Skills shortages have become a major hurdle for construction companies in Ireland, so much so it is having a significant impact on their organisational growth. One of the most difficult areas has been recruiting quantity surveyors, a position that is in high demand all across the country. This shortage is most evident in the building and M+E space, with civil quantity surveyors also in high demand.
The PQS consultancies, main contractors, and subcontractors that I recently spoke with all noted similar issues; many of them have had the same quantity surveying vacancy open for over a year. They can’t understand why they struggle to get over the final hurdle—the offer acceptance—when recruiting a quantity surveyor.
It seems that for companies experiencing growth, having difficulty with securing Quantity Surveyors and other hard-to-find Construction professionals makes the process highly time-consuming. The commercial managers and commercial directors who I met described their frustration with the results that they were getting from their interview process. Hiring Managers are increasingly becoming discouraged from interviewing potential candidates due to poor results, and are rightly frustrated by the amount of time that they feel they are wasting.
However, the feedback on the quality of candidates is positive. The real issue seems to lie in securing the candidate once they have been deemed suitable for the role. Common reasons include:
- Candidates accept counter-offers from their current employer.
- Candidates interview with multiple companies and choose alternative offers.
- Candidates reject offers due to the remuneration and package.
- Candidates reject offers due to factors such as location, project, scope of work, and company culture.
How Do We Solve or Improve These Occurrences?
In the current market, good people are hard to find, and they will only get harder to find as FDI continues to increase. The way I view the market is that there is a shortage of good quantity surveyors; and, if one becomes available, you’ll have a tough time with 1) finding them and 2) securing them against your competitors. Below are some suggestions that can help companies improve their conversion rates and consequently save hiring managers some time.
#1 Act Quickly
It’s a competitive market. If you delay in interviewing a good candidate, you risk losing them. It’s unlikely that they’ll wait for you if another acceptable position is on the table. Candidates’ enthusiasm towards a role will fade as time goes by. If they have to wait two weeks for an interview or two weeks from the interview to receive an offer, you’ll lose both momentum and enthusiasm. You’ll also be leaving the door open for the competition to turn the candidate’s head their way.
#2 Keep the Interview Process as Efficient as Possible
This is closely correlated with the time issue mentioned above, but not directly related. The old-school recruitment model—in which the candidate has to meet the Line Manager, then has to return for a second interview to meet the director, and then finally has to meet someone else involved in the process—doesn’t work in the current market. It creates frustration for the candidate that, 90% of the time, “takes the shine off” the position. This in turn leads to doubt and negative feelings.
#3 Be Prepared
Follow a structured interview process. A disorganised process, in which the interview feels rushed or the candidate can see that the interviewer is unprepared, will not put the company in a good light. Have some form of structure in place to ensure a smooth and natural flow for the candidate, and to allow for a pleasant meeting. This doesn’t mean that it has to be a rigid process, and you can tailor questions according to how an interview is going. However, a defined structure is a worthwhile aid.
#4 Have a Specific Job Description for the Position
Following on from being prepared, having a specific role and a relevant job description is critical. A specific description can include the division they’ll be in, the project(s) they’ll work on, the responsibilities they’ll be expected to carry out, and who they’ll report to.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If the candidate cannot picture the role you have on offer, it’s very hard for them to get excited about it or decide whether it suits their goals.[/perfectpullquote]
Candidates want to know what they will be doing if they are offered and accept your job, and what benefits it will bring compared to those of their current job. If the candidate cannot picture the role you have on offer, it’s very hard for them to get excited about it or decide whether it suits their goals.
#5 Know Your Company’s Unique Selling Point
It is your responsibility to sell your business to the candidate as much as it is theirs to sell themselves to you. Know your business’s selling points by heart, including at least one unique selling point. Here are some examples:
- You support candidates in obtaining their RICS membership.
- You work an hour less per day than your competitors.
- The average person who has worked for the business has been with the company for X years.
- Your benefits package includes contributory pension; gym membership; healthcare for the candidate, their family, etc.
- You allow candidates to work from home one day per week.
- You have an excellent guaranteed bonus each year.
- You have a clear internal process that maps a candidate’s career progression from day one.
There are so many different selling points that you can use, and you will know them better than most. I suggest having a list of them as part of your interview sheet, gauging the candidate’s motivations throughout the interview, and then ticking the most relevant ones to discuss towards the end of the conversation.
#6 Vet Candidates Before Interviewing
The truth is that there are a lot of time-wasters out there. These range from manipulative candidates—who are only looking to get interest (and, ideally, an offer) from another company to use as a bargaining chip with their current employer to get a pay rise—through to the unrealistic ones who believe that they can get a position five minutes away from their home with a €15,000 pay rise and everything in between!
The thing to focus on here is the candidate’s motivation. As a hiring manager, you are very capable of seeing whether their skills on paper match your requirements. What you likely cannot tell from a CV is what the candidate’s motivation is for changing roles. This is why I’d advise having a process to vet candidates before inviting them for an interview. If you’re working with a trustworthy recruiter, you can do this via them. If you have a HR/Recruitment process, you could ask them to do this for you in a timely manner. Alternatively, you could spend a quick 10 minutes on the phone chatting about the candidate’s motivation before inviting them for an interview.
#7 Try to Be Flexible With Interview Times
Understand that most good candidates are already employed and need to take time away from work to attend an interview. For that reason, many prefer to meet early in the morning or at the end of the day. Be prepared to come in 30 minutes earlier or stay 30 minutes later to meet the candidate. It’s very much a candidate’s market at the moment, and a failure to recognise this could be your downfall.
#8 Try to Secure the Hire
If you’re 100% sure about a candidate at the end of the interview, and you have the authority to make a verbal offer, then why not try to secure the hire right then and there?
#9 Use a Trusted Recruitment Agency
When there’s true cooperation between the hiring company and a recruitment agency, I can see how good recruiters can bring significant value to the hiring process.
Here at Lincoln Recruitment, we put a particular emphasis on conversion rates, and we’re consistently securing candidates for our clients when they’re made an offer. Although you cannot secure all hires, we regularly average an offer acceptance conversion rate of 50%–66%. Therefore, if you’re an employer who makes many offers and secures just one candidate, it may be worth having a discussion about what processes we have in place that could improve this hit rate.
I hope that you found the above tips useful and can use them to improve your hiring process. Please feel free to get in touch for more information and strategies for recruiting quantity surveyors for your organisation.