Building a Better Workforce

How should a construction outfit go about recruiting workers who actually know their trade? Very carefully

By Karen E. Klein

Q: I own a construction business doing commercial and industrial projects. We're a corporation and we pay well, but I have problems finding good employees. I've advertised and let people know exactly what we're looking for. Applicants say they have experience, but when they show up for work, it turns out they don't know how to hold a paint brush! Any advice on how to choose the right personnel? -- S.T., Chesterfield, Va.


There are many methods of finding the right employee for any kind of work, including construction. You need to have a hiring procedure that includes interviewing, reference checks, skills testing, and perhaps even a probationary period, experts say.

"Hiring right off the street is probably not a good idea for any employer," says Dennis S. Day, executive director for public affairs of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA), a trade organization based in Alexandria, Va. "Many opportunities for employment exist at all levels of construction, from laborer to project manager to supervisor and more."


  Day also advises expanding your horizins when looking for employees. "Never have the opportunities to enter the construction industry been greater for women and minorities than they are now," he notes. "This is due to the high volume of construction around the country, which is creating jobs." Once you find the right employees, the next challenge will be to keep them. "High pay is only part of the solution, as more employees are looking for health benefits and training and education programs," says Day. "As with any business decision, hiring the right personnel can take time, but it is time that can be well invested."

It never hurts to get advice from other entrepreneurs on how they handle recruiting and hiring, so consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce or other business group, and check out AGCA's Web site for the tips and expertise on offer. Good luck!

Editor's note: When it comes to marketing, Corporate America bandies about big words -- branding, product launches, value-added -- and backs them up with bigger bucks. Meanwhile, small-business owners implement huge marketing efforts on tiny budgets. BusinessWeek Online's SmallBiz would like to share these successes. So, if your marketing drive put some runs on the board, send an e-mail to and tell us what you're doing. We will choose the most interesting submissions, interview the business owners, and have a marketing expert comment.

Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

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