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Challenges recruiting the best talent in the construction sector

It is a common misconception that a buoyant market sector automatically leads to an easy life in the recruitment world. With an abundance of buying customers in desperate need of their number one commodity, you could be forgiven for believing a good recruiter is sat on easy street, smoking cigars and drinking brandy whilst watching the pound notes roll in. The reality is in fact very different, with consultants having to double their efforts in order to stay ahead of the game.

So what are the biggest challenges we are faced with in recruiting the best talent in the construction sector and why are these challenges magnified in a busy market?


First and foremost, a busy market creates an opportunity which in turn creates huge competition. In a sector where a large number of employers are all seeking the same kind of employees, this inevitably leads to candidates having an enviable amount of choice rather than just the one or two options available in less prosperous times. This inevitably leads to the recruitment process slowing down considerably as the competition intensifies between end clients and recruiters as the candidate mulls over their multiple options. Ultimately, the candidate can only choose one option, in the end, meaning several parties miss out.


While companies are battling it out trying to secure new talent to drive their teams forward, the last thing they want is to lose a member of staff. This leads to problem number 2 – increased retention of existing staff members. Companies are more than aware of the cost and time implications of having to find and potentially train a new member of staff (in addition to all of the challenges listed in this article) and consequently are pulling out all the stops to prevent this from happening. As Senior Consultant Kerry O’Donovan explains, “Clients are becoming increasingly aware of just how important it is to retain important members of staff and they are doing absolutely everything possible to ensure they avoid this”.


This increased level of retention can also create a ripple effect with other potentially negative implications further down the line. As Senior Consultant Jerome Lewis identifies. “Counter offers are becoming a real problem, especially when that counter offer involves paying serious money to keep a staff member on board. The knock on effect of this is that when the candidate starts to explore the market again (as they inevitably will when they realise that the increased pay has done nothing to eliminate the problem that led to them seeking alternatives in the first place), their salary expectations become unrealistic and moving can become problematic.”


Multiple needs for candidates at the same level / with the same skillset
Peter Alleyne, a commercial expert in the residential sector told us: “Many of the developers I work with are struggling to find people at specific levels within their business. For instance, a few of the clients I work regularly with are well stocked with Junior and Senior Quantity Surveyors but are in urgent need of several project surveyors.”
This shortage of a particular candidate or skillset causes havoc when it comes to recruiting talent as this leads directly to all the points mentioned in points 1,2 and 3.


Increased noise (different from true competition)
When an industry sector starts to get very busy, a variety of people tend to swarm towards it. Recruitment companies who do not specialise in that particular sector smell a busy market and decide to allocate some time to trying to fill jobs in this new “hot space”. New recruitment businesses spring up all over the place claiming to be experts in the field (an average of around 800 recruitment businesses per MONTH were established in 2017) and all this serves to do is create “noise” and lots of it. This can be very frustrating for clients and candidates as – in addition to dealing with their normal job requirements or job searches – they now have to contend with recruiters who do not understand the sector and the intricacies within each of the roles, resulting in Building Surveyors being spoken to about Quantity Surveyor roles and Project Managers being approached with Commercial roles. This wastes everybody’s time, delays the recruitment process and harms the reputation of the recruitment sector, which is massively frustrating for genuine market expert recruiters.


Finally, skill shortages in the construction industry have been widely reported over the last year or so, with many people talking about the “looming talent crisis facing the sector”.
So while the workloads continue to mount for construction companies, the amount of talent available to fulfil their various roles doesn’t necessarily tally. This coupled with all of the above points makes for a very interesting dynamic where not only is there intense competition, but a genuine lack of talent to carry out the work, thus strangling the market even further and forcing recruiters to be even more agile, savvy and efficient in order to make sure they fill clients’ roles.

The good news is that despite the above, for businesses and recruiters doing things properly and working smartly, the opportunity to be successful is categorically there. But hopefully this goes some way to show that it certainly isn’t plain sailing trying to recruit the best talent in the construction sector, even in a very busy and buoyant market.