He takes over on Monday, two weeks after Jennie Price's shock resignation.
Ratcliffe, 45, who joined the confederation as director of public affairs in 1997 from the Department of Trade and Industry, said the confederation wanted somebody to take over from Jennie Price immediately.
"The confederation wanted someone who was outward-facing, and I was in public affairs. And they also wanted someone with good links with Whitehall," said Ratcliffe.
As yet, Ratcliffe has no radical plans to overhaul the confederation.
One contractor, which withdrew from the National Federation of Builders this year over complaints that the confederation did not serve the interests of medium-sized companies, said the new chief executive would have a difficult job pleasing all its constituencies.
"I haven't met him but he has my sympathies," he said.