We recently surveyed our Board of Directors and Unilateral Apprenticeship Committee (UAC) executives to really get at the heart of what makes or breaks an interview with a prospective employer (from a construction perspective).

In truth, much of what we learned could be applied to any industry. But some interesting construction-specific nuggets of wisdom did emerge as well.

Here is what we learned. 

The Deal Breakers
1. Don’t NOT research the company you are interviewing with.
You don’t have to be an expert in the field, but general knowledge about the type of work the company does, the geography they work in and current projects they are working on goes a long way in showing your desire to work for them.

2. Don’t bring your ego with you.
Be confident, but humble. Talk up your skills and abilities, but also show a willingness to learn as in any job there is always room for improvement or increased knowledge. Willingness to learn also shows your level of passion and commitment to the trade.

3. Don’t make statements that indicate you are not interested in the trade or industry. For example, “I am here because my cousin said I could make good money.”
True story. The example above was taken directly from one of our Board members. Chances are the person you are interviewing with is pretty passionate about his or her career choice. So this kind of statement is a bit like a slap in the face.

4. Don’t be late.
Being late was a deal breaker for a majority of our executives.  Ten minutes or two minutes – it doesn't matter. One executive even said that he views being late as “arriving less than ten minutes early to an interview.”

5. Don’t bad mouth your previous employer(s).
This one took us by surprise – according to our executives, it happens often. Bottom line, don’t do it. You could be the perfect candidate for the job, but the minute you say something negative about your previous employer, your chances of getting the job plummet. 

The Must Do’s
1.  Shower. Shave. Do your hair. Dress nicely.
It may seem like common sense, but taking care to look nice for an interview is huge. In fact, more than half of a first impression (some studies say 55%) is based on personal appearance. All of our executives commented on it, so bring your A game.

2. Do make eye contact.
Body language is super important when making a first impression. Making regular eye contact will actually help you keep your head up and project your voice. You will look and sound confident. If making eye contact is challenging for you, we suggest that you practice when you are talking with friends or family. 

3. Answer questions with conviction and clarity.
ALL of our executives mentioned that good communication skills are an absolute must have. So how do you showcase these skills in an interview? It starts with listening. Don’t try to show too much confidence by running the show. Don’t try to finish your interviewers’ questions and don’t try to rephrase them (these mistakes will lead to the death of your interview). Bust out your knowledge when you are asked questions. Practice answering some of those general questions about your training, where you last worked and what you worked on before-hand. And keep your answer to the point – three to four sentences. That way when the time comes, you won’t be searching for the perfect answer. It will just roll off your tongue and you will come across as prepared, confident and clear.

4. Give a specific answer to a specific question.
Prospective employers want to get a sense of your knowledge, training and desire “to get to work.” So don’t provide a general answer to a specific question. For example, if you are asked, “What tool would you use to do X,” answer with the specific tool, stick to the topic and don’t go off on a tangent.

5. Be prepared to answer safety questions specific to your trade. 
Safety is absolutely critical in construction. Your knowledge of proper safety procedures tells a prospective employer that you take it seriously. 


The ABC NorCal Graduates Project is designed to create invaluable resources for our apprenticeship graduates using the knowledge and expertise of our members.

Many thanks to the following ABC NorCal members who shared their wisdom with us: 
Rick Russell, United Rentals; Bill Schmalzel, Cooper Oates Air Conditioning, Dina Kimble, Royal Electric, Ron Hicks, Soltek Pacific; Mark Kirkes, MK Electric & Design; Greg Schniegenberg, Helix Electric; Karen Briones, MCE Corporation; Phil Stites, Bergelectric Corp.; Dan Escamilla, Turman Commercial Painters; Victor Rodriguez, State of California/DAS; Damon Bourez, Bruns Belmont Construction and Dave Dobson, Helix Electric.

Megan Kilkenny is the Communications Director for ABC Northern California Chapter.