Web Exclusive

Changing Employers as an Estimator

Estimating Let's Get Industrial July 2020
Published On
Jul 21, 2022

Looking for a career change can be an active choice, or one forced upon us. Sometimes estimators are looking to escape poor management, while others are looking to move up the corporate ladder. In any case, interviewing and then starting a new job as an experienced estimator is more nuanced than you might imagine.

Preparing to interview

Start with preparing a resume that clearly defines the time and responsibilities at each job. For estimators, this should include the different types of jobs (commercial, hospital, industrial, remodel, new construction, etc.), the value range of projects ($50,000, $300,000, $5 million, $50 million, etc.) and the involvement with the estimates (individual scope takeoff, full takeoff and bid recap, preconstruction budgets, ROMs, etc.)

Depending on an estimator’s experience level, it may be important to also have a detailed project list of the last 10–20 jobs they’ve priced, outlining the type of project, their individual involvement and any challenges that were overcome for each. A recruiter will often look at an estimator’s resume, but the head of preconstruction is going to want to see the project list.

While overall compensation is the main driving factor for most people, don’t neglect to evaluate the company’s estimating team and how you will fit into their workflow. Ask questions such as, “Do your estimators tend to work solo, or are they dividing a bid into pieces for multiple estimators?” “What is your bid finalizing process like?” and “Do you celebrate bid wins as a team, or are you just moving on to the next estimate?” These questions will help in understanding the team’s philosophy and whether they are valued as people or seen simply as estimating machines.

In the interviewing process, it is also highly valuable to meet the actual people you’ll be working with, and not just the hiring decision-makers. Estimators know what it’s like in the trenches, and talking to the other estimators can help in quickly assessing their work-life balance (i.e., are they working their 8 hours and heading home, or are they routinely working 60 or more hours a week?) Ask them about their managers and see if they roll their eyes, or if they speak highly of them. While the main reason for a job is the paycheck, it’s preferable to also enjoy the time spent at work.

Getting acclimated to a new position

After making the decision and signing an offer letter, there are some things to keep in mind to make the transition to a new position easier.

Even within the same general market, each company has its own way of operating. It is important to first understand that method rather than trying to be a hot-shot innovator on the first day. It’s important to understand some of the basics early on: who are the trusted vendors, distributors and subcontractors? What are the key pieces of software? Who are the key decision-makers that weigh in on estimates, and how are they expecting the estimate to be presented? Learning a new team’s methods can also unveil their willingness to change. Do they seem frustrated by a slow process or software bug? Are they doing work multiple times because of a holdover process from years ago? The best time to ask questions is when you’re new. Frame questions as seeking to make others happy, for example, “I want to make sure I get this done right the first time, so let’s go over your expectations.” With a solid grasp of their current method, consider suggesting some new strategies that might help their workflow.

Bringing a fresh set of eyes to any problem can help, and this definitely holds true in estimating. Maybe while using the estimating software, you notice a lack of often-used assemblies, or that some assemblies are missing mounting hardware. Identify how the current team handles estimating database errors, and if they don’t have a plan to fix them, consider spearheading that initiative. Humans are great at making do with what they have, but don’t be afraid to show off a familiar software if it can improve the process. Estimators deal with lots of drawings, so tips within the PDF software, or a way to quickly manipulate and rename lots of files, can be really helpful.

With time, consider suggesting bigger changes, like moving to a whole new estimating software package or moving from paper to on-screen takeoff. However, those suggesting new paradigms can be painted as a renegade looking to make a name for themselves, so proceed with caution. Hopefully, by demonstrating an openness to learning from others early on, others will be open to learning from you.

About the Author
Nick Walker

Nick Walker

Freelance Writer

Nick Walker has worked in electrical construction since 2014. He has been estimating for 8 years in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in various sectors including commercial, retail, industrial, residential and mixed-use developments. Reach him at...

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