EP 124

How much should Quantity Surveyors be paid? A Recruiter's view... (EP 124)



In the studio today, Paul is joined by Chirag Shah for something different a bit different. Chirag is a recruitment expert, founder, and principal consultant at PACE Global, a Project Controls Recruitment Expert (View the Community Website Here).

Chirag is a construction recruiter with almost 20 years of experience in Project Control and Commercial roles. Chirag’s mission is to deliver clients the best quality Project Controls personnel and help graduate to director-level employees progress in their careers.

In today’s conversation, Chirag explains the state of play in the employment market for both employees and employers, shares some tales of woe about recruiting Quantity Surveyors and Project Controls professionals in the past and provides for both employees and employers on how best to navigate today’s marketplace.

Your free OTB downloads

As promised at the top of the show - I’ve shared a link to the Design & Build download below: 

  1. Implications and Opportunities of a Design & Build Contract


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Paul is on Linkedin here and would love to talk. You can also connect with Paul at paul@c-link.com or through, C-Link.

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Paul Heming: Hello and welcome to episode 124 of the Own the Build podcast with me, Paul Heming. We are continuing our free download giveaway, and today I’ve linked an eBook, which I actually wrote a couple of years ago, called The Implications and Opportunities of a Design and Build Contract. My guest is smirking at me and thinking I’m a proper loser that I even wrote an e-book like that, but I did. And it talks to kind of how main or subcontractors on a D&B contract can negotiate the key clauses, understand key responsibilities, and actually then how best to respond to comments during the design phase. If you work on a D&B contract, I think it will be valuable to you, even if I do say so myself. Feel free to just hit the podcast description and go and download it. In the studio today, I am joined by Chirag Shah for something a little bit different today. It’s a bit different from normal. And Chirag is a recruitment expert and founder and principal consultant at Pace Global, who are a project controls recruitment expert. Chirag, welcome to own the Build. How’s it going?

Chirag Shah: Cheers. Thanks for having me. Really good. 

Paul Heming: What do you, I mean, I saw you smirking when I was talking about my writing an eBook about design and build contracts. What’s wrong with that?

Chirag Shah: What’s wrong with that? It’s very interesting. I’m pleased to hear that.

Paul Heming: Yeah, some people might say I’m a bit of an anorak but I like these things. So we’re, like I said, it’s going to be a bit different today. Sometimes we’re quite not anaraki, but we talk about really detailed QS stuff on here. We talk about really focused construction issues, and I want to talk to you about construction recruitment, and that’s going to be slightly different to a typical show, but I think it’s going to be really, really insightful, really valuable, just as a way of introducing yourself. Talk to us about your career today and your journey in construction, I guess.

Chirag Shah: Sure, no problems. Well, for those listening in, I’m hoping that you get some good career tips out of this either for carrying on in your current company or whether is looking to move and how best to look at moving. So listen in and I’ll hopefully provide you some good takeaways. So I started recruitment in 2005, worked for an agency TRS for my whole time until recently. And I just took the Brave Plunge to start my own. And the reason I did it, I just believe now we’re in the era of the SME world. While you’ve got your great, fantastic blue chip clients, now’s a great time for those that have got to the top of the tree and gone and created their own companies. And it truly is exciting times now and it is definitely the era of the SME. We’re seeing so much happening with technology, especially AI that is enabling things like this to happen. So that’s where the future is really. In terms of my own career I feel from a, the word expert sometimes used a bit too loosely, but been doing this for almost 20 years, placed over 750 candidates, connects with me on LinkedIn, you’ll see that I’ve got over 175 recommendations, so enough people value what I do. So hopefully you’ll feel the same after this.

Paul Heming: Excellent. And so the era of the SME, talk to me more about that and why that is your belief system about where we’re at today?

Chirag Shah: Sure. So yeah, you’ve got great brand names out there and it’s always good to work for these big companies and especially early on in your career, getting that training development, getting your risk qualification for example. Always better to get it from places like that. But once you are getting up to a certain level, you might be hemorrhaged by other people above you in the ladder or corporate, stuff, issues, politics. I didn’t want to swear or anything, but you know, whereas in the SME, if you go and work for an SME, which is 20 to 30 people and then growing, you’re able to help shape that vision, that culture, the opportunity to, to get shares into that and really own the company as well. Even if you’re a salaried employee, but you get to really be able to make it happen how you want it. Financially, you can definitely be better off as well and the way the bonus structures work for these companies, do your day job, but if you’re able to do the business development part as well and confident on that side and bring in work for them, then you’re going to be laughing and do really well. Whereas in a big company, you get a thank you and that’s about it.

Paul Heming: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because before setting up my own business, I worked for two companies both for five, six years. So I stayed with them both for quite a long time. One of them was an SME, one of them was a big company and there are pros and cons of working for either, right. I certainly felt that working for an, kind of almost like the opposite in some ways of what you were describing there. I actually started at the SME then ended up at the big company and I felt that starting at an SME was really, really helpful for my career because it meant that I was a lot closer to, I don’t know, the decision makers and like the actual cutting edge of what was happening. It works both ways, isn’t it? As to whichever is best. But I do think work for SME is a really good thing. 

Chirag Shah: Yeah, it definitely accelerates your career if you embrace it wherever you are in the ladder because you’ve probably got the opportunity to work on different stages of a contract and just muck into it all. Whereas if you working for a big company just fixed in one position, it just depends what you want. If you want that the nice everything there, the I.T’s provider, this assistant i.t and all of that, you’re going to get that big company and SME, you probably need to do it yourself. And if you’re move in office, you’re probably going to have to lug chairs and build desks as well, you know. Basically that ability to show… 

Paul Heming: You reminded me of the start of my career now to be honest with you. But I wholeheartedly believe that having worked for an SME and I was exposed to so much and so many different projects at different stages, that it meant that when I went to a bigger company actually put me in quite a good spot as, because I’d experienced quite a lot. But to be honest with you, working for either you’re very much at the will and behest of who your managers are, right? And your direct reports. And I was very fortunate in both that I had good managers. Talk to me about, I think perhaps sometimes unfairly recruiters get a bad rep. What is like a common myth about being a construction recruiter that you would like to dispel?

Chirag Shah: Well, we are not estate agents. I’ve bought two properties. Estate agents in both cases we’re useless. They’re just a vehicle and terrible. We are. If you deal with a recruitment consultant, deal with someone who’s been in recruitment for a while, check them out on LinkedIn and just see if they move every six months, they’re not going to be very good. Work with someone that stays in in a job for a period of time. They’ve got a bit of a reputation about them. You’ll see something about on their LinkedIn. If they’ve got those skills endorsements, have they got some testimonials?

Paul Heming: 150 of them?

Chirag Shah: Yeah. Because then you’ll see that there actually are valued in their place. The key word in recruitment is consultant, are they consultative with yourself as a candidate or as a client? We’ve got two ears, one mouth for a reason. So does the recruiter listen to you, and take on board what your thoughts are? Or is it they’re just making their own views? Is very key. 

Paul Heming: Who do you contact first as a recruiter? I’ve always thought about this, like are you looking for companies with whom you can recruit into as, is that like, it’s a bit chicken and egg, isn’t it? Like, is that what you want first or do you want candidates who you’ve got a really good relationship with that you then what’s what, how do you do work?

Chirag Shah: Sure. So for me, because I’m pretty established and I’m quite niche in where I recruit for. So with myself over the last five, six years in particular, it’s kind of ongoing. I’ve always recruited for the same type of roles with the similar clients. So for me, I’ve got core client relationships. I don’t try and work with too many clients because you can’t work with everyone and you want to deliver to the ones that you do work with. So right now regardless of COVID and whatever the media is saying, it still is a candidate driven market. So for me it’s, I’ve already got those relationships there. The job’s always ongoing. So the key now is finding good candidates and keeping those relations with candidates because it, even if I’m not able to place you now, there’s down the line we can work together. I’m also someone that I want people to succeed. So even if you’re not, if we’re talking and you take another job off, I’m going to be there just to advise you. If I offer you 50,000 and someone else offers 60,000, I’m actually going to go and say, you know what, take that. 

Paul Heming: Good luck on 60. 

Chirag Shah: Yeah. Take it right at the end of the day. Especially in today’s, living cost crisis is very important. So yeah.

Paul Heming: Okay. And so in terms of the kinds of roles that you recruit for, so listening to this show now is a wide array of people. There’ll be QSs, there’ll be estimates, project managers, contract managers, there’ll be directors of SMEs who are themselves looking to recruit. What kind of roles do you typically cover under the project controls bracket?

Chirag Shah: Project controls, project services. So it doesn’t encompass QSs, estimators and project managers. On top of that the key, the key bread and butter project controls P six planners and the like. And also we’ve taken a big uptake on data reporting analysts over the last couple of years. Taken on quite a lot. Those that have got experience with Power BI. 

Paul Heming: Power BI and stuff. Yeah. Because that’s perhaps we’ve talked a lot on this show about, we’ve talked with the RRSs, we’ve talked with lots of other people about what is the actual future of quantity surveying today. And a lot of the chatter if you like, or a lot of the noise is that a lot of QSs can move into that data analysts Power BI experienced roles. Could you talk to me about whether or not you are seeing QSs move to that or who…?

Chirag Shah: Yeah. Definitely. I think so because it’s very detailed if you’re going to move into that role and get to the top of the tree in that particular discipline area and QS is, are detailed people, they know, they read contract with the fine tooth.

Paul Heming: Most of us do, most of us do.

Chirag Shah: Hopefully. So to go into that remit is fine. Whatever you do, whatever role you’re in today, whether you are in project controls or a QS or an estimator, it’s changed from where it was 20 years ago, 20 years ago. It’s really much about your technical skills. But now it’s that communication stakeholder management and whatever your role you’re doing, you’re effectively a project manager. Even if you’re hands on QS, you’re still a project manager. So the same thing with the reporting side. It’s about gathering that data, inputting it, getting the right dashboard back out. So as long as you’ve got the right those type of communication stakeholder skills, very easy to transfer into that type of role.

Paul Heming: So why’d you say it’s changed? Because if I reflect on your absolute, a lot of detail focus with QSs, some better or some worse with the detail, but why communication and why is that new?

Chirag Shah: Before if you were a QS… 

Paul Heming: Probably don’t be nasty about QSs. I’m waiting for it. 

Chirag Shah: No, no, no. Anyone, QS or a planner, you get, you do the work and it’s literally you provide that sheet of paper, the Excel sheet, and you email it over to whoever needs it and it’s done. Now it’s very different. You have to go around talking to people, getting that info and just changing how it works. Post COVID even more so because you’re not in the same office or the same site, a lot of time you’re working off teams. So that’s why the communication side is so much more important. 

Paul Heming: I completely agree with that actually. And we talk a lot about tendering and like the art of tendering and a lot of people, well we see certain individuals just issue out tenders and not speak to anyone who is tendering and just be like, come on and where’s my prices back? And you think no, there’s a lot more to relationship building communication. It’s the whole art of the process, isn’t it? So in the second half of the show I want to talk to you about what employers should do, what employees should do. But before we get into that, I’d like to understand where you see the market now, right? And I’m a QS and I appreciate you covering project controls. So there’s a wider arc that we can talk about, but just focusing on QSs, there’s a report at the end of last year that the RRCS did where they said 54% of contractors and consultants were struggling to find quantity surveyors and that was holding them back. What’s your view on the… 

Chirag Shah: I think it’s far higher. 

Paul Heming: Really? 

Chirag Shah: I would say. Yeah. I think there is a massive demand for QSs in the market. And finding good ones is very hard to find them. So if you are someone who’s confident in their abilities and you think that your employer’s not quite treating your right in terms of career press trajectory or your financial side, pick up the phone, speak to someone and find out what’s going on. Because the market is absolutely buzzing. There is a good, the key question is, was should you be Rick’s chartered? For me it’s always a big yes, get your charter ship because that will take you to another level above and make you stand out from the crowd. And when you get there, then you can certainly command a higher salary and get, move up the ladder from a career perspective. Demand across construction infrastructure, really busy. We’re only going to see things get busier in the Middle East and Australia. They’re crying out for good QSs. By doing that, even if you’re not interested in going there, guess what? Others are going to go out there and that’s going to create more demand here in the UK… 

Paul Heming: Because there isn’t enough.

Chirag Shah: Yeah, exactly. The roles that are international overseas, there’s demanded in the North American, Canada, the states and the Middle East and Australia, which I mentioned. 

Paul Heming: Do you recruit internationally as well as nationally? 

Chirag Shah: Yeah.

Paul Heming: And so RICS accreditation, so I’ve got a QS degree, RICS accredited, but I was a subcontractor and never really saw getting chartered as something that was really applicable to what I was doing. And it was never something in the subcontract world that was really asked for. I think that’s different in the main contract world and definitely different when you get to client side. And I’m guessing its Uber different when you’re then talking about international opportunities. When do you think or for what role and for what client does a QS actually need to be chartered?

Chirag Shah: I would probably agree with you when you’re moving from that main contractor upwards, onwards. But if you’ve got the opportunity to do it wherever you are at, why not do it that you’ve got nothing to lose about from it and everything to gain. So I would say across the board really.

Paul Heming: Particularly if your company’s going to pay for it. So going back to the market, right? So we speak to loads of clients, loads of main contractors and subbies with our business. And at the end of 2022, all of them, not all of them, but you anecdotally it felt like all of them were crying out for QSs, like desperate none. One or two of them that I was then spoken to as 2023 has progressed have said that that’s cooled a bit and that there is a bit more availability. Like the market isn’t quite as hot as it was. Is that not how you feel?

Chirag Shah: I think it slowed slightly. I think before that like, yeah, from late 2020 till the beginning of this year, it was really super, super busy, crazy. Couldn’t keep up with it. It has caught a bit but you know, keep on using the word good, if you’re good QS the market is still very busy. And you have to understand what good looks like because everyone will say they’re good, but understanding you’ve got the right attitude, right enthusiasm and the right skills set.

Paul Heming: Excellent. Okay, well look, we’ll talk more in the second half of the show about what you should be doing as both an employer and an employee, but we’ll do that right after the break.

So really interesting start to the show I think, got good foundations there. One thing I maybe didn’t ask, which I wanted to actually was if you are a mid-level QS, you’re not trainee assistant, you’ve got five years’ experience, we are in London, right? So let’s just stick with London for the moment. What do you think is a reasonable salary to be aiming for?

Chirag Shah: Sure. Depending on where you’re at, again, if you’re mid-level, are you accredited? How has your early years gone in terms of your own promotion? But I would say you should be realistically looking for that bit of a range here. But the 50 to 65 mark is what I would recommend. There are a lot of factors, projects you’ve worked on how much all round experience you have, how sector specific, what software expertise you have as well. Different parts I would say.

Paul Heming: And if you have, going back to the accreditation, if your RICS accredited is on your APC, that range of 50 to 65, you think that the 60 to 65 element, is where you would get to if you’ve got that accreditation? And moving further on then, so let’s say you’re now a QS in late twenties, early thirties, let’s say you’ve got more like 10 years’ experience, you’re a senior QS, maybe commercial manager level. What range from there do you think is appropriate?

Chirag Shah: Sure. So that’s quite an interesting read because sometimes your career might have plateaued and you might have just, you’ve worked for in your earlier middle years through COVID. So it kind of really just depends how you’ve risen through the ranks and what you’ve done. So when you’re talking about someone in their 26, 27 to 35, it’s where are you at because you could be an associate director and right at the top on that 90 to a hundred type of element or you could be on that 60 to 70 K as well. So it just depends on how fast your career has been moving all this time. Projects you’ve worked on, obviously COVID, I’ve mentioned it again, but did you have any of that overseas experience, international experience, big project experience and then it is unfortunate a bit of a question of who you know, not what you know. Sometimes you need to move a jobs to get that salary jump, but not too often. So you look like you’re jumpy as well. Like two, you’ll just move for the money. So if you’ve had, if you’re in your mid-thirties and you’ve had three career changes, that’s fine as well, I would say.

Paul Heming: Yeah. So, that senior QS bracket is something between 70 and 90, again, very much career trajectory specific. How often do you think that you should, as a recruiter you don’t say every three months, but like all jokes say that, how often do you think someone should move? Because there’s that balance, isn’t there? Between your CV looking like a jump type one. 

Chirag Shah: Yeah, so you’ve got to understand that yourself, you worked at two places for five to six years at each, which is a good amount of time. People will understand if you’ve moved, if you’ve had a, you’ve moved somewhere not quite right and you’ve moved off to six months to a year. But if you seem to be doing it, like if I saw someone who moved four times in five years, I’m not even going to bother talking to them because there’s no faith. How long are they going to stay at this place? But the ideal candidate would’ve done their graduate apprenticeship, their post, the first job will be three to five years.

Paul Heming: Stayed committed to a place. 

Chirag Shah: Stayed, yeah. Done the L and D there, moved for the next job and then potentially might not have had that jump or that career trajectory and then moved again. So over a 10 year period you would’ve been in three jobs. I would say it’s quite fair.

Paul Heming: That makes sense to me. And it is a fine balance because the biggest jump that I experienced was either when I handed in my notice or when I left and changed. Right? And that’s… 

Chirag Shah: Did you stay for a counter offer?

Paul Heming: So, at my first company where I was for, so I was living in Birmingham and I wanted to move to London, so I left, I handed in my notice I should say, and they counteroffered me and I stayed. And then six months later or a year later or so I kind of realized I’d made a mistake and then put in my notes and actually left and moved to London. And then I never at the London job, I was progressing through the ranks pretty well and never getting kind of what I wanted to get out of it, which I guess is a lot of people’s experience, which is why people leave and then got a big raise handing in my notice and stayed and then ended up leaving say at my own company. So I can understand, that’s why I’m interested to ask because there’s that period of time, isn’t there, like naturally when you stay somewhere for a period of time, it doesn’t accelerate as it probably otherwise could, but then you don’t want to be jumping around left, right, center. So yeah, it makes sense that first period of time because it’s also, I look at CVs now and interview people for roles here and you look at and you think, never quite stuck around anywhere. And our vision for this senior role is few years and that’s based on it being a two-way relationship. We’ve got to do out, keep our side of the bargain. But you do, I personally look at CV sometimes and think, oh, no more than 18, 24 months somewhere and just makes you feel like it’s not necessarily someone that’s in it for the long term. Is that fair? 

Chirag Shah: A hundred percent. And top tip for everyone listening, do not stay for counter offers. So I know you said you did it twice… 

Paul Heming: You’ve done me.

Chirag Shah: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. 

Paul Heming: Is that poor form?

Chirag Shah: Yeah. Do not stay for counter offer. The negative effects of staying completely outweigh.

Paul Heming: What are those negative effects that’s still…?

Chirag Shah: The negative effects. Firstly, if they give you a salary increase, what’s going to happen when it comes to next pay review or promotion time, they’ll remember you held them to ransom because they needed you for to finish that project… 

Paul Heming: And they’ll naturally hold it against you, do you think?

Chirag Shah: Yeah, exactly. So you may not get the future pay wise that you deserve. If you’re moving to a new employer, you’re going pastures new, you’re starting off effectively on zero with them, but on this higher salary. So you are able to build your rep with them and get a much higher salary increase and promotion.

Paul Heming: Even if they’re begging you to stay though.

Chirag Shah: Why did they not reward you when you deserved it? Why did it take you having to leave?

Paul Heming: Yeah, I mean I think that’s, the first one is kind of a unique situation because I actually wanted to leave the countryside and live in London kind of thing and moving…

Chirag Shah: So this station is still made it happen for you if you said I want to do it and you were that valued by them, then you’ve gone through that process with a new organization and they’ve wanted to bring you on board, they’ve taken time out and then you’ve just said, no, I’m staying with my company. So they’ll get, they won’t be happy, so people don’t forget. 

Paul Heming: So, I’m a bad egg, is that what you’re saying? 

Chirag Shah: Unfortunately. Unfortunately.

Paul Heming: What would you say though, because I’m not good at or I wasn’t good at this in terms of really putting forward how you deserve a pay rise, right? Because it is not an easy conversation to have. Whoever you’re having it with, most people’s bosses aren’t their best mates. How would you go about it?

Chirag Shah: Sure. So hopefully a lot of organizations now don’t just do the annual re appraisal. I think that’s been replaced by more regular reviews and its far better, you don’t need to wait a year or this is the pay time. You should be there. And it is down to as an individual, if you feel you deserve a pay rise, what have I done to achieve this pay rise? Why do I deserve this? Think about it in your head, use your phone to begin with. Just put it in your notes. What are the key achievements? What have I done for this company? Why should I deserve it? Do not say inflation because that doesn’t go down very well, but put it down to what you’ve actually achieved, what you’ve done, those things that you’ve done outside of the comfort zone where you’ve gone above and beyond. And do you do it on a consistent basis?

Paul Heming: And as a QS it’s quite easy theoretical, all project controls, right? Say look, that thing happened and I delivered X amount to the business, right? I say that as if it was easy and then I’m just on the other hand saying I wasn’t very good at doing it myself.

Chirag Shah: And also, one other thing is reach out to people in your network to understand what is the market paying. Because you can utilize that, but you’ve got to use a number of factors. If you just say, this is what the market’s paying, then I want this. That doesn’t go down too well. But if you combine it all together in one where this is what I’ve done, this is what’s happening in the market, I’m not saying I want to leave, but this is what I feel I deserve. Can we make this happen? And alternatively is, if you’re happy to be a bit patient, this is what I’ve done, this is what the markets paid, let’s set up a plan for me. This is the salary I want, what do I need to do? If I hit these targets, then we all know that it’s agreed. It’s already done. 

Paul Heming: I think that’s a really good way of looking at it actually, isn’t it? Like saying, look, this is where I want to be and I know I can get there externally. I want to stay here. How do we collectively march towards it? That does make sense. Talking now in the old alternative. Let’s imagine that you are talking to me and I’m an employer, so I’m a main contractor, I’m someone who employs people in project controls. It’s a competitive market. We’ve already talked about that. There’s not enough good resource, there’s not enough resource, let alone the good resource. What do you see happen often where it’s bang average like recruitment and advertisement for QSs or people in project controls.

Chirag Shah: So you want to see how an employer improves their branding as such?

Paul Heming: Yeah, well like how shouldn’t they do it? 

Chirag Shah: So one thing, employer, every company, a lot of companies’ think that they’re the best company to work for. You’re not, unfortunately, there’s so many companies out there, understand firstly what is your unique selling point. So if you understand what your USP is, that’s the starting point. 

Paul Heming: For instance though, I’m a contractor. What could that be? What is my USP?

Chirag Shah: It could be a number of things in terms of, and it’s not going to be that different from other contractors, but for example, a big thing at the moment it’s the gender bias and how to get more females into the workplace, especially QSs onto site, onto a certain project. So advocating, making it easier because still today women who are moms are normally more the carer, predominant carer at home to making their life a bit more easier with the flexi working, onsite crash, whatever it may be. For example just throwing it out there, full support of accreditation, education, allowing time off, things like that. Being more clarity on pay scales as well. So yeah, you’re joining on this but in 12 months’ time, this is what you could be and being really visible on that. I don’t see employers doing that. Because they’re all, it’s all a bit scared, you know? Because if someone sees that, well I don’t do this, this is what you said to me, I’d get, but no, no, this is what you could be on, but you need to do these different things really… 

Paul Heming: Because you see that quite a lot is job adverts without pay scales. What’s your view on like, should you be upfront with it?

Chirag Shah: Yeah, on job adverts. People know what the range is on salaries put that on there. And it’ll help you as an employer because it will clear away. You only get focused, targeted applicants that are in that salary range, whether people too, you know, not good enough or too high if you don’t put the salary on.

Paul Heming: And so going back to what we were saying earlier about in mid-level QS, senior QS, right? And you know what you were saying, round expectations. So say I was recruiting for a mid-level QS and we’ve kind of talked range is 50 to 65, right? And you put that in the job advert, let’s say 50 to 65 or 50 to 60 whatever. So we put that in the job advert and then when people come to be interviewed and then you’re getting them maybe to second interview or third interview, however you structure it, are you then saying, look, this is our offering now, we do 50 to 60 for intermediate and then we expect, these are the kind of what we expect of a senior QS. So we’d want you to add that to your skillset. And then we have a range of 60 to 80 K or whatever for our senior QSs where we’d expect you to be in 12 months, 18 months or whatever. Is that a good way of doing it?

Chirag Shah: That’d be great. If employers could do, that’d be fantastic. Saying that this is what range we see you at the moment. This is by us doing this for you and you delivering, then we’ll get you to that. And that’d be fantastic.

Paul Heming: Do they do that?

Chirag Shah: No, never.

Paul Heming: Really?

Chirag Shah: Hardly ever. They provide a bit of a career plan and pathway, but they very rarely, they’ll talk about salaries. This is the position we get you to, senior QS, commercial manager, AD, but they’ll never say, oh, this is what the salary burnings are.

Paul Heming: But it almost strikes me and for the business owners listening as a way to stand out from the crowd then by doing that and thinking about your business plan and where you want, how many seniors, commercials, whatever you want, understanding what your range is. And if you were to do that, do you think that in the current skills shortage crisis, that applicants would be like, wow, that’s great. I’m really engaged. 

Chirag Shah: Definitely. Definitely. I think that would really help because candidates understand where they could be. We always talk about where could you be 18 months from now, three years and five years from now. And that gives them real good solid plan and that financial security as well.

Paul Heming: Sounds quite simple to me, Chirag.  

Chirag Shah: Fantastic. I wish, I wish.

Paul Heming: No, but like as in a way of better advertising, attracting. We always talk about that as a wide space as an industry, we struggle to attract the best talent.

Chirag Shah: And also the other thing that client’s employers need to do in particular is think about their invisible PR. So it’s not what they’re proactively doing, it’s what people are saying about them as an organization. So their own employees, are they happy people? Do they get treated well? Are they valued? Are they going to go and refer someone into their own organization? Are they going to go and say to their friend or a colleague? If you’re on a joint venture on a project, you know what? You should come and work here. This place is a lot better. 

Paul Heming: You don’t want that though as a recruiter, do you? You want to be referring them.

Chirag Shah: That’s alright. There’s many ways for people. There’s more than enough roles around. I would say that it’s really important for employers to understand how are they seen in the market when they’re not proactively promoting. When they’re not promoting themselves. Sorry, the other side that’s really important at the moment is the mentoring side. So what is your mentoring like? Because that is where people get to really light speed their career ahead. If they’ve got the right mentor and someone dedicated to supporting them, it will really help as an employer, have you got the right people that can do this and showcasing those stories.

Paul Heming: Yeah, no that makes absolute sense. It’s almost saying you’re in this range, we want to get you to that range where you’ll be earning this number or in that range and we’re going to help you to get there through this qualification training and we are going to allocate you a mentor who’s been on that journey and is going to help you along with it. That makes perfect sense. And it sounds like an attractive proposition as opposed to just bartering over the best number that you can get to on today, today’s negotiation as opposed to long term.

Chirag Shah: Exactly. And when you are hiring, making that hiring process smooth, quick. My ideal client scenario would be, I put the candidate forward to the client CV within two or three days. There’s feedback, the initial, there’s a team’s interview or a team’s screening chat, depending on the client, if they want to see the person face to face. I think that’s not a problem. You don’t need to do everything on teams, go in for an interview and then it’s all about timeframes and feedback. You know, if you see someone for an interview, make sure you give feedback within 48 hours. If it’s a no, it doesn’t need to be in depth, give it as a no and then you can follow up with the more in depth feedback, a few days later if you’re busy. But just so they understand that, you know what, I need to move on. If it’s a yes, make sure that the cancel where that look we’re really interested, we’re going to progress on offer, we’re just working out the right position, the financial offering and then we will come back to you within set timeframe. It is a busy market. Candidates are probably looking at one, between one and five potential employers. I wouldn’t say it’s those that get to the post first, but it’s those that treat the candidate well and have that candidate has the best experience.

Paul Heming: That’s invisible PR as well, isn’t it? Even people that haven’t worked for you but have had that touch point with you, that interview, like that feedback process, it’s all plays part of how you are perceived externally, doesn’t it? It’s a lot of that. I think you could be taken on board there and a lot of simple minor tweaks that employers could make to make themselves much more attractive. Final question. We’re running out of time here. Really interesting chat. I want to go back to Power BI data and AI. Obviously those data and AI is very impactful on the project controls side of the industry among other areas, perhaps maybe less so initially for traditional quantity surveying, but like I said, I’ve seeing more and more people moving from or talking about the move from quantity surveying to data and AI. What would be your advice for QSs listening to this who are interested in making that move?

Chirag Shah: So there’s so much out there at the moment on the internet about what you can, YouTube videos, free training available on LinkedIn, other sites as well. There’s also paid for training, which isn’t expensive. If anyone’s get in touch, I can share with you a couple of companies that do it and take that first step, take the initiative, understand how to do it. If you’re a good QS, it won’t be hard to learn it. And then in your current project, take on some of those duties, offer to do it even if it takes a bit of your own spare time, start to do it. Get that onsite experience and then you can start thinking about full-time crossing over into that role. But like I said, first steps, research, Google it, YouTube videos. Understand what it’s about, do some training on it, get used to it and then do the actual work itself. And then after that you can either internally start applying for roles or look outside.

Paul Heming: Are they better paid roles?

Chirag Shah: Again, it’s a bit of a gray area I would say at the moment because people still are understanding the value and importance of it. I think the market for it’s really going to hot up in the next, now it is and over the next 18 months you’re going to see real growth in that area. The AI side. Whatever you are in adapt or be left behind it, it is crazy times that we’re living in at the moment. Even as a recruiter, I think there’s a new one, people GPT, which is going to get rid of the recruiter.

Paul Heming: It was really good knowing you mate actually.

Chirag Shah: That’s it. So you just got to adapt and it will make your life easier as well. It’ll make you more efficient as a person. If you do understand how to use these type of things and the changes and just be up to date with the latest trends in technology.

Paul Heming: It has been an amazing chat actually, mate. I’ve really enjoyed that. I think it’s been really, really interesting. I’m sure everyone listening has felt the same. I will obviously share your details in the podcast description, your LinkedIn and details of your company. But yeah, all that’s left to be said mate, is thank you very much for coming on the show. 

Chirag Shah: Thanks for your time. 

Paul Heming: Lovely mate. And everyone, I will speak to you next week. Have a great weekend.

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