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You’re recruiting, but are you recruiting smart?

The war for talent is intense. With historically low unemployment rates and a shortage of qualified candidates, architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms are vying for top talent.

And while the AEC industry has embraced new technologies and approaches to complete project work, often called “smart infrastructure,” we likewise must become smarter and more strategic in our approach to recruiting talent.

Companies will have to make key investments in the acquisition and retention of talent, including leveraging technology to build robust talent pipelines, defining employer brand, and evolving the onboarding process.

Use technology to introduce your brand

LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and email networks are effective channels to connect with prospective candidates, but there are even smarter ways to target talent.

Some firms are investing in candidate relationship management, or CRM, software to engage candidates and manage talent pipelines. CRM technology improves a recruiter’s ability to nurture talent pipelines, conduct targeted engagement for niche skills, and serve up personalized content – like newsletters, blogs, and job announcements – to both passive and active candidates.

Automating some of these processes frees up recruiters to build more meaningful, strategic relationships with candidates and hiring managers. CRM platforms also provide actionable metrics, like clickthrough, open, and application rates, that inform decisions and measure the effectiveness of employment branding and recruitment marketing efforts.

Other trending technology-related tactics include retargeting candidates via paid advertising, adjusting application processes to be mobile-friendly, and gamifying employee referrals.

But no matter the technology, generic messaging falls flat with candidates. There’s one thing that can truly set a company apart: its culture.

Tell your unique story

In this competitive market, corporate culture is the key differentiator when candidates are presented with similar positions at different firms.

Corporate culture does not equate to Google-level perks like free meals or being able to bring your dog to work. I regularly hear from candidates that flexible schedules, an employer who shares their values, and an inclusive environment are deciding factors.

At Gannett Fleming, one of the ways we convey our corporate culture is through employee resource groups (ERGs) that help provide comradery and opportunity for traditionally underrepresented groups: Connected Women at Gannett Fleming, Future Generations of Gannett Fleming, and Military Veterans at Gannett Fleming. Started by a collection of committed employees, each ERG continues to influence and improve our culture. I expect more to form as we continue to grow.

So how to convey your brand authentically in your recruitment efforts? Feature diverse and compelling stories of your people, promote innovations, and be genuine in your messaging.

Don’t fizzle after the start date

With so much effort spent on building a talent pipeline and getting the employee to choose to build or continue a career with your firm, onboarding is often an afterthought. Dropping the ball here can impact new hire productivity and cost 20% of their annual salary to replace that talent. Why train an employee for your competition?

Instead, think of onboarding as a year-long process, covering not only where to find the supply closet, but also setting short- and long-term goals and introducing the new team member to the all-important corporate culture. Finding the right candidates is the difference between success and mediocrity for your company. Being as strategic about recruitment and retention as you are about your latest AEC project is the “smart” choice.


Masai Lawson is manager/talent acquisition at Gannett Fleming. She can be reached at www.

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