The 70% Rule: How “Good Enough” Hiring Can Beat the Construction Talent Shortage

Story by Gemma Beasley / December 12, 2023

As a recruiter in the trenches, I’ve seen the construction industry’s hiring crisis up close. Project managers are slammed, desperately piecing together teams at the last minute from shrinking candidate pools, even delaying projects when key roles go unfilled.

Now I’m going to go against the grain and say I don’t believe a talent shortage is the problem. I speak to great candidates every single day. But too often, hiring decisions are based on rigid wish lists that do more harm than good.

This obsession over seeking “perfect” hires is misguided and counterproductive – but there’s an easy fix. By embracing the 70% rule for recruiting, managers can tap into the huge pool of emerging talent and finally solve the hiring problem that’s been plaguing our industry for years.

The “Perfect” Candidate is a Myth

We’ve all been seduced by stellar resumes. Ivy League degrees, prestigious past projects, and seemingly flawless records. Yet chasing these “unicorns” can be a mistake. Most hiring managers can relate to being wooed in an interview by someone who fails to deliver long-term, shining brightly before losing steam as routine sets in. This is surprisingly common for so-called “A-players” who quickly check out due to boredom.

This problem also hits companies in the bottom line. By exclusively recruiting candidates with the exact skills and experience listed in inflexible job descriptions, firms may find themselves overspending on talent, as well as losing out on revenue by leaving key roles and projects unfilled for significant periods of time.

Rigid Requirements Don’t Get The Job Done

As a Construction recruiter who reads hundreds of these every single week, I have no doubt the current crisis stems from unrealistic job descriptions that prioritize paint-by-numbers hiring. Ask any company to describe their “perfect” project manager candidate and you’ll likely hear demands for:

  • 5+ years running complex commercial construction projects
  • Expert-level experience with Primavera P6, Microsoft Project, Procore

But does checking those boxes truly predict whether a candidate will thrive long-term? Of course not! Yet this outdated and short-sighted screening process means losing out on raw yet eager applicants willing to work hard to compensate for less experience.

Embrace Untapped Potential

My advice to any construction recruiter or manager struggling to hire is to seek rough diamonds too – sometimes over polished ones. It pays to prize untapped potential and mentor eager new talent to unlock their best selves. What they lack in experience they make up for in moldability, drive, and creative problem solving. Take a chance on up-and-comers and you’ll find their drive to succeed easily counteracts any early growing pains.

Yes, this means more upfront effort compared to plug-and-play hires. But an investment in mentoring pays dividends in loyalty and innovation. If we want to rebuild our industry’s reputation and meet growing infrastructure demands, construction teams need more glue players with growth mindsets. That’s where the 70% rule comes in.

When a candidate meets 70% of on-paper requirements, they’re likely to be “good enough”. If your firm cannot confidently train and develop talent coming in at this level, this should be cause for concern.

Tips For Good Enough Hiring

As Construction Recruiters, we’re on the front lines working to shake up the hiring status quo. Of course, this means more roles are filled faster, but that’s not all that’s at play. We push for change because we love our industry and want our candidates and clients to ultimately succeed.

Here are my top tips for hiring managers and recruiters alike:

  1. Shift mandatory vs preferred skills
  2. Fish for evidence of grit and purpose within every resume 
  3. Prep candidates to demonstrate willingness to work hard and learn new things
  4. Set realistic budgets to allow hiring risks that prioritize promise
  5. Structure internships as prove-it pipelines for untested workers

Just as drawings evolve before the first foundation gets poured, let’s reimagine best practices for sourcing tomorrow’s construction all-stars. Our industry’s future depends on it.

About me

I set up Hudson Cooper Search to provide a recruitment service built on partnerships, not transactions. Tenacious in my efforts to deliver results, I care deeply about providing effective solutions for my clients and candidates. Reputation is everything, so I never take mine for granted.

Think we might be a good fit? Talk to me about how we can work together to hire hidden gems for your hardest to fill roles.


Looking to hire?

Construction recruitment agencies are common. Strong partnerships rooted in trust and good communication are rare. Learn why we’re the latter.

Learn More

Looking for a new role?

Put your career in the hands of recruiters who know your worth. We focus on your long term success and strive to make your job search process feel effortless.

Learn More