Chapter Corner

You're Hired: How to Recruit and Interview Employees

Posted in: Features, January/February 2015

youre_hired.gifGetting from the application process to "You're hired!" can be a daunting process. Simply put, there are two main components to recruiting and hiring:

  1. Knowing the traits and abilities of the hiring pool.
  2. Knowing the right questions to ask those candidates.
By having the requisite knowledge of who you are recruiting and what you should ask, you can hire the right people for the right job. this sounds simple, but many employers don’t bother to do the necessary research before embarking on the hiring process. Good recruiters know that they should come into every interview equipped with a good sense of who they are dealing with and how to best approach them. 

Recruitment is often centered around the next generation entering the workforce today. if one of your goals is to attract young people to the construction industry, you need to know exactly who you’re dealing with from a generational perspective. When breaking down an entire generation, it’s easy to “paint with a broad brush.” so, keep in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule. but it’s useful to look at general trends in the personalities and actions of the generation-at-large. With that caveat in mind, what follows is a broad overview of personality traits and behavioral styles that will help you get to the all-important phrase, “you’re hired!” 

The “Me First” Generation

The millennial generation is also known as the “Me first” generation in some circles. They look at a company or job and ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” This can be a positive in a lot of ways, but can also come off as self-absorbed. This generation believes in being unique and special. They have a strong self-identity that allows them to think about salary, benefits, and upward mobility above other factors. This strong sense of self can be a major positive for a company if nurtured in the correct manner. 

Above and beyond identity issues, Millennials are team-oriented people who want to be valued, respected, and see where they fit into the larger hierarchy of the company. They value interdependence and want to be involved in the decision-making process. Collaboartion is seen as the best way to solve problems while fostering the growth of the employee.

As for communication, the Millennials grew up in an age of technology, where computers are ubiquitous and communication primarily done through texting instead of talking. This outlook can often clash with the style of older employers, but it’s important to bridge the gap in ways that suit both sides. At the end of the day, it is best to have open, honest, two-way interaction with a focus on constructive feedback. They want the ability to bring problems to the forefront without negative repercussions. Furthermore, Millennials are looking for a workforce with a focus and understanding of five major traits:

1. Mistakes.

Errors are great  feedback mechanisms and learning opportunities. Let them know when something is not working and collaborate with them on how to find a more effective solution. 

2. Fear.

They are generally not afraid of anything new or different as long as the change leads to doing their jobs more effectively. The key question is: What can we do to remove the obstacles and achieve positive results? Action is everything.

3. Anger.

It’s okay to be angry about  negative results yet resolve issues with emotional control and effective listening.

4. Stubbornness.

Stand firm for the right cause and don't compromise your standards. Get people to own their responsibilities. Creating ownership means the standards are understood and that there will be accountability when those standards are not met.

5. Divorce

For everything, there is a season. Inother words, if something is no longer getting good results, eliminate it and find a better way forward. Stop owning the wrong responsibility and embrace change. This will foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, the two keys to creating a positive working environment.

So that's a general breakdown of the generation that is looking for jobs in the industry today. From personality to behavior to reinforcement, it's important to have a working knowledge of what makes prospective employees tick.

Ask the Right Questions

The next part of the recruitment and hiring process is asking the right questions. Once you know what type of worker you’re dealing with, you can begin to assemble the most effective list of questions to glean everything you need  to know from a candidate. Employers often lose their way when they ask the wrong questions, leading to the hiring of the wrong candidate and worse, losing the right candidate to a competitor. don’t let good  workers slip through your fingers.

So, what are the right questions? There is not a secret collection of magic interview questions that will unlock everything you need to know about a future hire. Rather, it’s about getting back to basics and sticking to the fundamentals of the job. By keeping questions simple and straight-forward, you put the onus on the candidate to prove their worth via their answers. Look to see if they have a solid knowledge base combined with the ability to improvise and think on their feet. Do they get rattled? Do they try to cover up for lack of knowledge by not directly answering the question? How does their general personality come off? Is this someone you want as part of your workforce? Is this person a “teammate” or a “free agent?”

Below is a list of questions that can help bring all of the above out during an interview process. You can embellish on them depending on the specifics of your company, but remember to keep it simple enough so the focus is on the answers and not the questions.

At the end of the day, if you ask the right questions you’ll find the right person. Take the process seriously and go into each interview with a sense of purpose while remembering that it’s not all about you. It’s about connecting the employee and employer in a way that sets the larger company up for future success.

Norb Slowikowski is a productivity consultant who has been working in the construction industry since 1982. He is the author of the book, “Hard-Hat Productivity: 9 Critical Factors for Maximizing Profits." Contact him at

Questions to Ask During the Interview Process

  1. What do you think are the key responsibilities for this job?
  2. What needs to happen to ensure that a project is manager effectively from start to finish?
  3. How would you go about eliminating the following barriers on the job site?
      1. Lack of quality manpower.
      2. Lack of understanding of scope of work.
      3. Equipment/materials arriving late to site.
      4. Lack of quality supervision, good coordination, and effective planning from the general contractor.
      5. The general contractor superintendent "bouncing" you around the job site.
  4. What is the best way to encourage teamwork between the "Team Triangle," a.k.a., the foreman, superintendent, and project manager?
  5. How would you deal with incomplete poor-quality drawings coming out to the field?
  6. What is the number one trait that makes a good foreman?
  7. What would be your role in the pre-job planning meeting?
  8. How would you rank the following five productivity indicators in order of importance for improving productivity? Why?
      1. Supervisory skills training.
      2. More action and support from management.
      3. Better pay and fringe benefits.
      4. Continuous training.
      5. More qualified manpower.
  9. Two of the biggest barriers to job site productivity is lack of support from project managers and clogged communication between the office and the field. How would you go about eliminating these barriers?
  10. What motivates you? Be specific.
  11. What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your life up to this point? How did you handle it?
  12. What do you think your current or last employer would say about your performance, work habits, and attitude?
  13. What does being "Customer focused" mean to you?
  14. How do you respond to stress and pressure? What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
  15. How do you react to the statement, "Productivity is a management problem?"