A recruitment company specifically established for the New Zealand construction industry — that’s Building Recruitment, a west-Auckland based company that has found its niche and doing very well thank you.
Building Today editor Andrew Darlington spoke to managing director — and president of the Western Branch of the Auckland Registered Master Builders Association — Kevin Everett, about why he chose to enter the recruitment business.
Building Today: Why did you decide to establish a building recruitment company, how did you set it up and what are your aims?
Building Recruitment: I’d been looking to start a business in the construction industry for some time, and in my management days I’d been dealing with some recruitment agencies who didn’t specialise in the industry, making it difficult for them to understand the specific requirements.
There were many recruitment agents I’d deal with that didn’t actually understand the industry — its people, its culture, the regular issues involved in the industry and the pressures that go along with it.
I would ask agents to look for staff, and I would tell them my needs which they just didn’t understand. It was very frustrating. Instead of saving time in the recruitment process, it was taking longer because of the number of CVs I was reading through from candidates who had been put forward by the agency.
BT: In your dealings with them, what sorts of things were the agencies not really comprehending?
BR: The main things were trying to get the right type of person for the type of job and what the job involved.
It seemed to be very difficult for the agencies I was using to find the right person I was looking for — for example, a project manager to work on a project on-site, who had to understand all the associated issues, have the technical ability to understand the plans and the specific requirements of the project, and who had to understand the impact on other people involved with that project.
The people I was looking for would have to deal with quantity surveyors, project managers, building merchants and architects.
It seemed to be almost impossible for the agency to understand what was involved, so how were they going to be able to put somebody in front of me to do that job?
BT: So having trouble finding appropriate personnel prompted you to think about setting up your own company?
BR: I thought if somebody knew the industry, had the necessary people skills and was able to identify in candidates the specific skills needed by construction industry companies, that they would do pretty well in this market. I thought, hold on, those are the kinds of things I have done before — I’m a people person and I have many years’ experience in the industry.
So what I’ve brought to building recruitment is a personal interest in placing prospective candidates using the knowledge I’ve built up during my time in the industry.
My business ethic is that we will work very closely with a candidate and not just take a look at their CV and send them on their way. The first thing we say to candidates is “we are here to help as an advisor”.
I believe changing jobs is as stressful as moving house. It’s making you move out of your comfort zone, something you have really got to take seriously.
You are dealing with people’s lives, and if you put them into a job that you know isn’t going to work for them, it won’t look good on their CV — it can be a black mark on their employment history. It can also cost the client a lot of money, loss of business or delays on a project.
So you’ve got to take ownership and responsibility for it, and that’s what we are bringing to the recruitment process in the construction industry.
BT: So if someone called you tomorrow and said they wanted a certain person what are the processes you go through to place the right person with that company?
BR: It would depend on the client’s requirements. Our objective would be to sit in front of the client first. We do that for a number of reasons but mainly to establish that personal touch and actually find out more about the business first-hand.
We almost never send any CVs to a client — even if they ask us to — unless we have actually been there. We want to assess the “culture” in the business, and who would be the best fit for that.
An example could be finding a position for a quantity surveyor. A certain QS might want to work in a certain environment, such as being in a room and punching out numbers. We get people like that.
But if the client’s work space is more of an open-plan set-up where everybody is face to face with each other then that person might not fit that type of “culture”.
Or you might have the opposite — a wee room round the corner wouldn’t suit a more flamboyant QS who wants to be out meeting and dealing with people.
From there we go in depth into the detail of the job, analysing job descriptions to match the right people to the right job, the right culture, the right ambitions. We would even look at how easy it is for a candidate to physically get to the office on a daily basis.
Once we’ve got that information we would look through our database or perhaps implement an advertising campaign which we would discuss with our client. From that point on, under no circumstances, do we send anyone through without us interviewing them first.
It could be that we have already interviewed this person but not for that particular job, so we may call them back in and re-interview them with the specifics for the new position.
And our interviews are pretty in-depth. Some of the feedback we have had from candidates is that our interviews have been harder than the actual interviews for the position. I don’t make apologies for that. That is part of our process which ensures we get the right people.
If we don’t have anyone suitable on our database, we tell the client that. We don’t send someone just for the sake of sending someone. We talk to the client about that and we start looking at alternative options — again, advertising, screening and going through the above process.
BT: How long has the company been established, what area do you cover and how many people do you employ?
BR: The company has been in existence since 2005, and the feedback has been very positive. I’ve got four staff members now — which is more than I was expecting at this point — and they have between eight to 35 years’ experience in the industry.
We cover the whole country, and are looking to establish branches in the main centres in the future.
BT: In general, do you find that your clients want personnel fairly quickly?
BR: Yes, always. If someone resigns then that company normally needs to find a replacement sooner rather than later.
We have had a number of clients who have waited more than three months to find a replacement when dealing with other recruitment agencies, whereas we will find the right person in a couple of weeks because we know exactly who and what is required for the job — and that makes the difference.
BT: Tell us a bit about your own involvement in the building industry Kevin.
BR: I have more than 22 years’ experience in the industry. Sixteen years ago while still living in Scotland I took a fall off a roof, so moved into a sales job. I was working on multi-storey construction and nuclear submarine bases in the Highlands of Scotland.
When I moved to New Zealand I worked for Ajax Fasteners and for Pryda, which specialises in timber connecting systems, before becoming involved in engineering for concrete systems.
Latterly, I was sales manager at Tasman Insulation (Pink Batts) and from there I went into national sales at PlaceMakers national office.
BT: So you’ve been involved in many different sectors of the industry?
BR: Absolutely. And I have worked with architects, project managers, national volume builders and major construction companies on projects specifically, and also with local government on issues such as health and safety.
I have been involved with developing products, looking at standards and how to get all that information to the right people.
BT: How have you managed to build up a database of available candidates for industry companies looking for specific personnel?
BR: We have an expansive database exceeding 1000 candidates from a number of different fields on our books. We get plenty of interest just by advertising available positions. Or we get more proactive people seeing our adverts and phoning us in the hope of finding other positions that may not have been advertised.
We have found that a lot of our candidates and clients are telling work friends about us, and so that type of networking and referrals are growing.
In fact, we see ourselves as more than a typical recruitment agency. We sit down with candidates and talk to them. In fact, we even train them in some cases. If we see somebody who has got the ability and the attitude, we will invest our own time and train them, advise them and improve them to the required standard.
We’ve received cards and emails from people thanking us for our assistance and encouragement in helping them become acceptable for a position they thought they might not have been suitable for.
An example of this would be one candidate who had to give a presentation to the chief executive of one of our clients at her second interview.
She hadn’t really been involved in presentations before so I spent two hours with her going through training/presentations and she got the position.
That’s what our job’s about. You’ve got to give something back — it’s a philosophy I believe in, in any walk of life, which is one of the reasons I have recently taken up the position of president of the Western Branch of the Auckland Registered Master Builders Association.