12172017

Hiring a Construction Project Manager? Look for These Skills

Photo credit: JP WALLET/Shutterstock 

A project manager is a vital addition to your construction team, so you’ll want to hire the best. Here are some things to look for in your candidates.

A construction project manager is your eyes and ears on the site. They generally handle a project from the very beginning of the plans to the last inspection and are tasked with getting the project done on time, on budget and safely. They handle budgets and change requests, subcontractors and inspectors. In large projects, or projects where you cannot take personal control, they are the key to a successful build. 

Therefore, if you need a project manager, whether for one project or as a full-time hire, it pays to ensure you find the right person for the job. Construction management is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, expected to increase 16 percent between 2012 and 2022. Median pay in 2016 was $89,300, yet many construction managers have only an associate’s degree and experience. The market is competitive, but you should still focus on finding the best manager for your project and your company. 

Skills

While the company owner is the ultimate decision-maker, a construction project manager takes charge of a project from the beginning. Thus, he or she needs a wide range of skills, which should include the following abilities: 

  • Read and understand blueprints 
  • Compose and follow documents, including job bids, reports and proposals 
  • Understand contracts  
  • Know and enforce standards required by law and your company 
  • Hire subcontractors 
  • Schedule work 
  • Troubleshoot problems on-site 
  • Review change order requests 
  • Estimate costs 
  • Assist with permits and inspections 
  • Negotiate material discounts, order supplies and inspect deliveries 
  • Review bills 
  • Ensure a safe work site 
  • Adapt to unexpected delays or problems 

Education

First, look for someone with a degree or enough experience to equal a formal education. In addition to knowing the ins and outs of construction, a qualified construction manager understands how to work with and motivate people. He or she should also know how to use budgeting, project management and other software. Familiarity with programs your company uses is a plus, of course, but experience with similar programs makes it easier for the manager to learn the new system. 

There are certifications that contract managers can get. Some states require them for public projects, while some schools supply them as part of their training programs. In addition, there are professional organizations like the Project Management Institute that offer training and certification. These are especially valuable for a candidate with little formal education. 

Experience

Some experts call for at least three years’ experience in the type of project you are setting the manager in charge of, but also consider the complexity and scope of that project and the skill of the candidate. The more specialized, complex or expensive the project, the more important it is to have someone who understands the work, such as unique dangers or things that are easy to miss that cause problems with inspection. 

Communication skills

The best project managers know how to write clearly, read a contract, negotiate with subcontractors and inspire their people. They should be able to speak professionally with clients, as they are the face of your company on the site. They may handle complaints and change orders. Of course, they should also communicate well with you.  

Good character

While this should be a no-brainer, the best project managers hold themselves and their teams accountable, show a strong work ethic, and are honest. For example, one of the most common warnings against project managers is that some forge relationships with subcontractors where they get kickbacks for recommending them for a project. Just like with your laborers, background checks and references are wise precautions. 

While this is not a good judge of character, you should consider how well the manager fits into the culture of your company. They will be representing your brand and have direct influence on your employees. Someone who supports the company values, including how that defines employee interaction, will make your company stronger. 

A skilled and dependable construction manager can take a lot of pressure off you when it comes to individual projects. You want to make sure you hire the best for your company, as finding a reliable project manager allows you to concentrate on the growth of your company as a whole.

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