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How to hire a civil engineer


Civil engineers are the brains behind constructed work. They use mechanical reasoning skills to design, plan, and supervise construction for both private and government sectors. It’s safe to say they play a major role in the construction industry.

Due to how important their role is, a mistake during recruitment could lead to faulty projects or a bumpy construction process. Thus, as a recruiter, you should avoid any errors while hiring a civil engineer.

Fortunately, this guide will share helpful tips on how to hire a civil engineer successfully. We’ll discuss the role of civil engineers, their skills, and how to draft a civil engineer job description.

What is a civil engineer?

A civil engineer is someone who plans, designs, supervises, and maintains public and private infrastructure. They primarily function in the construction of structures like roads, bridges, dams, airports, railways, or tunnels.

Civil engineers work to ensure that the construction of various infrastructure goes smoothly. They also make sure the structures meet legal requirements and are safe for people to use.

Typically, civil engineers have both on-site and in-office roles which contribute to the successful construction of infrastructure.

The on-site roles of civil engineers include managing the construction process and carrying out structure investigations. They also access potential risks on the site and gauge the availability of materials and their costs.

In-office roles of civil engineers include analyzing construction data such as the number of materials available and the timeline for construction. Additionally, they draft working schedules, write reports, and prepare cost estimates.

At times, the civil engineer’s roles are similar to that of the construction manager. Both roles function to ensure the completion of infrastructural projects.

However, there are major differences between a civil engineer and a construction manager. Civil engineers basically supervise the entire construction process. On the other hand, construction managers ensure that they complete the project under construction.

Civil engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. This is because they need to understand the basic concepts behind surveying, designing, and maintaining infrastructure.

Although they don’t necessarily carry out the construction work themselves, civil engineers apply their technical knowledge to organize the construction and ensure the process is safe and smooth.

Civil engineer hard skills

The hard skills of civil engineers show that they have the technical knowledge and expertise to function in their field. Thus, it is crucial to consider these skills during recruitment. Below, we will describe some of the hard skills an excellent civil engineer must possess:

civil engineer hard skills graphic

1. Project management

A significant part of the job of a civil engineer revolves around project management. With project management skills, engineers can plan, organize, and control resources to achieve their goals within a specific period.

Civil engineers with project management skills can complete their projects on time, ensuring they deliver quality without exceeding the budget. Moreover, civil engineers need good product management skills to coordinate their teams toward achieving their goals.

2. Knowledge of construction

Although civil engineers don’t carry out the construction, they need knowledge of construction materials, techniques, and processes. With adequate construction knowledge, they can design safe, efficient, and durable structures that meet certain standards.

For instance, a civil engineer with adequate knowledge of construction processes would know how much material it would take to construct a particular structure. Hence, they can be more efficient at their job.

By understanding how construction works, civil engineers can better anticipate potential issues that may arise during the construction process. With their knowledge, they can develop design solutions that are more practical and cost-effective.

3. Writing skills

The work of a civil engineer involves writing reports concerning available materials, cost estimates, and project plans. To perform effectively at this function, they need good writing skills.

Workplace writing skills are essential for project documentation, drafting proposals, and keeping records of the progress of various projects. So, civil engineers must be able to write clearly, concisely, and with accurate technical terminology to be productive.

4. Mechanical reasoning

Mechanical systems such as turbines, pumps, conveyors, and engines are an integral part of a civil engineer’s work. To this effect, they must know how these systems work and how to operate them.

For example, civil engineers with great mechanical reasoning know how to use machines to check the durability of structures. This means they need mechanical reasoning to ensure projects can withstand forces and loads, such as wind, earthquakes, and heavy traffic.

5. Mathematical skills

While surveying a particular structure or measuring its potential risk factors, civil engineers consider the forces acting on the structures. These forces could either take the form of the load the structure is supposed to carry, or environmental factors like wind.

Either way, civil engineers calculate how stable a particular structure is by comparing these forces with the structures’ capacity. In their calculations, they apply numbers and numerical functions, which are a major part of numerical reasoning.

For example, while assessing the stability of a bridge, civil engineers need mathematical skills to determine how much load it can carry. To do this, they need to calculate how many cars and people the bridge can carry at a time.

Thus, to determine a structure’s stability, civil engineers must know how to work with numbers and numerical operations.

Civil engineer soft skills

From managing teams to communicating with clients and stakeholders, civil engineers need soft skills to be effective. To this effect, as a recruiter, you should look out for these traits to easily spot talent. Here are some relevant civil engineer soft skills:

1. Leadership

Civil engineers often oversee a team of workers on the construction site, including the construction managers, architects, and surveyors. Hence, they need leadership skills to coordinate their teams and achieve a particular goal.

Additionally, with good leadership skills, a civil engineer can gain insights from their team to make more informed decisions. These include decisions concerning the planning, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure.

2. Communication

A critical part of the job of a civil engineer involves interacting with others on the construction site and in the office. Considering this, the civil engineer must be able to share ideas and explain concepts to those they interact with.

Communication skills enable civil engineers to break down technical information to clients, coworkers, and stakeholders. In addition, these skills help civil engineers explain concepts to their teams, assign tasks, and ensure everyone works towards the same goal.

3. Critical thinking

With critical thinking skills, civil engineers can analyze and interpret data from a wide range of sources. This lets them identify patterns, trends, and potential issues with the construction process.

Civil engineers also need critical thinking skills to develop new and innovative solutions to complex issues. Thus, a civil engineer who thinks critically tends to be more creative. They can think outside the box to find new approaches to project design and execution.

4. Organization

At times, civil engineering projects can become complex and involve numerous tasks. In scenarios like this, the civil engineer must be organized enough to manage projects effectively. 

This means they must organize their tasks according to priority and carry out each one to the best of their capacity.

In addition, a civil engineer deals with many documents including design plans and project reports for various projects. Organization skills ensure they don’t mix up the documents and increase the risk of errors in construction.

5. Attention to detail

Generally speaking, civil engineers must have an eye for detail to spot errors in construction. Without attention to detail, they risk developing roads, airways, bridges, and other infrastructure which wouldn’t be safe to use.

Moreover, with a lower risk of construction mistakes, the team can avoid wasting time rectifying issues. Thus, attention to detail also ensures civil engineers complete their projects on time.

6. Time management

The ability to prioritize tasks and complete projects on time is called time management. An excellent civil engineer knows how to allot the appropriate time to projects according to their urgency or level of priority.

Time management skills enable civil engineers to handle various tasks effectively with available resources and meet their deadlines.

With effective time management, civil engineers can consider the potential drawbacks during projects and plan against them. Thus, it ensures that they complete projects on time, even in the face of unexpected challenges.

How to test civil engineer skills

While hiring a civil engineer, relying on candidates’ resumes isn’t the best course of action. StandoutCV reports that around 55% of candidates have lied on their resumes at least once. This means that the qualifications candidates claim to have aren’t always reliable.

To identify civil engineers who actually have the skills they claim, you should test for those skills. With this in mind, pre-employment tests are the best way to assess your candidates.

Pre-employment skills testing is a hiring technique that involves assessing how skilled the candidates are in their field. During civil engineer recruitment, pre-employment tests help you spot skilled candidates by providing opportunities for them to prove their skills.

With TestGorilla, you have access to multiple pre-employment tests that help you measure your candidates’ fit for the open role. You can also create your civil engineer assessment by combining more than one test on our platform.

Our test library contains numerous tests, each suited to a particular civil engineer skill. Below, we will describe some of the tests you can administer to identify talented civil engineers:

1. Leadership skills test

Our Leadership skills test is a comprehensive assessment that checks candidates’ ability to lead others. It evaluates their ability to coordinate a team toward achieving a stipulated goal.

The leadership test also checks the candidate’s ability to assign tasks to others and take responsibility for their team. Using real-life scenarios, this test helps you identify those who can explain concepts and influence others positively.

With the leadership skills test, you’ll be able to spot civil engineers who can make decisions and coordinate the construction process effectively.

2. Communication skills test

The Communication skills test assesses candidates’ ability to effectively communicate with others, both verbally and in writing. It checks their ability to convey ideas clearly, listen actively, and respond appropriately in different situations.

The questions in this test evaluate different aspects of communication, such as grammar, vocabulary, active listening, and conflict resolution. Candidates who perform well on this test can interact comfortably with others.

3. Attention to detail test

TestGorilla’s Attention to detail test evaluates a candidate’s ability to identify and correct errors in various types of tasks. This test assesses various skills, including visual perception, accuracy, and precision.

The test includes practical questions that require candidates to identify patterns, match data, or compare information to ensure accuracy. Thus, it helps you find civil engineers who can spot issues in construction and ensure the process adheres to safety guidelines.

4. Mechanical Reasoning test

This test measures the civil engineer’s knowledge of the mechanical concepts and principles necessary for their job. It includes questions related to force, gravity, and motion, all of which are critical factors in mechanical systems.

The mechanical reasoning test primarily analyzes how well the candidates understand mechanical systems and how they work, helping you find civil engineers who can operate relatively complex equipment.

When incorporating this test into your recruitment, it’s best to know when to administer the Mechanical Reasoning test. This lets you ascertain if the candidate is qualified to work with you.

5. Mathematical skills test

This Mathematical skills test assesses candidates’ mathematical reasoning using questions on basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistical analysis. Essentially, the test checks the candidates’ familiarity with numerical calculations and data analysis.

Incorporating this mathematics test in your recruitment will help you identify civil engineers who can carry out mathematical calculations comfortably. Candidates who pass this test have a firm grasp of mathematics and can apply the results of calculations to work. 

Where to find a civil engineer

Before publishing your job post, you must first determine your target audience. To a large extent, your target audience defines how qualified your applications will be.

To determine your target audience, you must first decide which type of civil engineer you want to hire. Fundamentally, there are two types of civil engineers: freelance and full-time civil engineers.

Both types of civil engineers are effective for different functions. While freelance engineers are perfect for short-term projects, full-time civil engineers are more suitable for long-term ones. We will go into detail about the types of civil engineers and where to find them below:

Freelance civil engineers

A freelance civil engineer is one who works with an organization for a particular project over a stipulated period. Freelance civil engineers are self-employed and work independently on a project-by-project basis.

They typically work remotely and tailor their schedules according to their terms. This means that they choose which projects to work on and charge the client per project. Here are some pros of hiring a freelance civil engineer:

  • They charge per completed project, thus costing less.

  • There are no additional costs associated with benefits, taxes, and office space, so they also attract less expenses.

  • They’re flexible, accustomed to adapting to changes in project scope and working with tight deadlines.

  • They can choose to work in specific industries, hence gaining more proficiency in those fields. As a result, they can bring unique expertise to your project.

Also, consider the cons of hiring a freelance civil engineer below:

  • Due to the amount of independence they have, you might have less control over them. This means that they might not always respond to assignments or you might be unable to fit them into a fixed schedule.

  • There might be concerns with the quality of the freelancer’s services, which you may be unaware of. These could reduce the efficiency of their work and the success of the project.

  • They may have other projects they are working on, which can lead to availability issues. This can be problematic if the project has tight deadlines or requires a significant amount of time and attention.

  • Since they’re independent, they might lack loyalty to the project or the company’s goals. There’s also the risk of company information leakage.

Here are some platforms where you can find freelance civil engineers:

Full-time civil engineers

Full-time civil engineers, also known as in-house civil engineers, work with a company for a long period. They are usually part of a team that includes other engineers, architects, project managers, and support staff. 

In-house civil engineers oversee all aspects of a project, from the initial design phase to the final construction phase. They also have access to company resources such as software, tools, and equipment. Here are some pros of hiring an in-house civil engineer:

  • You have more control over a full-time civil engineer since they work according to your term.

  • They are dedicated to the company and can provide consistency in project delivery, standards, and processes.

  • They are subject to company guidelines, making them more loyal. Thus, there is a lower risk of information leakage.

  • With fixed pay, you can easily track how much you spend periodically.

Asides from their advantages, we’ve pointed out some cons of hiring an in-house civil engineer to consider below:

  • Hiring a full-time civil engineer comes with extra costs aside from their salary. These include the cost of office space, equipment, and added job benefits.

  • They may have limited flexibility in terms of work hours and project timelines. This can lead to issues when projects require rapid responses or tight deadlines.

  • There’s a high chance of burnout if the engineer works on a particular project for extended periods.

Below are some platforms where you can find full-time civil engineers:

Civil engineer job description template

The purpose of a job description is to attract candidates with the skills and expertise required for a particular role. This can go both ways, as an inadequately drafted job description can attract the wrong candidates.

Primarily, a job description is supposed to serve as a self-assessment for the applicants. After viewing your company’s requirements, they should evaluate how fit they are for the role before applying.

As such, while drafting your job description, you must avoid errors. This is because your candidates see the job description first. So, it determines whether qualified candidates apply for the position.

An excellent way to prevent errors in your civil engineer job description and attract the best candidates is to use a template. Below, we have crafted a civil engineer job description to help you draft yours to perfection:

Job title

The job title is a one-sentence section that immediately tells the candidate the role. For example:

“Full-time civil engineers needed at [COMPANY NAME]”

Company overview

In this part of the job post, you introduce the candidates to your company in three or four sentences. You can include your company goals, a brief history, or location. Here’s what it should look like:

“[COMPANY NAME] is a construction company located in [LOCATION]. Our primary focus is to develop infrastructure that satisfies our community and meets legal requirements.

[COMPANY NAME] is looking for civil engineers with a keen eye for detail who can provide quality services to the company and our community.”

Duties and responsibilities

Here, you inform the candidates of all the duties they would carry out as civil engineers in your company. Remember to be clear and concise with each point so the candidates understand your requirements properly. Below is an example:

“As a full-time civil engineer at [COMPANY NAME], you will:

  • Develop and design plans for civil engineering projects, such as roads, bridges, buildings, and water treatment facilities

  • Perform site investigations and surveys to determine project feasibility and identify potential issues

  • Prepare project cost estimates and construction schedules

  • Supervise the construction and installation of project components and ensure that work is completed to specifications and quality standards

  • Review and analyze project data to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal regulations

  • Collaborate with other engineers, architects, and contractors to ensure meeting project objectives 

  • Provide technical expertise and support to project team members

  • Manage project budgets and prepare progress reports for clients and stakeholders

  • Keep up-to-date with the latest developments in civil engineering technology and industry standards”

Qualifications and skills

In this section, you describe what it takes to secure the position. This includes the skills needed for the job, as well as the qualifications and level of experience you’re looking for. Here’s an example:

“For this position, you must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering or any related field

  • [Insert number of years] years of experience in civil engineering

  • Professional Engineering (PE) license preferred

  • Strong knowledge of civil engineering principles and practices

  • Excellent communication, project management, and problem-solving skills

  • Ability to work independently and in a team environment

  • Knowledge of local, state, and federal regulations related to civil engineering projects”


This section states clearly what the candidates stand to gain if they secure the position in your company. This final part of the job description serves as the final push for talent to apply for the role, so you must craft it carefully. Check out this example:

“As a full-time civil engineer at [COMPANY NAME] you will have access to the following:

  • Health and dental insurance

  • Retirement benefits

  • Paid time off

  • Discounts on selected company products

How much does a civil engineer cost?

The cost of a civil engineer varies depending on several factors. These include their level of experience, geographic location, and the complexity of the work involved. So, to know how much it would cost to hire a civil engineer, you must first define their role in your company.

In general, civil engineers earn around $82,396 yearly according to ZipRecruiter. However, civil engineers with more skills and experience might cost more.

It’s always best to consider the cost of a civil engineer during recruitment because it helps you plan your budget properly. Knowing this cost, you can determine a salary that will attract candidates without crossing the budget. 

Civil engineer interview questions

Ultimately, the interview process functions to give the recruiter a chance to observe various traits the candidates possess. Depending on what the recruiter is looking for, these traits could be personality traits, body language indicators, or even speaking skills.

In any case, interviewing is a delicate process that requires time, effort, and money. Before you conduct an interview, it’s advisable to have a plan. Interview strategies lay a blueprint for how the entire process should go and outline the traits the recruiter wants to observe.

A good interview strategy has a set time limit for each session. Generally, in-person interviews last between 45 to 90 minutes. However, you can choose the time frame adequate for you to assess all the qualities you want.

While planning an interview, you should prepare your interview questions beforehand. This ensures that the process goes smoothly and you don’t waste time thinking up questions on the spot.

Choosing interview questions can be tricky. The goal is to learn more about your candidate while avoiding beating around the bush or drifting off topic. If you’re not sure which questions to ask your candidates, here are a few to consider:  

  1. What inspired you to become a civil engineer?

  2. What are the most important qualities for a civil engineer to possess?

  3. Can you describe a challenging project you worked on and how you overcame any obstacles?

  4. How do you stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and advancements in civil engineering?

  5. How do you prioritize and manage your workload and project timelines?

  6. How do you ensure that your designs and plans comply with safety regulations and building codes?

  7. Can you describe your experience working with project management software and tools?

  8. How do you communicate technical information and project updates to stakeholders who may not have a technical background?

  9. How do you collaborate with other professionals, such as architects and construction managers, to ensure the success of a project?

The final touch to optimize your recruitment

Knowing how to hire a civil engineer is the first step to finding talent for your organization. The next step is knowing how to spot the talent. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on resumes or the candidates’ claims of expertise. However, you can use pre-employment testing.

Pre-employment assessments are the best way to identify talent because they provide a means to witness the candidates apply their skills. What’s more? You don’t have to look too hard to find a pre-employment testing platform. TestGorilla is just right for the job.

With TestGorilla, you don’t just gain access to multiple civil engineer skill assessments; the system ranks the candidates’ performance. This way you can see who performed best and which candidates have the combination of skills that you’re looking for. Sign up with us for free and get started today!


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