How is the lack of quality candidates affecting UK Construction businesses and what can we do about it?!

12 mins

Recently, published the results of a recent survey which showed 39% of respon...

By Natasha Crump

Chief People & ESG Officer

Recently, published the results of a recent survey which showed 39% of respondents reporting they had seen an increase in labour costs in the last quarter and 66% in the last year! However, with over 52% of construction bosses expecting their workload to increase in the next year this is a serious problem faced by all who want to make the most of such a buoyant industry. Our team at Amoria Bond have recently been conducting research into the current Construction Market in a bid to better understand the impact that the lack of quality candidates is having on UK businesses. This has mainly included various surveys, meetings and interviews with industry leading figures and as part of our ongoing research I recently met up with a hiring manager who works for one of the UK’s leading construction organisations. The focus of the meeting was to discuss:

  • How the current Construction market is changing
  • The affect that the lack of quality candidates is having on UK businesses
  • What can be done to improve your chances of hiring the best talent over your competitors 

He has extensive experience in both contract and permanent hires for his team and he told me the biggest problem that he had faced over recent years was being on the receiving end of a bombardment of countless irrelevant, unqualified and un-reference checked CVs whenever he has given a ‘specialist’ agency a job spec. He said this had the usual repercussions you’d expect such as wasting significant amounts of critical time and impacting project delivery. Interestingly, he also added that it meant he was reluctant to pay the agency fees as he feels he is doing their job for him and the whole recruitment process has become a negative exercise viewed as a morale-battering waste of time, effort and resource.

One example he gave me was of one role in particular that was left vacant for 18 months, despite countless CVs, interviews and even 2 offers the role still remained open. One candidate they offered went off the radar between the offer stage and start date, the second came on board and was sacked within a number of weeks for being a lose cannon! Does this sound familiar to you?

The manager and I identified three key areas that are impacting a hiring manager’s ability to recruit the skills he/she needs: The market, the client’s process, the recruiter’s process. I’ve split these into subheadings below and outlined the results of our discussion.

The Market

Plain and simple, many skillsets in the construction sector are hard to find… and it’s getting more and more difficult! The candidates with these skillsets that remained in the industry during the recession are now in managerial roles and with a lack of investment in these skills between 2008-2015 (coupled with a lot of people leaving the construction industry in this period), there is now a void in the market. With increased demand and dwindling supply, competition for these skillsets are rising quickly – along with rates/salaries on offer. This is well documented throughout the industry at the moment, but something that caught my attention recently was a report published by Construction News stating 97% of construction bosses fear skills shortages would hinder their ability to deliver their projects on time and budget this year!!

With employers keen to retain their staff in such a competitive industry, and counter offers being common place, it’s clear that hiring managers need to offer more attractive packages to attract and secure the best talent.

The Client’s Process

The manager talked me through their company process for both permanent and contract recruitment which were both very similar to a large number of the other clients we work with: Half a dozen agencies forming a ‘preferred supplier list’ but still keen to hear about good candidates from other recruiters.

He thought there were 4 main areas that could be improved on the client’s side which would increase their chances of attracting & securing the right talent:

  1. Working with the recruiter to improve how competitive the opportunity is on the market. For contractors, this could be anything from increased rate, to more hours per week, longer contract durations, advertising prestigious projects, interesting day to day role etc. On permanent, this could be future career prospects, clear professional development opportunities, travel opportunities, salary package & benefits etc.
  2. Less of a cloak and dagger approach between client, recruiter and candidate. Normally, the client offer/advertise less than what they are prepared to pay however advertising this reduced rate/salary on the market means they are less likely to initially attract the ‘cream of the crop’.
  3. Ensuring the hiring company takes location into consideration. One of the main challenges for this client is attracting people away from a major city close by. This needs to be factored in to the offer in order to compete with businesses in the city centre for the industry’s best talent.
  4. Quicker turn around time from the client. This hiring manager had recently witnessed interview feedback & offer taking 3 weeks by another manager in the business. The longer the turnaround time (both CV & interview feedback) the less likely you are to secure the candidate for several reasons: (i) longer turnaround times seem unprofessional and portray your company in a bad light harming it’s reputation and brand image; (ii) The candidate is likely to have been taken off the market by the time you make an offer or request them for interview; (iii) The candidate loses confidence/interest in the role / gets cold feet.

The Recruiter’s Process

The Hiring Manager had experience of recruiting both contractors and permanent candidates so we discussed each area separately as shown below:

Contract Recruitment Method

For contract recruitment we discussed how relevant/suitable each of the 7 recruitment strategies used at Amoria Bond are to find and secure suitable candidates in the current market. These are outlined below:

Working Interview – this is where a full resource team of up to 8 consultants work urgently in the market to identify a shortlist of suitable candidates that are immediately available. We proceed to take a minimum of 2 verbal references from past employers on all shortlisted candidates and select the most suitable & most committed candidate with the best track record. This candidate starts on the pre agreed date without being interviewed previously by the client, however we mitigate any risk to the client by agreeing to cover any financial cost to the candidate should the first day not work out (there is an immediate notice period for the first day). This is usually most suited to hard to find skillsets or very urgent roles and is ideal if a requirement is identified on a Friday afternoon for someone to start Monday morning!

Interview slots & Exclusivity – this is where a resource team of up to 7 consultants work exclusively with the hiring manager to identify a shortlist of suitable candidates. We proceed to take a minimum of 2 verbal references from past employers on all shortlisted candidates and select the best 3 to book straight in for the pre agreed interview times set out in the manager’s diary at job spec stage.

Interview Slots – this is where a resource team of up to 5 consultants work to the above process however the hiring manager still receives CVs from different recruiters.

Exclusivity – This is where a resource team of up to 3 consultants work to identify suitable candidates on an exclusive basis with the client and recommend suitable candidates once they have been qualified and reference checked.

CV Feedback within 24 hours – This is where a resource team of up to 2 consultants work to identify suitable candidates to recommend to the hiring manager. The hiring manager commits to providing CV feedback within 24 hours.

Sending CVs on finding candidates – This is classed as a low level of commitment from the hiring manager and subsequently receives only one recruitment consultant working to identify suitable candidates.

This hiring manager had experience in most of the aforementioned strategies and felt working exclusively with the agency depended on the agency themselves. He had found that there are some benefits of working exclusively, such as taking the ‘rat race’ out of the search which can incentivise the recruiter to cut corners at qualification stage when up against the clock. However, he also felt this could narrow market exposure and limit candidate selection. The benefits of not working exclusively were that some agencies react to the competition well which generates more CVs, although other agencies put less resource on to the role as it is less commitment from the hiring manager. It is worth having this discussion with the agency before agreeing to exclusivity.

He felt the interview slots were also a good idea as it meant the process was more organised, however in his experience he thought the Working Interview approach works best in the current market conditions for the following reasons:

  • Increased speed of process.
  • Able to assess the candidate more effectively – given that the hiring manager had experienced making an offer to the wrong candidate which wasted a significant amount of time, this approach would mean both parties would understand each other better and fully commit to the contract.
  • Increased commitment from the hiring manager means increased commitment from the recruiter to put more resource into finding and qualifying the candidates.
  • A Working Interview is often the preferred way to work for the recruiter as it offers the highest rate of success, so a hiring manager happy to conduct working interviews makes them a key target client for the recruiter which in turn is likely to offer better service and prioritise you above other clients.

Permanent Recruitment Method

On a permanent basis, the hiring manager felt that the recruiter could support the client more in candidate selection. When making a permanent offer, it is crucial for the hiring manager to be sure the candidate is competent enough to perform well in the role but also fit into the current team dynamics too. This can be determined by the hiring manager at face to face interview stage, however given that this is the most time consuming part of the process for the hiring manager he thought the agency could add more value by conducting the technical tests at qualification stage. This is only applicable in some roles, however if the recruiter held a ‘technical test day’ where the hiring manager would meet all candidates in the running to conduct a technical test then this would help identify which candidates would be worth bringing through to interview stage. Alternatively, in some cases the recruiter could implement the technical test into their own qualification process and provide the results of the test along with the CV on recommendation.

As skillsets in the construction market get harder to find, and competition to hire them increases, it’s evident that hiring managers across the industry need to review their current recruitment strategy to ensure it is the most effective it can be. If you would like to discuss how your recruitment process could be improved with one of our experienced recruitment consultants please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0161 448 888 1 or by e-mail on