Interviews for tradesmen on jobsites are usually about five minutes long. They might not consist of much, but there’s a lot more going on in that first exchange than you might think. The people who have worked the field and hired countless workers into the trades are looking for certain things in a new candidate. Aside from certain training or experience for particular jobs, here are the basics:
Firm Handshake – A construction manager recently told me, “I can tell whether a guy is going to be any good or not by his handshake. If it’s weak and frail and it feels like I’m shaking hands with my grandmother, I know he doesn’t have the gusto to work in the field.”
As silly as it may sound, men that work with their hands for a living are strong and proud and a simple thing like a firm handshake is often used to separate the men from the boys.
Dress – When you are trying to get that first job in construction, it’s not the time to show off your individuality, or display a t-shirt logo of your favorite band. Go looking like you’re ready to go to work, and look like the workers who are already out there.
Nothing says construction worker like a plaid flannel shirt, blue jeans and work boots. If you show up wearing sneakers and shorts and sporting fifty face piercings, you’re not going to be taken seriously. You can talk all you want about ‘keeping it real’ and ‘being unfairly judged’ but you’ll be doing it in the unemployment line. Pull your pants up, wear a belt, and remove your facial piercings. People who want to get hired show up looking like a worker who is ready to walk on the jobsite.
Attitude – A thirty year construction superintendent used to say this to me, “I’ll take attitude over experience every day.” That means you show up to every job like it is your first one, and work every day like it could be your last. There is nothing more irritating to experienced tradesmen than a young person who has worked a job or two acting like they are too good to do something, or thinking that they already know it all. If anything, you should downplay your experience while trying to express a genuine eagerness to learn.
As a foreman, the worst thing that a new guy could do was walk on the job and start telling me how much he knows and how good he is. Helping your uncle roof a garage once doesn’t make you a journeyman anything. Don’t tell me you’re great; show me, and keep on showing me every day. Anybody can show up and be a superstar for an hour. Tradesmen worth keeping are the ones who show up every single day, on time, until the job is done.
Work hard, show up on time, and treat everyone with respect. The trades are a funny thing and it’s a small world out there. The guy working beneath you one day might be the one calling you to work for him the next. The reward is that you’ll be working while guys with bad attitudes aren’t.
And finally, smile. Don’t ask me why. It just works, that’s all.
Photo courtesy of: International Organization for Immigration