10 Construction Hiring Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

10 Construction Hiring Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make
By Paul Netscher | 4 minute read

Hiring mistakes are costly. Have you employed someone only to find they have disappointed you?

I’m sure we have all employed someone, only to find later that they weren’t what we thought they were, that they couldn’t do the job, or they didn’t fit in with the team. How can we avoid this happening in the future?

Employing the wrong person can be costly. There’s the cost to terminate them and the cost to find and employ their replacement. But these costs could be minor compared to the damage that the wrong person can do to a project or company. We rely on our project managers and supervisors to deliver a quality project, safely, efficiently and on time.

Failure can be expensive, costing the company money and reputation. In a few weeks, huge damage can be done, but unfortunately, companies could take several months to act, to go through the termination process and find a replacement. A sad indictment is that sometimes companies don’t take action, and some of these poor-quality employees simply get transferred to other projects, where they continue to harm the company.

The hiring process

People are usually employed to replace someone who has left or to fill a position on a new project. Unfortunately, these positions often have to be filled in a hurry, and construction companies, sometimes, have to make-do with literally the first (maybe only) candidate that walks through the door.

Frequently the hiring process isn’t done properly, and we end up with a person unsuitable for the role, or someone who is unhappy and leaves. In some cases, somebody more senior and expensive than is required is employed.

Often the main criteria for assessing the person are their skills and experience. However, construction companies and projects vary, and a suitable candidate for one project, or company, may not necessarily be the best for another.

Sometimes the task of finding and employing someone is left entirely to the HR department, who are given only the briefest description of what’s required. “I need 5 Supervisors yesterday.”

Regrettably, some companies base their hiring on whom they can afford. It’s not about the best candidate, rather about the cheapest. Construction is a people’s business. You can have the most expensive and best equipment, but if you don’t have the right people to operate and manage the equipment then it’s all for nothing. A good person can literally be worth their weight in gold. Of course just because a person earned a good salary with their previous employer doesn’t always mean they will be a good employee, or the right employee, for your project.

How do to choose the right person and avoid hiring mistake

Here are 10 things that I think should be considered to determine if someone is the ‘right person’ to employ.

1. Knowledge and experience

They require knowledge and experience to perform the tasks expected of them. An experienced building Supervisor is possibly not best suited to supervise the construction of a road.

2. Company’s culture

They need to fit in with the culture of the company and must ascribe to the company’s values. It’s pointless for the company to set high standards for safety and quality, and then employ a Supervisor who is unconcerned with these values. They may have all the technical experience and knowledge for the position, but they will destroy the company’s reputation in no time.

3. Working locations

They should be willing to work in the regions and areas in which the company operates in. I’ve seen many personnel unhappy because they’ve had to relocate their family, or had to work in areas far from where they live. Yet, there are individuals who enjoy working in these regions, and others who are willing to relocate their families to remote areas.

4. Aspirations

They must have aspirations that the company can satisfy. Everyone has different aspirations and not all companies can meet these. Failure to fulfill a person’s aspirations eventually results in them becoming unsatisfied and unhappy.

5. Communication

Construction is a people business and everyone should be able to communicate and work with others.

6. Team players

Construction requires teamwork, even more so on large projects. Each person should be a team player, willing to share equipment or to help out in other areas. I have sometimes had Supervisors who thought they should have equipment allocated full-time to their sections of work and that they should take priority when materials arrived on site.

7. Be suited to the project

On occasion Project Managers or Supervisors possibly will, due to the size and complexity of the project, have to report to a more senior Project Manager or Supervisor. This might not suit some who have been used to working alone on smaller projects. Project Managers who have become used to working on larger projects, where they are able to delegate many tasks to support staff, maybe unhappy to work on smaller projects where they have to carry out many of the more menial tasks themselves, without the support of a team.

8. The right person doesn’t always have to be the most qualified

Some roles don’t require the best, or most experienced, Supervisor or Project Manager. In fact, often more experienced people can become bored or unhappy working on what they consider is a more mundane project. These projects could be better suited to more junior individuals, who may cost less, yet will revel in the opportunity to learn and grow on these projects.

9. Company’s future

Hopefully, you are employing someone for the longer term – beyond the current project requirements. In this case, it may be prudent to consider how they will fit into the company’s future. Will they fill the intended future roles you have in mind, or will they become a liability later?

10. And more!

Of course, we are also looking for people with initiative, who are willing to learn, take pride in what they do, can be relied on, that persevere, that are honest and have integrity and that work wisely and are conscientious. Often the softer skills, which aren’t always taught at universities and colleges, are more important than technical skills.

Of course, you are probably unlikely to find the perfect candidate so you will probably have to compromise somewhere. Skills are probably easier to add to, but personalities can be hard to change.

Remember to always do some background research. Don’t always believe what a candidate tells you, or that cv or piece of paper in front of you.

Is there someone else?

Before employing someone to fill a position it may be pertinent to consider the following:

  • Is there someone already in the company who could fill the role? This person could even be in another division – I have seen some companies where one division, or branch, is employing people, while another division is letting people go.
  • Is there someone who could fill the role who will be released shortly from another project? Sometimes it may be necessary to juggle people around to release the person sooner. A little cooperation from another project could benefit the company.
  • Is there someone in the company who could be trained to fill the position?
  • If the role is for a short period only it may be better to employ a person on a limited contract only, get a temp from an agency, or outsource the job.


Construction companies are always under pressure to cut costs and keep employee numbers to the minimum. This is often exacerbated by the cyclical nature of the construction business which can go from ‘boom’ to ‘bust’ almost overnight. Despite this, it makes sense for construction companies to have training programs to develop their employees to fill roles in the future. People will leave. Companies will obtain new projects. To always think that you will then, at short notice, be able to find just the ‘right person’ is short-sighted. In fact, I’ve often seen that companies don’t find the ‘right person’. They end up employing the ‘wrong person’, which often leads to costly problems on the project, which even impacts the company’s reputation.

What do you consider when you’re searching for someone?

What experience have you had when the ‘wrong person’ was employed?

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