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  • Writer's pictureAJ Cheponis

How to hire a top-performing construction manager

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

A good construction manager is the key to a successful build. They oversee construction from planning to project completion, playing an essential role in ensuring the build is done on time, safely, and according to budget.

With the construction industry booming and hiring for construction managers expected to grow 11% by 2026, narrowing in how to hire a top-performing construction manager has never been more important.

Because this role touches every aspect of your build—from the initial planning to the final inspection—construction managers play a large role in the success of a project. Make the wrong hire, and your project may end up completely off-track, causing safety incidents, overspending, questionable quality, or delays in production.

We often rely on our gut reactions and lean heavily on references when hiring - even for critical roles like this one.

Here are some reasons to hire differently:

Your gut isn’t a good predictor of job success. Having a positive “gut feel” about someone doesn’t mean they’ll be successful in the role. Rather than relying on your gut for hiring, you should be leaning on objective measures that more accurately predict future job performance, including structured interviews, behavioral assessments, and cognitive assessments.

References can be deceiving. Regardless of how or why an employee left a company, most former managers are hesitant to give a negative reference. The employee may have been a nice person who simply wasn’t a good fit for the position they were in.

All that said, how can you hire a project manager who’ll be a great fit for your construction company? Here are four places to start:

1. Define the skills the project manager role requires.

The ideal candidate for this position has a variety of skills that tie into the essential role of project manager. These include strong communication skills, the ability to manage multiple people and projects simultaneously, and a proclivity for problem-solving.

Candidates must be able to:

  • Read and understand blueprints, contracts, and change order requests

  • Create and execute job bids, reports, and proposals

  • Hire, schedule, and oversee employees and subcontractors

  • Troubleshoot problems as they arise

  • Ensure worksite safety and compliance with building codes

  • Assist in securing permits and inspections

Decide which skills are essential for the construction manager you’re hiring and write a job description that highlights those skills. You’ll also want to consider the combination of experience and certifications your ideal candidate has. While not every project will require extensive on-the-job experience, more complex builds may require construction managers who have worked on a similar project before.

2. Identify the critical behavioral traits you need.

For success in this role, you need someone who’s able to take charge and pay precise attention to details. The following are behavioral traits most hiring managers look for in a construction project manager:

  • Organized

  • Pays close attention to detail

  • Proactive

  • Autonomous

  • Matter-of-fact

  • Precise

We recommend that hiring managers create a Job Target to isolate the behavioral traits and cognitive ability someone needs to succeed in the role. You can then assess your prospective candidates against this target.

3. Use smarter hiring practices to find candidates.

The next step to finding the right hire is to streamline the hiring process. This is best achieved through the use of science, which allows for objective hiring decisions and data-driven interviews.

Our PI Behavioral Assessment identifies candidates’ innate behavioral drives. After someone takes the assessment, we assign them one of 17 Reference Profiles. These show us what drives the person’s workplace behaviors and help ensure job fit.

Our PI Cognitive Assessment measures a person’s ability to learn new things. If someone’s cognitive score doesn’t fall within the range you set in your Job Target, they’ll likely struggle to succeed.

4. Address and removing hiring biases.

Despite our best intentions, unconscious bias often plays into our hiring process. Without an awareness of when and how this bias is creeping up, we can unknowingly hire the same type of people over and over again—missing out on the critical diversity companies need to innovate.

The best way to reduce subjective bias is to incorporate objective science into your hiring process through the use of tools such as behavioral or cognitive assessments.

3 most common Reference Profiles for construction project managers

Over time, 1,144 people have set a Job Target for the construction manager role in our software. When we look at the types of people they’re looking for, we find three Reference Profiles that stand out above the rest.

1. Analyzer

Analyzers have high standards and can come across rather intense. Perfect for a project management role, they’re comfortable delegating both details and authority—although they’re highly selective in who they delegate to. Disciplined and strong on execution, they excel at making data-driven decisions and ensuring projects are completed to specification.

2. Controller

Controllers are detail-oriented and work hard to develop technical expertise. Their drive to get things done the right way helps them to make objective decisions and stay on track with budgets and timelines. A Controller’s tendency to understand and follow rules and regulations makes them a natural fit for a construction manager position.

3. Specialist

Specialists pay close attention to numbers and details, allowing them to make thorough, factual decisions. Once they know the rules and expectations of a job, they’re able to process information quickly and use data to drive decision-making. While naturally more reserved than the other two Reference Profiles, Specialists are highly understanding and collaborative. Their orientation toward fast-paced, precise work makes them a good candidate for a project management role in construction.

How to attract and hire great construction managers

How to attract top-performing construction project managers

Here are a few tips for attracting Analyzers, Controllers, and Specialists to your open position:

Check your employer brand.

As factual and skeptical as these types are, you can bet they’re researching your company before applying—let alone interviewing. Check out your Glassdoor rating and your online reputation to make sure your company culture and work environment will attract top performers.

You’ll also want to use language in your job ads that will resonate with them. This includes information about what they can expect in the role, clear KPIs, and assurance of the sort of accountable, rules-based environment they prefer.

Try to get a referral.

Erring on the side of being more conservative than not, these Reference Profiles are not likely to be looking for a new position if they’re comfortable where they are. When they do start job searching, their proven excellence tends to land them a job pretty quickly.

When looking for a new construction manager, the easiest way to find them is through referrals—people they’ve worked with previously who were impressed by their accuracy and reliability. Reach out to your existing employees and network to see if anyone knows of a potential good fit.

Hang on to them.

The new hire paperwork isn’t the end of the hiring process. Once you’ve got your ideal construction manager in the door, you want to keep them around. These Reference Profiles thrive on rules and clear expectations. Let them know exactly what you expect from them and how they can be successful in their role, then watch them execute according to orders.

Hiring isn’t something you want to leave to guesswork.

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