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How to Select the Best Employees in the Construction Industry

Finding reliable, trustworthy employees can be a challenge, especially in the construction industry. This is a fact most contractors are well aware of today, but like most aspects of running a successful business, a little work at the beginning of the hiring process can help prevent a lot of headaches, delays, and costs that can be caused by hiring the wrong employees.

Between my own architectural firm, Livestone Consulting, and the several dozen general contractors we work with on a daily basis, I’ve learned a lot of the common hiring mistakes and I’m going to share with you how to avoid them.

Conduct Background Checks

I have this bad habit of trusting people too much, and unfortunately, that has burned me more than a few times. Because of that, I’ve learned to, as a wise man once said, trust but verify.

I’ve been more fortunate than some when it comes to this. For example, a flooring supplier I work with recently told me a story about a an employee of his who disappeared with a lot of company-owned equipment and supplies. When he contacted the police, they informed him that the former employee had a lengthy record for doing exactly that. A simple background check would have easily prevented him from losing thousands of dollars, and would also have prevented his customer’s project from falling behind.

Instead of taking potential new hires at their word, I now conduct a thorough background check. I suggest finding a reputable private investigator in your local area because they’ll be more thorough and attentive since they work and live in the same community as their clients.

Always Check References

This one seems like common sense, but when you’re already short-staffed and behind on a deadline, it’s easy to skip this step and rely instead on gut instinct. This is always a bad move. Usually, it’s the most incompetent employees who talk the best game, and they often have a habit of bringing down the rest of your crew with them.

It may take a few extra days to properly check references on a potential employee, but it may help you avoid hiring a deadbeat, thief, or substance abuser.

Speaking of substance abuse…

Conduct Drug Testing

Employees with substance abuse problems (that includes both drugs and alcohol) are less productive and more accident prone compared to other employees. Productivity is important in every industry, but safety is a critical consideration in the construction industry because accidents on the job site are usually more severe than those in a typical office.

You might think it’s easy to spot employees who abuse drugs or alcohol, but the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that 70% of substance abusers are employed. This means that statistically speaking, it’s a near certainty that some of your current workforce and potential employees do. It’s even more certain when you consider the statistics by industry—The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that the construction industry has one of the highest rates of substance abuse.

Drug and alcohol testing is pretty simple and straightforward these days. A lot of contractors I work with send their potential new hires (as well as existing employees) to a traditional lab, like Quest or LabCorp, for drug testing. I’ve also heard from several contractors who have a drug testing company come out to the job site to conduct drug testing, which minimizes downtime. One of the companies that offers this type of service is USAMDT, based right here in Tampa, Florida. In fact, one of their locations, USA Mobile Drug Testing of Atlanta, performs both the new hire and random drug testing for one of the contractors I provide architectural services for in Georgia.