Construction hiring managers are having more difficulty locating qualified and driven candidates, despite being under increased pressure to fill open positions. According to the Sage Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey, published in January 2019, 77% of construction companies plan to expand their payrolls in 2019. This high demand for labor is coinciding with an unemployment rate below 4%, which means companies are competing for a scarcer supply of workers.
Because they often have trouble recruiting, employers will sometimes make extravagant concessions in an interview with which they have no intention of actually following through once the applicant is hired. One example of this we see repeatedly occurs when an employer offers during an interview the option of relocating while working for the company. However, when the candidate, now an employee, attempts to exercise this option, he finds it was merely granted as an enticement to join the company, rather than as a legitimate option. Disillusioned, the employee may now want to resign, not only to achieve the relocation goal, but also because the trust he placed in his employer has been shattered.
Asking during an interview whether the company offers location transfers to its other offices may not be sufficient if a transfer is important to you. Although many companies have multiple office and project locations, personnel are usually hired for a specific region, division or project. Because of this, it is quite rare for a company to transfer employees to a different geographic location. Therefore, how do you confirm the company you are joining does indeed offer geographic transfers, and even if they do you will fit into the other region’s workforce?
1. Once your hiring manager has verbally stated a geographic transfer is available, you should ask to meet the hiring manager from the office or region to which you are seeking to transfer.
Speaking with the hiring manager from the reciprocal office will not merely verify the real potential of your desired transfer, but it will also give you the opportunity to ensure you would actually enjoy working there. The activities of a company’s various offices across the country can vary wildly, so it is important to become acquainted with the location to which you want to move before actually doing so. For instance, you may be working for a company’s office in Virginia, which specialize in large Federal projects you enjoy and for which you have the relevant experience, whereas the same company’s office in Florida may focus entirely on constructing multi-family homes, which you do not enjoy and for which you lack the relevant experience.
2. Inquire as to whether the company has a written transfer policy.
Many companies have multiple locations, but if they do not have shared human resources, risk management and legal services, it may be too time-consuming and costly for them to transfer you when they could simply hire someone already local to the region. Companies equipped to handle inter-office transfers will typically have a written policy as to the process for the application, approval and execution of your request.
3. Think about the transfer from an economic standpoint.
If you plan on moving in a year, and are joining a project just mobilizing for a twenty-four-month schedule, would it make sense for the employer to transfer you from the project? Probably, unless your role on it is either somehow phased out by that point, or if they have someone coming from another project already trained to enter your role. Then, of course, everything would also need to align properly in the office to which you would be relocating. The construction industry typically does not afford a perfect timing match for two different locations, even under favorable market conditions.
4. Ask for the location and transfer date to be included in the offer letter.
FLCC has negotiated several of these transfers for candidates over the years. Generally, we have found that field-based roles are difficult to transfer, because the composition of project teams and titles varies between locations. We have also found that it is comparatively easier for estimators and other office-based staff to transfer, because these positions do not require working around project schedules. Typically, when a candidate for one of these positions asks for a transfer option, and the employer agrees, the offer letter will contain a phrase similar to, “If a position opens up in (Office Location) for a (Name of Position), (Employee Name) will be offered the opportunity to apply for the transfer and relocate with mutual coordination between current and future supervisor”. This sets the option in stone, and ensures both employer and employee are on the same page regarding its feasibility.
5. Clearly set out the timing for a future transfer.
Discuss with your future employer from the onset your timeline and proposed steps to prepare for the move. The proposal may proceed as follows: “I will accept the position here in New York, but I plan to relocate to Florida no later than the beginning of the school year 2021 to be closer to my family. Based on the anticipated project schedule, I will be able to complete the current project and also provide flexibility with timing for the transfer to your Florida office.”
It is best to make it a discussion and listen carefully to potential roadblocks to your transfer. For instance, they may support your transfer in principle, but may not think it best for you to work for their Florida office. As you take personal steps to prepare for your move (such as selling your house), make sure to communicate in writing to your supervisor that you are still moving forward. If you visit the new location, make sure to visit the office and supervisor to build a relationship see if the office environment is right for you. Also, do not assume the employer will assist with your move with finances or paid time off. After all, you are the initiator of it.
If you are working for true leaders, they will value your clarity regarding the length of your local commitment. If you care about your professional rating, you will be more likely to discuss mutual benefits and clarify your options before accepting the position, instead of assuming a transfer is automatically on the table. If you don’t verify it, it can surely be denied.