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Great Interview Questions for Manufacturing Talent – Part Two

In the first part of this series, we discussed how we revamped our phone interview questions to identify soft skills, characteristics that enable someone to interact effectively with other people. A majority of the time people are fired from their jobs because of soft skills in manufacturing, rather than hard skills. Manufacturers need to focus more on soft skills since you can always train hard skills, but you cannot train people to have the right outlook. In short, we hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

As a result, we took the redesign of our hiring process even further, and applied this new perspective to the next step: face to face interviews. During this meeting, candidates meet with their prospective Department Manager, whose goal is to get to know the applicant as thoroughly as possible in order to properly assess their soft skills. Below find a sample of the questions used during this portion of the process:

If you could change one thing about your academic career, what would it be? Most applicants don’t expect to be asked about their academic performance while interviewing for an entry-level manufacturing job. However, this question allows hiring managers to evaluate a candidate’s self-awareness and ability to admit there are some aspects that they would like to improve. An essential soft skill is humility – applicants do not have to be perfect, but they do have to take accountability when things do not go according to plan.

How would you rate your supervisor on a scale from 1 to 10? This question is insightful because it gives the applicant an opportunity to discuss their relationship with management. Answers often reveal how a candidate likes to be trained, supported, and led to success. Conversely, it can also reveal friction resulting from a lack of resources, poor communication, or simply a clash in personality styles.

How would your last supervisor rate you on a scale from 1 to 10? Asking this question second is intentional, because it gives rich data in three ways. First, applicants tend to balance their answers, meaning the first score (management) is matched by the second score (self). If there are extremes on either side, that could signal a need for further questioning. Secondly, this question gives us a glimpse into how others view the applicant’s professional contributions. Since this question can be quantified, the answer helps us rank the candidate when analyzing the data post-interview. Additionally, it also taps into the applicant’s sense of self – or lack thereof. Are they aware of their standing in their current position? Why or why not?

Tell me about a time you presented a new idea to management. Almost everything in manufacturing is a team effort. Yes, applicants have their own particular tasks and priorities, but it is important for us to hire people who can see their tasks within the context of the larger shared goal, our Painted Picture. A successful; candidate needs an in-depth understanding of how their work affects both internal and external customers, including how the two are ultimately connected. Additionally, we are looking for someone who is empowered to identify issues, raise concerns and make suggestions regarding quality and efficiency, which translates into higher levels of employee engagement.

Whether you’re a traditional Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) company or you’re outsourcing production to a contract manufacturing partner, hiring the right people takes effort—and it takes the right soft skills. Your bottom line is already in the hands of your employees who complete essential tasks every day to ensure your manufacturing company’s profitability. By hiring for attitude rather than aptitude, our improved process takes that bottom-line growth further than ever thought possible.