5 Steps to Getting a Construction Job
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction is creating jobs at an average of 20,000 per month in 2017, an increase of 7,000 per month over last year. With so many lucrative positions available, even for those with little experience, now is a fantastic time to think about entering the field.
If you’re unsure how to get started in construction, this is the right place. Check out our construction career guide to get an idea of the speciality you might like to pursue, and then check out the steps below to find, apply, and land a job in the construction industry.
Find the Construction Job You Want
The purpose of this step is to get an idea of what jobs you’re qualified for, who’s offering them, and what you need to start applying. Finding construction job postings will be relatively easy, the difficult part will be narrowing it down to the ones you are interested in. Follow these simple steps to get started:
1. Create a job spreadsheet
How: If you don't have spreadsheet software, you can make one for free on Google. Create a few simple column headers like: job title, company, job description, job requirements, and anything else you might be interested in.
Why: Spreadsheets are a simple way to stay organized and keep track of important information. This will help you look for commonalities across postings and craft a better resume and cover letter when the time comes.
2. Search 'construction jobs' on Google
How: Google has a new widget that will automatically aggregate every construction job posting in your area from popular job listing sites. All you have to do is type in 'construction jobs.' It also offers plenty of filters for you to narrow or broaden your search.
Why: This is the quickest way to get a large overview of all the jobs that are out there, so you can have the best idea of what you should be applying for.
3. Research the companies you find
How: Once you find a couple positions you're interested in, research the companies that are offering them.
Why: This will help you get a better idea of their culture and help you narrow down the type of firm you'd like to work for.
How to Write a Construction Resume and Cover Letter
With a better idea of the skills and requirements you need to apply to jobs, it’s time to get a basic cover letter and resume written. (If you feel that you have none of the right experience, go ahead and jump down to step 5.)
The purpose of this step is to create a document that you can easily customize to apply to multiple jobs.
1. Identify commonly requested qualities and skills
How: Use your spreadsheet from Step 1 to easily compare and contrast the different job postings you're interested in and create a list of the most common elements.
Why: By going through this step, you will identify the most important qualities for the type of position you want and be able to write a more targeted application.
2. Compare your experience to the list you made
How: Don't limit yourself here, the idea is just to gather up as much related experience as you can, and then write a few sentences about each thing.
Why: This step will give you a well of ideas to draw from once you sit down to write your cover letter and resume.
3. Build your resume
Your resume should be easily scannable, consistently formatted, and show progression over your career. Highlight as many tangible accomplishments as you can while keeping it under one page. Choose a format that works for you, and leverage free design templates to make your resume shine.
Every job you apply for will want a resume, and yours needs to stand out. Hiring managers won't spend much time reading it, so you have to make sure when they look at it they immediately see something that catches their eye.
4. Build your cover letter
Your cover letter should be a three-paragraph, one-page document that explains your accomplishments, why you're a fit for the position, and why you want to work for that company.
The cover letter is your chance to seal an interview request. It should be unique and personal, and show not only why you're a good fit, but why you stand out more than the other people that are applying.
This is probably one of the most important steps in the process, so make sure to spend a good amount of time on it. Also, follow these guidelines when drafting your cover letter:
- Use the first paragraph to highlight a major accomplishment, large project you’ve worked on, or your track record of successful jobs; then tie this to why you would be a good fit for the position they’re offering.
- In the second paragraph, go into detail about your background and how it relates to the position's requirements.
- The final paragraph should talk a bit about the company you’re applying to and why you want to work for them. Show that you have spent some time researching them and that there are specific reasons you are applying to work for them.
- Once you have everything put together, be sure to proofread! Typos can ruin all the hard work you have put in up to this point.
Check out cover letter examples online to see these guidelines in action.
How to Apply to a Construction Job
Now that you have some positions to apply to and a general resume and cover letter, it’s time to actually start applying to jobs. They key objective here is to make yourself stand out from the crowd by highlighting what makes you unique for the position and a good fit for the company. Hiring managers get hundreds of generic cover letters, so a little extra effort can go a long way to catching their attention.
1. Customize your cover letter
At the very least it should contain the name of the position, specific mentions of requirements they listed, the name of the company, and some unique facts about the company that made you apply.
When hiring managers have to read through hundreds of applications, throwing out the generic ones is an easy way to eliminate people. Don't let that be you.
2. Tailor your resume to the job posting
Fitting your entire job history on one page is a challenge, and you will inevitably have to omit things. If you have uniquely relevant experience to a position that isn't on your standard resume, be sure to edit it before sending it off.
Again, hiring managers really just scan applications, so if there's something specific they're looking for, you should be sure it stands out in your resume.
3. Follow the instructions for applying to each individual posting exactly
Most job postings will request your application be sent through a specific method and in a specific format. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter.
Hiring managers have specific instructions on how to apply because it makes it easier to manage a large volume of applications. If you don’t follow them exactly, they will likely disqualify you from consideration as it shows a lack of attention to detail.
4. See if you have any connections to the company
LinkedIn is great for figuring out who you might know at a company. If you have a profile, it will show your second and third-degree connections to an employer. Don’t hesitate to reach out through these people to let them know you are applying.
Every little thing you can do to make your application stand out matters. A personal contact is probably one of the best ways to ensure that your application gets looked at.
Nail the Interview: How to Show You're the Best Person for the Job
Once you apply to jobs, you should start hearing back from people for interviews. Don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile, just keep refining your application materials and applying to more jobs.
1. Find and practice common interview questions
Use Google to search for common interview questions for your role. Write down your answers and then practice them with a friend or in the mirror.
You want to know what you're going to say ahead of time, especially because nerves can kick in and leave you forgetting things that would normally be an easy answer.
2. Dress cleanly
You likely won't need a suit and tie, but if you're unsure, don't hesitate to ask them for a suggested dress code. Just make sure that you look presentable.
First impressions have a huge impact on the overall interview. You want to make sure you set things off on the right foot.
3. Be punctual
Show up 5 to 10 minutes before your interview time. Be sure you know how to get to the office and what traffic will be like.
If you can't make it to the interview on time, it's a sign you might not be able to make it to work on time either.
4. Be friendly
Treat the interview like a conversation. You want to be professional, but approachable. Imagine that you're talking to an old acquaintance you haven't seen in awhile.
People want to work with people that they get along with and enjoy. Being friendly and open is the best way to show you're going to be a positive influence on their work environment.
5. Send a thank you follow-up note within 24 hours of the interview
Write an email thanking the interviewer for their time, recap what you most enjoyed about the interview, and reconfirm your interest in the position.
You want to show the interviewer that you appreciate them investing time in you, remind them what makes you unique, and let them know you're still interested. These are all things that will help you stand out when it comes to their final decision.
Review and Rework
What to Do If You Can't Get Interviews or Don't Have Construction Experience
Applying for jobs is difficult and takes time, so don't be discouraged if you're not getting interviews. It's possible you just need someone to look over your resume and cover letters to make some edits. See if you have a friend with experience in hiring to give you some suggestions. This could be all you need to change your luck.
Alternatively, you might just not have enough experience to beat out the competition. Fortunately, construction offers a number of straightforward options available to get the required experience, many of which will pay you while you get training.
Check them out below:
If you want to get your construction career started immediately, but don't have any experience, then unskilled labor might be a good option for you. You can usually find these position listed under general labor or construction labor. The jobs might require a high school diploma or GED, but generally you don't need specific construction knowledge. You just have to be physically capable of working, punctual and willing to learn.
Taking unskilled labor jobs will give you a chance to meet people in the industry, show that you're dedicated, and learn new skills on the job while getting paid.
Apprenticeships offer you the opportunity to learn a specific trade from a mentor, while getting paid. You will likely be at minimum wage, but you will make connections and have plenty of opportunity to prove you are capable. People in apprenticeships often take classes at the same time to support their real-world experience.
Trade school will teach you a skill and give you the knowledge you need to land a specialized construction career. If you have some money to invest in learning a trade, then this is likely the fastest route to getting the construction job you want. Trade schools also come with benefits like career services, certification and licensing, and scheduling flexibility to allow you to continue to work while getting your education.