Hiring Strategies for a Candidate-Tight Construction Labor Market

Mar 5, 2018

When you find the right candidate in today’s construction labor market, it is important to hire that person quickly. If you do not, you may lose them to one of your competitors. Many companies are currently building their teams to keep up with the growing demand for new construction. Experienced candidates are regularly receiving multiple job offers. Because the market is so candidate-tight, there are unprecedented risks for employers who wait too long to make hiring decisions.

More Power Means More Options for Construction Candidates

The market started heating up just as the construction attrition rate began escalating for many reasons. Skilled employees left the industry during the recession. During this same time, thousands of workers who might have entered the construction field became discouraged by the industry’s instability, and they took a different career path. In addition, workers have been retiring in growing numbers for the past decade. There have never been so many factors working together to create a candidate-tight market. Today’s construction job seekers are aware that they have more bargaining power, and are thus more confident about exploring their job options. Many candidates are actively seeking multiple interviews if they feel a company is not moving fast enough with a final decision.

During the recession and the years immediately after, many construction employers drew out the hiring process. It made sense in those days to take extra time to carefully weigh all the options to ensure each new hire would offer maximum value to the company. However, given the strength of today’s market and the growing demands of the industry, waiting to make a hiring decision may end up being a costly mistake. These days, hiring authorities must frequently compete for candidates who have received two or three job offers. We have seen many employers who waited too long to make a hiring decision and ended up having to pay tens of thousands of dollars more for candidates than originally anticipated.

Stronger Retention Strategies Compete With Talent Acquisition Efforts

A candidate’s sense of urgency to find a new position will be heightened if that individual is unhappy in their current position. Once a person has made the decision to move on, they typically want to do so as soon as possible. Keep in mind that even if a candidate has one foot out the door, their current employer may make a counter offer. If their employer delivers on a promised promotion, grants a raise, or otherwise fixes a long-standing problem, employees will sometimes choose to stay. Many companies are strengthening their retention programs for this very reason.

Communicate to Keep Candidates Engaged

So what can employers do to be competitive when hiring skilled workers? We understand that you must do your due diligence in hiring, but you should also streamline your hiring process. Expediency is key. It used to be acceptable to take two or more weeks to make a decision after an interview. In today’s market, two weeks may be too long. If your hiring decision-making process cannot be shortened, the best thing you can do is to make an extra effort to communicate with each candidate. Do not let weeks go by without communication after an interview. Keep candidates engaged. If the company makes an effort to communicate, that will impress candidates and assure them that they are valued.

Adapt to the New Reality of Hiring Construction Talent

Today’s hiring strategies must be designed around the fact that the supply of construction labor has become smaller while demand for labor has grown. One cannot operate under the same guidelines followed during the recession and its immediate aftermath. Construction recruiters used to have a large "stable of candidates" who were waiting hopefully for job openings. But those days are over for the foreseeable future. Now, top candidates are in high demand, and once these candidates make their decision to look for a new position, they will have multiple options. Whatever you can do now to adapt to this new candidate-tight market will contribute to your company’s success in the future.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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