Ultimate Guide to Hiring Junior Estimators

What’s important when hiring a junior estimator, what questions should you ask candidates, how do vet the qualified from the unqualified candidates?  

We sat down with Gareth McGlynn, CEO of Niche Specialist Staffing Partners, and host of The Preconstruction Podcast, to get his expert advice on the best practices when hiring and interviewing junior construction estimators Niche Specialist Staffing Partners logo

Niche SSP is the premiere staffing agency for preconstruction professionals. They work with both job seekers and general contractors to find the right fit for precon teams across the country. Gareth has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and over 10 years of experience working in the construction and staffing industries in Ireland, U.K., Australia, and the United States.  

The Job Title is Misleading 

When we hear the word ‘junior,’ we automatically think younger. But the title of junior estimator doesn’t necessarily have to mean a recent college or trade school graduate. A junior estimator is someone new to preconstruction—whether they are transitioning from years of field experience, or an intern being offered a full-time position—a junior estimator has no age limit.  

When you need to fill a junior estimating role, Gareth says the first thing Niche SSP always asks GCs is if there is anyone internally who is a good fit. So, before shifting through a sea of resumes, think about those with field experience who would transition well to precon.  

Once you have done that and are ready to start looking to hire the ideal candidate, Gareth has a lot of proven tips that set you up for success. 

You Must Be Able to Sell Your Brand 

Beck Technology team member happily playing foosball in the Beck Technology office. Attracting the younger generation is challenging. The perception that precon isn’t sexy is no secret. Precon professionals talk about it all the time. However, our evolving digital landscape is changing that. But until there are more industry wide standards of technology utilization, general contractors must be prepared to sell themselves and their brand. Therefore, Gareth says, “The interviewer is vital.” 

Select Your Interviewer Carefully

One of Gareth’s top suggestions is to “select your interviewer very carefully.” It cannot be someone who has spent years in the field. They just won’t be able to relate to a younger candidate. Gareth says, “It’s no one’s fault. It’s just a clash that will never go away.”  

So, who is the perfect interviewer to represent your company well?  

For the first interview, Gareth says someone with extensive preconstruction knowledge. Pick middle management, a senior or preconstruction manager with about 5 years’ experience who can sell precon and your company’s culture.  

Your candidate will be (or should be) asking a lot of questions during the interview. Gareth says if your interviewer isn’t clear, concise, or organized, the candidate knows they will be working with this person closely so they will most likely not take the position.  

Be Prepared to be GrilledGen Z working

Gareth says recent grads want to know everything about your company. He says they will be very detailed in their questions and will ask about the revenue, stability, and equity in the company. They will have done their research.  

Also, you will need to be able to give the interviewee a clear idea of what their path is in the role, what the expectations are, what deliverables they will be responsible for, and your plan for their training and development. They will ask about training and development Gareth says. “The old way of doing construction, you just hire someone, they sit down, their expected to go and do it themselves, it’s not the way the next generation works.”  

“The dynamic is different now,” Gareth observes. Unlike Gen X and older generations, who wouldn’t dare do anything to scare off an interviewer, the younger generation asks what’s in it for them as much as you’re trying to figure out if they are a good fit for you.  

Know What to Look For 

When hiring a junior estimator, you won’t be able to rely on their past precon experience, so you will want to learn their: 

  • Ability to communicate well 
  • Focus and follow-through 
  • Passion 
  • Emotional intelligence 

3 Good Questions to Ask  

3 Questions to ask JR Estimators Infographics

To get your answers to the above bullet points, Gareth gave us three questions to ask potential junior estimators.  

Question: When there is a problem at work, how do you go about solving it? 

This question will demonstrate the job seeker’s ability to communicate well, if they have focus, and the level of emotional intelligence they have. Gareth says they need to be able to describe a scenario that they came out of the other side, that shows they “stuck it out.”  

He says, “Being able to get through problems and show a bit of resilience, a bit of grit, that’s the magic sauce.” 

Question: What do you do outside of work to better yourself? 

This question relates to the first one. Do they have a trusted mentor or someone they lead on for professional advice and development? Gareth says it is a red flag if they don’t.  

Further, their extracurricular activities will demonstrate their commitment.  

Question: Why do you leave your job or are leaving your current position/company? 

Gareth says one of the biggest red flags of job seekers is job hopping. It usually indicates a lack of responsibility. The reason for leaving jobs frequently usually shows that “the problem always seems to be somebody else’s fault,” Gareth points out.  

This question will help you determine their focus, commitment, and follow-through. Gareth says, “They have got to have seen something through from start to finish.” Whether that is a degree, internship, or job responsibilities.  

Equally important is noticing if they haven’t job-hopped. If a candidate has a tenure somewhere but hasn’t been promoted, ask them why. Gareth says, “Why have you not got the ambition to go better yourself?”  

This question to them will show you their emotional intelligence in the way they handle your challenge.  

Look Internally 

You have so much knowledge in your company, don’t ignore it. Gareth says, “One of the biggest shifts we’re going to see is people coming out of the field.” With technology, there will be less people required in the field and you can use their knowledge to mitigate problems in the preconstruction phase of the project adding significantly more value to your clients and increase your profits.  Construction manager and engineer working on building site

Look to your project engineers, Junior Superintendents, APMs, Project Managers who demonstrate those same skills of emotional intelligence, communication, and focus. Gareth says, “If you’ve got 3 or 4 years as an APM, project engineer, moving into preconstruction, it’s absolutely gold dust.”  

Start with these tips to help you get to know the candidates better, as well selling yourself to the best candidates to get their buy-in to your company and into precon. If you need more guidance, contact Niche SSP here

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