How to Hire the Right Contractor for Your Construction Project
October 23, 2020
You can see your project in your mind, and you’re eager to break ground. That means it’s time to hire a contractor who has the proven skills to make your vision a reality.
There are many best hiring practices common to multiple types of projects, from small-scale residential builds to large-scale commercial or public works structures. For the bigger projects, though, your selection process for your best hire should be more involved. After all, there’s going to be a lot more riding on a contractor’s ability when it comes to handling large, more highly-detailed schedules, heftier budgets, dozens if not hundreds of workers, and an array of both anticipated and unforeseen risks.
So how do you begin the process of vetting and hiring the right contractor who can bring your plans to life?
Initial Steps to Hiring a Contractor
- Begin by assembling a list of names. It’s going to take a lot more than a Google search to find your ideal contractor, but it’s a place to start. Ask colleagues in the industry who they’d recommend. Check local trade associations. Take note of structures similar to the one you want to build and find out who was the contractor of record. As your list grows, be sure to also search online for contractor reviews, complaints and scams.
- Do some online recon. Look at their company websites for examples of past builds, lists of credentials and certifications, and any other information that might give you an idea of how they work and how well they do their job. See if they’re in good standing with the Better Business Bureau and any unions or organizations to which they list being a member.
- Make sure they have experience in the particular type of build you’re hiring for, especially if it’s highly specialized. If they’ve spent enough time in your type of project sector, they’ll know the types of permits needed and the zoning regulations in the area you want to build. Additionally, they may be able to bring on subcontractors they’ve worked with and can vouch for concerning work ethic and project experience. It might also pay to go on a few field trips to check out the properties or sites in person on which they’ve worked.
- Ensure they’re licensed and adequately insured. Any credentials they list — for specialized skills, regular safety training, etc. — should be verifiable and current. Look at their insurance coverages to ensure their limits would be adequate in the event of a claim.
- Do they have a claims record? This is a big one, so if they do, make sure to see if particular lawsuits were frivolous or had true merit.
Narrowing Your List
At this point, you’ll want to get a sense of who a contractor really is by scheduling an interview, whether by phone, videoconference or an in-person meeting. The following are some areas to cover.
- Are they available within the general time frame of your project?
- Do they exude a sense of trust and respect? This matters because they’ll be working with onsite and remote crews who will be following their lead, with owners and other stakeholders relying on them as they make critical decisions. Those owners and stakeholders should feel confident that the contractor knows what they’re doing and can get the job done within the budget and schedule that’s been set.
- What about their safety standards and practices? Try to go beyond physical safety measures at the job site and in offices. For example, find out what they’re enforcing while the COVID-19 pandemic is still a public health and economic threat.
- Do they have recent references? Ask for a list of past clients who would be willing to serve as contactable references for projects similar to yours. When you contact these past clients, make sure to find out how well your prospective contractor has worked with crews and stakeholders. How did they manage change orders and other unexpected situations? What was their communication style with everyone involved on the project? How well did they adhere to schedules and budgets?
- Have them submit a bid. For the prospective contractors who’ve made it this far in your search and are available for your project, it’s time to test them out a bit. Give them a complete set of drawings and specs — the whole scope of work — so each candidate can submit a bid. With all of them bidding on the same specs you’ll be able to compare them equally. Look at the level of detail they provide. What did they include? What did they leave out? Did they account for everything you asked? Their bid should be competitive but not so low that they couldn’t complete the job without cutting corners and jeopardizing worker safety or the integrity of the structure.
- Suggest shadowing them. For those contractors who present acceptable bids, you can suggest shadowing them on a current project to see how they operate firsthand, and how they manage the project and workers. You want to make sure they can “walk their talk.”
But before you say, “You’re hired!” there’s one more thing to consider.
The Most Important Item in the Contractor’s Toolbox
How do they manage all the details of a large-scale project, ensuring all the moving parts run smoothly?
This is where technology comes in and also their understanding of it and their level of competence.
Ideally, they’ve already embraced technology — specifically construction management software — as the primary tool in their contractor toolbox. If they haven’t, that should raise a huge red flag. It’s now widely accepted that the sole use of generic computer spreadsheets and simple email won’t cut it anymore as these have become insufficient on their own in providing the level of reliability, precision and interactivity substantial construction projects have come to demand.
Serious contractors know the right construction tech enables them to deliver more accurate project estimates, keep a closer eye on expenses, manage multiple subcontractors and teams and ensure real-time access to all necessary project documents. In addition, the right tech can help monitor field crew productivity levels, account for risk scenarios that could impact the project financially or time-wise and collaborate in real time with project team members out in the field and at remote offices.
The bottom line? Contractors who make the best use of construction management software won’t leave anything to chance with your project.
When You’ve Found the Right Contractor
So, what happens when you’ve found “the one?” Whether or not they already have a preferred software system, if they’re open to looking at options, have them check out InEight’s integrated project controls platform . From planning to project closeouts, cost estimating to scheduling, document control to risk management, our solutions can help your contractor ensure that your large-scale project runs efficiently while meeting your time and budget benchmarks.
Once you get a rapport and process established with your contractor, you can start to look even further ahead with an eye toward possible future projects together. Ideally, the time you invest upfront in carefully researching your contractor will serve you well in developing a long-term relationship to tackle similar projects down the road.