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Assessing Construction and Engineering Candidates

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​As a Recruiter, my reputation is built upon my ability to match the right candidate to the right role and the right employer. Given the speed and urgency with which we have to do this, it’s easy to understand that sometimes people forget there’s much more involved than simply flicking across a CV in the hope that it will spark interest from a prospective employer! 

Recruiters are required to assess and judge vast quantities of people with the one goal in mind. Finding the right candidates for a variety of client job briefs. We may make it look easy, but here at RobLawMax, we’re building on decades of combined experience and deep knowledge of the Construction and Engineering sectors to get your hire right. By the time a candidate has been vetted and recommended by our team, we have conducted an evaluation of their job-relevant skills, their motivation to do the job and have considered how they will contribute to your organisational culture. As an employer, it can seem daunting to know what steps to take to minimise your hiring risk and maximise a candidate's potential. Here are a few simple steps you can take before you make your next hiring decision.

Avoid Paralysis by Analysis!

Always keep the availability of the skill sets in the current employment market in mind. Due diligence is always important but when your desired skills are in short supply, you simply have to move faster! Don’t get caught out by building in too many obstacles that by the time you’ve assessed your candidate and found them to be exceptional, you’re in the unfortunate situation of missing out on them because they’ve been hired by another employer. So, at every relevant assessment point, consider how to make this both effective, and efficient. It’s always a good idea to ensure you let a candidate and recruitment partner know your timeframes for each stage, so communication doesn’t fall into a vacuum.

Technical Ability

The first thing to do is evaluate a candidate's technical ability. This is generally the most straightforward step to take. Your ability to verify someone’s skills and knowledge in the construction and engineering field can be bolstered by checking out previous work samples and questioning past work examples of similar projects. Qualifications are great, but they are just pieces of paper, probing and exploring the experience and world knowledge of solving the problems your projects face is priceless. There are, of course assessment tests to verify other skills, such as logical reasoning, technical aptitude, and spatial reasoning, which can be administered specific to the engineering space (speak to us here at RobLawMax for some suggestions). References, especially if you as a professional understand the environment or even perhaps know some people at the site named as a reference, can be invaluable. When used in parallel to qualification verification, these can be great weapons in your hiring armoury. 

The Hard Stuff - Soft Skills!

Figuring out if people will fit into the team, the organisation, or just survive someone’s management style is a crucial point in a successful hire. Do you want someone to assimilate easily and painlessly or do you want someone to “shake things up”, make a change and challenge your team? Both are valid requirements but need to be assessed as such. Aside from psychometric tests, you can utilise behavioural interviewing to ascertain certain behavioural characteristics of people. Behavioural interviewing is a technique whereby we ask questions that essentially start with the phrase “tell me about a time when… (insert situation here)”. 


Interviews are also used to try to pinpoint a candidate’s motivation; another key factor required in assessing fit for your team or company. There are plenty of reasons people want to change jobs, You need to find out what candidates want from their work, what drives them to succeed and see how this collates with your role. Ask about their work history. Sounds obvious right? But someone’s promotion history in the competitive engineering and construction sectors is a great exhibit into their drive. Look at outside interests; motivated people are normally motivated about more than just work; life motivates them. They’re engaged, interested in life and can articulate it. 

Maybe the not so obvious questioning can come from questions about failure. Overcoming resilience depicts motivation. Dealing with adversity, and ability to push through when things don’t go as you planned, are pointers in the motivation scale. You can ask questions to pinpoint this trait like “tell me about a time when a project you were working on wasn’t going to plan, and how did you rectify it?”

Assessing someone’s questions is also a positive way of ascertaining someone’s motivation. Do they ask insightful questions? Do their questions show a drive for professional growth? Are they well thought out and meaningful, or just rambling questions to fill in silence left in the interview? Questions will tell you lots about a person’s drive, but even more importantly, they reveal a lot about their interest (or lack of interest!) in your job in particular. If they fail to have any questions about your job, your company, or your role, chances are they’re just going through the motions, and may be more interested in ‘A’ job, than your job!

Culture Fit

Culture fit is mentioned a lot as a really important factor in a successful hire. Figuring that out is a key to success. Don’t wear that stress all on your own. Get your team involved and bought into the decision to hire, team interviews or even a team lunch is a great way to get everyone’s by in or not. Identifying someone’s core values and how they would fit into your team is an imperative for a successful hiring manager. This is not a simple task, but if this is something you want to focus on, try a question like “What personal characteristics do you feel are necessary to be a successful Engineer?” What you want to hear is someone to identify three or four characteristics and then expand as to why they are important. Attitudes around health and safety, and other areas of non-negotiable company policies are important. For instance, "What would you do if you knew a colleague was neglecting health and safety requirements to finish a job faster?" You can also ask for past examples to see how they have previously behaved.

Legal Issues

When all is said and done, don't let yourself be tripped up by the legalities. There are things you just cannot ask. Things like “so, when are you going to have kids?”, “Surely you’re too old to be interested in a role like this” etc. Sticking to a designed framework of questions that are relevant to a construction or engineering job is essential to keep you on course and keep you out of trouble. 

If you are in doubt and are not sure where and what you can ask, you can always talk to your approachable RobLawMax representative. Or of course just head on over to the Human Rights Commission or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to get all the official wording. 


Finding the perfect candidate is a challenge at the best of times, not to mention structuring the kind of interview that enables you to minimise risk and maximise pay off. There is a lot to consider and many pitfalls along the way. A great interview takes skill and expertise which is why it can be hugely beneficial to enlist the help of a recruiter to make sure you get the job done right.

If you have questions about your current interview process or would like to see how a recruitment specialist like myself can help, please get in touch.