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The skills shortage is increasing the competition for hiring quality staff, say Chris Peace, but candidates shouldn’t be enticed by short-term financial gains.

Since July we have noticed a slight market slump, with some firms becoming more hesitant when recruiting compared to 2015 and early 2016.  However, despite this downturn and the well published skills shortages, plus the uncertainty over Brexit and the future of the single market, there is still a lot of positivity in the construction sector.

In particular, the quantity surveying and project management markets remain strong. Competition for candidates in these areas remains fierce due to skills shortages. We have seen at least a 40% increase in demand for quantity surveying and project management jobs this year, and expect demand to continue to rise.

However, the problem is that every client seems to be looking for the same thing; a quantity surveyor or project manager with circa 3 years’ experience and a strong potential for business development. The reason for this is succession planning, which is high on the agenda of most organisations. As a result, this person specification is currently difficult to source, and no doubt these highly-sought after candidates will have multiple offers to consider when they do become available.

Firms need to plan further ahead and start thinking longer term, ideally, planning their recruitment strategy for the next 12 months on a rolling basis. If this does not happen, it will be hard for companies to find the right quality of candidate when required. I am aware our clients are very busy, but it is essential that time is made for recruiting now or they run the high risk of being unable to deliver for their own clients.

Organisations need to be aware that:

  • Flexibility is vital - a 10/10 candidate may be particularly difficult to source, so slight expectation adjustments may need to be made to accommodate a 7/10 candidate and focus on their development.
  • Counter offers will happen, which slows up the recruitment process.
  • Candidates have a lot of power, they will take their time when deciding on the right job for them, which will most likely be well paid with good future prospects.
  • All of the above contributes to a prolonged recruitment process/period.

Companies need to start rewarding their existing staff as retention is crucial. There are three important reasons for doing this:

  • If you want to keep productivity high you need to keep staff happy and motivated, this will include paying individuals their market value.
  • Head hunting will be happening, so if valued members of staff are not rewarded this could lead to their heads being turned easily by opportunities elsewhere.
  • People talk, so when you are competing to hire candidates will already know whether your company has a good reputation for looking after their staff.

The biggest piece of advice I would give candidates is not to price yourself out of the market. Think about your long-term career prospects and not just a short-term financial win. I would also recommend that everyone undertakes a twice-yearly career MOT. This will look at the options available to you, market conditions and the level of earnings within your peer group. There are always industry experts available who can offer private and confidential advice.

In terms of the future, we will have to wait and see the full impact of Brexit and any implications that go with it, but from speaking to our clients we believe the market will remain steady, particularly for quantity surveyors and project managers whose skills remain scarce. We will also see some pretty major technology advances within the construction and recruitment sector, which will be exciting, but may result in a less personal service. I guess we will just have to watch this space…..

Chris Peace is Managing Director of Peace Recruitment

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