In January 2008 someone turned the lights off.
There had been rumors during 2007 that housebuilding sales were slowing up but after ten years of boom it was hard to take them seriously. But by spring the following year national housebuilders were closing regional offices and make redundancies on a mass scale. Eighteen months later most residential developers only employed between 30% and 50% of their pre recession workforce. Thousands of experienced professionals had been laid off.
Many will never return to the industry but what about those who want to recommence their career in residential development? If this sounds like you, here is an action plan to make the most of the job opportunities in the market today.
First of all there is some good news. There are more jobs in the UK housing market now than there have been for three years. The slash and burn approach to staffing overhead seems to be over. There is little growth in housebuilding and sales rates are not materially higher in 2011 than they were in 2010 but, and this is the crucial point, builders are prepared to recruit in order to replace leavers. UK based new homes developers have spent the past two years restructuring their businesses to be profitable on roughly half the volumes they operated on in 2007. For most, they have arrived at that point and do not want their businesses to contract anymore so when someone leaves they recruit a replacement.
So now we have established there are jobs to pursue, how do you go about it?
First of all get your CV up to date. Don’t wait for a job to come up and then start the CV. Be in a position to react quickly. There is a lot of literature available regarding the style and science of CV writing but don’t get lost in the nuances of it. A good CV in housebuilding is no more than three pages of A4 with a clear chronology of work history and any relevant qualifications and training. Concentrate on the last ten years of your work history and highlight successes and achievements in each position and support with evidence. Be wary of simply replicating your job description as this tells the reader what you were supposed to achieve not what you actually achieved.
So now the CV is ready, you need to find job opportunities to apply to. There are four main sources of housebuilding jobs as follows:
1. Traditional media advertising: You will find housebuilding jobs advertised in Housebuilder, Showhouse, Building, Estates Gazette, and occasionally in regional newspapers. The recruitment pages of the industry journals have dwindled significantly over the years but it remains a viable source of jobs.
2. Online advertising: Building and Estates Gazette have both developed an online presence for careers as an extension of their traditional recruitment advertising. In addition two specialist housebuilding job boards have been created.
Uniquely Careers in Housebuilding only features jobs directly advertised by developers rather than recruitment agencies.
You will also find housebuilding jobs on generalist job boards such as Reed and Monster. The downside of the generalist sites is that, due to their huge scope, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for in amongst the hundreds of other industries and sub sectors. If housebuilding follows industries such as accountancy and IT expect online job advertising to expand massively over the next few years.
Social Media: In such a competitive construction job market its worth considering every possible advantage over other candidates. Time is often a factor for recruiting builders so get your application in quickly. One way to keep up to date with the latest online jobs is through social media like Facebook, Linked In & Twitter as they are usually updated regularly.
3. Recruitment Consultants: Before the recession, they were probably calling you about positions they were working on. Now it is up to you to be proactive and make yourself known to them. Make a phone call to find out which consultant is the most appropriate one to speak to you for your region and particular discipline. Speak to that person and email a copy of your CV. Aim to cultivate a reciprocal relationship whereby you share contacts and news from the industry with them and in return you can expect to gain knowledge on current and forthcoming job vacancies. You are much more likely to have a positive impact than simply phoning around the recruitment consultants once a month to ask if they have any jobs to put your CV forward to.
The key players include PSD Group, Thomas Gray Assoc, Edbury Daley, SPR Search & Selection and Potensis.
Temporary job market: There are some temporary and interim jobs in the housebuilding sector but not as many as you might find in other areas such as IT. However one area that has a thriving temporary recruitment market is that of site based Sales Negotiators as builders strive to maintain their sales force.
Temporary sales jobs can be anything from a day to 6 months and can offer some flexibility around how often you work. Developers often need short term cover for holidays and sickness, or to cover whilst they recruit permanent staff.
Amongst the key players in the recruitment of sales staff are Maitland Selwyn, Fusion People, Team Sales and Zed-Sales. It’s important that you find the right agency for you because each of these businesses have there own regional strengths and weaknesses, supply different builders and pay different rates.
4. Networking: This has always been a helpful strategy in any industry but is particularly effective in the tight knit community of residential development. If you think networking means trying to make new contacts at industry functions, think again. You can start from the comfort of your PC by creating a profile on Linked In.
It is free to use and is gaining real traction in the housing construction community. You can link to people you already know and then see who they know and develop your network that way. You can also get the latest updates on jobs by joining the Careers in housebuilding networking group.
However, don’t forget personal contact either by phone or face to face. You need to make the effort to stay in touch with former colleagues because they are your route to the industry grapevine and plenty of vacancies are filled without ever reaching the open job market.
So have your efforts have been rewarded with an interview? To make the most of it simply get the basics right. Is your personal presentation impeccable? Have you been on the company website to get some company information? Have you visited a site to see the product for yourself? Is there any background information online about the person you will be meeting? You need to score four out of four here or you will be at a disadvantage to the other candidates and in the current climate the other candidates will be strong and numerous.
So, to conclude, here are some general tips on your overall approach. Be positive and proactive. The more avenues you pursue the greater the chance of you finding employment. Having a clear plan of action encompassing all or some of the points above will give your job search organisation and impetus. Be pragmatic by taking part time or temporary work. Apart from providing some income it will get you closer to the grapevine and increases your chance of finding a more desirable position. It also demonstrates to any future employers that you were prepared to make the most of opportunities available at the time.