actually run at the contractor's office or training facility and the students get credit for a School to Work Program. This takes some effort, but it does work. In the end, you'll have the first opportunity to recruit these students.
  7. A company in a vacation destination is considering renting a billboard and advertising for journeymen. The theme of the billboard would be, "Why end your vacation?"
  8. Use the Internet. Blogs are popular and are treated differently by search engines. They are a niche opportunity. The thousands of words you may write can attract people. You don't have to be journalism major, just write about specifics of your industry. Like-minded people will find you.
  9. Keep a "black book" of potential employees. Whenever you talk to your employees, suppliers or others, ask, "Who have you worked with that you thought did a great job?" "Why?" and "Where are they now?" After a while, you should have a few names that are worth contacting.
  10. How about internships? We often think of co-ops only with college students, but with new class scheduling these opportunities are open to high school seniors. Many seniors have large blocks of time available for co-ops or internships.
  11. DIY home centers are full of former tradespeople. The home centers have fallen on lean times. Stock growth and promotions are not there anymore. They pay less of an hourly wage than most contractors. A trip there might start a conversation.
  12. Look to county jails for non-drug and non-violent offenders. This may be a valuable source for laborers that you need. As you might imagine, work is a privilege and inmates look forward to being on the outside for eight hours a day. Contractors who have used drug-free, non-violent offenders report no problems and a good attitude. The county will transport prisoners to and from to meet your working hours. Once released, these people may be the kind you want to keep.

In summary, we do not see a great increase in "industry-ready" people. Qualified craftsmen, operators, estimators, project managers, field managers and cost engineers, among others, are difficult to find. Bidding wages and salaries up is a failed tactic.

Subsequently, we have concluded that the one recruiting strategy that is left is to hire character, that is, people who want to work and who are decent human beings. If they have the needed technical skills, it is a bonus.

It may take a while to teach them but contractors that I respect have done this for years with great results. It takes more training and patience, but it is the only predictable way to build a stellar workforce.

Matt Stevens is a management consultant who works only with construction contractors. He has been doing so since 1994. McGraw-Hill has published his book, "Managing a Construction Firm on Just
24 Hours a Day." This article is an excerpt from the book. He may be reached at
[email protected] Take a free sample course at www.constructioncbt.com.