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What questions should I ask a construction manager?

How to hire the right CM for your project

As the client’s agent or rep, the construction manager oversees the project and works to ensure that it is delivered on schedule, within budget, and as conceptualized—down to the last details. When choosing a construction manager, there are certain interview questions that can help you determine which company or team is the best fit for your project. Finding the right team to represent you promises a positive construction experience from design to delivery.

Interview questions to ask construction project managers before signing on the dotted line

How long have you been doing this?

The more complex the project, the more important those years of experience are going to be. In today’s technical world, a great deal can be learned in the classroom (whether material or virtual), from legal considerations and contract clauses to project record-keeping to choosing and working with construction management software and beyond. But if your construction manager hasn’t applied that knowledge in the field, you both may be in for some surprises.

What are you and your team’s professional credentials?

Get as much background as you can, and ask about education and professional organizations and certificates. Is there a LEED consultant on the team? An engineer? Degrees in construction management? What are their senior level project managers’ qualifications?

Have you ever worked on projects like this one?

Does their team have experience with your particular niche? A key criteria is always relevant experience. Have they worked on projects that resemble yours? Are they familiar with the standards and codes? Can they show you examples of similar projects? Don’t be shy about asking for references. If possible, contact former clients and ask about their experience, including follow-through once they had keys in hand.

Talk to me about your best practices and strategies.

Do they mention communication, details, construction contract management, flexibility, integrity, teamwork, meticulous planning, risk management, informed scheduling? What documents go into planning and how do they ensure effective documentation? What can their construction project management software do? How do they develop cost estimates for change orders and alternatives? What’s their policy for observing and auditing building progress?

There’s no one right answer or combination, but you’ll learn a lot about how a particular CM company functions.

What distinguishes you from the competition?

Listen for mention of expertise; teamwork; leadership; the ability to anticipate challenges and risks and offer and assess solutions; effective conflict resolution, and any other keywords you might have in mind. As always, beware of candidates that promise the moon.

Are your priorities and ours compatible?

Unique, green, wheelchair or walker-friendly, quiet, spacious, short delivery time, value for investment: think about your priorities before you meet with potential CM teams. Is waking up to a view of the ocean the one thing you can’t do without? Do you want to be able to expand if the family grows? Are you thinking passive solar, waste water recycling and rainwater cisterns? Make sure you agree on what’s important and remember that cutting corners or making cost the overriding priority is bound to lead to problems in terms of quality and time.

Are you ready to start yesterday?

If they’re not, they’re either very busy (a good sign), disorganized or understaffed.

As you work your way through the construction project management interview questions and answers, bear in mind that you’re hiring a team, not an individual. Make sure there are enough competent people to cover all the bases even if one of them is sidelined for whatever reason.

Once you’ve chosen your construction management team, you’ll be embarking on a long journey together! Having a construction manager you can trust and rely on means that you’ll be able to keep on with your life while your dream project is being built.

 

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