TICON General Contractors focuses on new medical and dental office construction. We offer wide skill in commercial construction and tenant improvement in Orange County.
17602 17th Street, Suite 102-199 Tustin, CA, 92780
Phone: (657) 218-4835

The Truth Regarding Plan Reading


I’ve been in this industry for over twenty years now, and for many of those years I was in charge of the new hires process at the company.  The process was simple: we vetted the applicant’s resumes, and we would have them come in for a first interview.  The next step after the first interview was to meet with our Field Manager, Project Manager, or more people if needed.  Most of the applicants would have resumes matching the required work experience we needed in order to handle their position.  What we would find occasionally with a new hire is that there would be struggles on job sites due to items being missed or not understood.  Much of it was related to the fact that they didn’t read plans well.


Plan reading skills require various aptitudes.  Reading, 3D spatial visualization, numerical series and facility, and memory for design.  Strong aptitudes in these categories usually are characteristics of a solid plan reader, or strong engineers, architects, or project managers.


Field Supervisors can fly under the radar with diligent Project Managers double checking them out at the sites.  With a poor plan reader this required more time in order to prevent mistakes.  In order to combat this we developed a simple Tenant Improvement timed plan reading test that we gave to applicants.  We only gave it to applicants that we wanted to take the next step with.  The test we developed was simple with a time limit.  The applicant was given the set of plans and the test while supervised at our office to complete within the time limit.  We developed and built the test using employees that had skills that we deemed superior, and used them as practice guineas when finalizing the test and results.  Our ideal results were for a testee to achieve 90% or better with anything above 75% as relating to a C or better in school.


After years of testing the results were quite eye opening.  Keep in mind that we would only give the test to applicants that had strong resumes and did well with their first interview.  Over 80% of the applicants we tested did not score above a 75% on the test.  (Yes, you read that correctly.)  Of the 20% that scored over 75% only 5% scored above the 90% range showing superior plan reading skills.  


The unfortunate truth about our experience with this process is that most of the people we interviewed had worked or were working in the industry for other firms.  Even today as I work in this industry I see workers that can’t read plans.  These workers need a solid supervisor in order to mitigate errors.  What is even worse than this is that I run across Construction Managers working for big management firms running construction projects that aren’t well versed in plan reading, and they are calling the shots.  


In other industries these types of results wouldn’t fly.  Could you imagine your pilot scoring a D on the flight test, or how about your doctor scoring a D on the medical exam, and yet the both of them are working in the industry?  I don’t think most of us would be comfortable with this.  Obviously, construction isn’t a life threatening situation, yet poor plan reading skills on any job is going to produce an inferior product and consume a lot more time for project completion than it should.