How To Solve The Contractor’s Recruiting Problem

Recruiter magnifying glass sees candidate

Every contractor knows that being their own boss is both the greatest gift and the biggest hindrance. Whether it be through self-employment or running a firm of your own, being in control is often the greatest professional aspiration. But where we think this will bring flexibility and freedom, it can often do the opposite. Construction is an inherently unpredictable job, whether it be timelines, demands of the project, or accessibility to the right talent. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for contractors to lose the personal time they were trying to take back in running their own business and missing important family and life events.

This means that there isn’t adequate time or support for professionals to grow their business. What many don’t realize is that there is a direct correlation between taking control of the recruiting process and taking control of the company. Business owners don’t just want hires that can do the job—they want to recruit the right people who will display the competency and initiative needed for company owners to have more freedom in their business. So, how is this extremely daunting task achieved?

Hiring Isn’t Achieved In a Day

The most important thing to realize from the get-go is that hiring doesn’t happen quickly, and if it does, you’re probably going to start the process all over again soon. Recruiting is a task that needs breaking up into the short-, mid-, and long-term; zero to three months, three to six months, and six months to five years. The difference between a hire that sticks around for a job or two compared to someone who is there for the long term and grows with the company is culture. Building a brilliant team does not happen accidentally—it takes time, energy, and money. It’s constant and ongoing, meaning it’s not necessarily large amounts of work but rather doing small things consistently.

What are the Common Problems?

On the surface, problems that arise in the day-to-day may not immediately indicate that there is a problem with your hires. However, as is the case with most jobs, it’s the people who make the business, and sometimes hiring the wrong people for the job can be the source from which the problems stem. Signs that something is amiss in recruiting can include: jobs going over schedule; losing money on jobs; not enough processes in place, and more quality leads and time needed. The first step to improving recruiting processes is to find clarity and accountability within your current processes and then create the roadmap to something better.

Analyzing Your Current Team

The first step to recruiting successfully is analyzing your current team and asking where the needs are and what qualities the right person should have. Other questions to ask include: are the job duties and functions optimized? Should the new role be a separate job or a part of a current position? Does this need to be broken down into different departments, and how? It’s essential to identify what is missing, how those gaps can best be filled and optimized, and ask if there is anything else this role should be doing. These are all factors that can be discussed within your current team, as they may better grasp the blind spots than you do.

From here, you can begin to reshuffle as needed. Once you have identified tasks that need to be reallocated, it’s time to also recognize additional elements that are missing and causing stress. This forms the basis of your job descriptions, and you can be confident in knowing that the requirements listed have been carefully analyzed and are as specific as possible.

Building Your Brand – Would You Work for You?

It’s hard to force yourself to be critical of something you have worked so hard to build, but it’s the only way to grow. Your overall brand image is a crucial part of what attracts people and, more importantly, keeps them on your team. The first step to do this is to Google yourself. Are you proud of what comes up? Would you be excited to apply for and work with this company?

Now, it’s time to identify the shortcomings. What do people land on when they click on your website? Are your story and branding consistent? Are you selling to anyone and everyone, or do you know your customer and their needs? Professionals looking for a serious gig to build their careers will want to know that the company they will be working for knows their stuff and will be a rewarding place to work because of it.

A question I like to encourage people to ask themselves is: if your brand were a car, what would it be? Would it be a reliable Ford Bronco that starts every time, or would it be something more upmarket, like a Mercedes? Having the ability to describe your brand simply and succinctly will help both you and prospective candidates know exactly what sets you apart from the competition.

Mastering the Job Description

The behind-the-scenes prep is an extensive process, but it’s the key to ensuring the candidate-facing material is perfect. The best job descriptions are clear, concise, and outline exactly what is required for the role based on the factors you have identified. Something that will also set your job descriptions apart is if you can address the gaps in the industry. Can you offer higher pay than the industry rate? Is there overtime available? Does your company promote and have measures in place to ensure there is a work-life balance?

In this context, it’s also important to note that extensive experience is not always the most desirable trait in a candidate. If you have assumed you need a senior foreman on your team, the reality might be that you just need a better foreman. Clearly defining your needs through the job role requirements is essential.

Additionally, advertising “perks” don’t mean much to candidates anymore. Many companies promise vague incentives, but either doesn’t deliver or don’t specify. So, what exactly can you offer? A weekly massage for workers in the field? A four-day week? Having your birthday off? What are the things you can offer that will make people want to work for your company? All these details are what the art of mastering a job description is built upon.

How and Where to Find Candidates

The right person for your company can come from a multitude of places. In construction, it’s important to know exactly where you are likely to find great talent. The various ways you can do this can be broken into four categories: referrals, old school, lists, and digital. Referrals are about knowing the right people to talk to and maintain connections with, whether it be people within your business network, like suppliers, contractors, and vendors. The old school refers to sponsoring an event and advertising that you are hiring, like at trade schools or universities. Lists refer to where to find comprehensive lists of workers, whether unions, job fairs, or unemployment offices. With digital, you need to ask where you are most likely to find your ideal candidate. Will they stumble across a job ad on Facebook, or will they be scrolling job listings?

Incentivizing And Retaining Talent

Once the hard part is done and the role is filled, then comes the task of living up to your promises. Or better yet, how can you tailor your incentives and rewards to that specific person? Does this person want tickets to a sports game, or will a weekend away be better received? Ask yourself if the incentive cost is more expensive than the cost of not having this position filled. When it comes to building culture, this might take team-building days, sharing company wins, or employee of the month compliment cards. Even better, show your employees they are heard and seen. Ask them what would make their jobs easier and deliver on this.

Closing Thoughts

If you want to exist in the next two to four years as a contractor firm, the amount of demand and work will only continue growing. With the labor supply getting smaller and smaller, you have to be able to recruit and retain. Understand that the recruitment process starts well before the job listing is posted and continues long after the hire is formally finalized. The ability to vet your entire company and its processes in this way will set your business apart. The question of hiring suddenly includes recognizing issues with your company, fixing the company culture, knowing what you want and need, and hiring the best talent out there for the job.

When the recruitment process is executed properly, and a focus is also on retention, it reduces the need for rehiring in the future. If you can thoroughly nail the process the first time around, you shouldn’t need to go through too many hiring cycles in the long term.