Preparing for a Production Worker Interview

This year, we have watched the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.  The job market in manufacturing is tough, but it is far from being a lost cause.  Manufacturing firms need to maintain certain staffing levels to meet production requirements.  For a displaced production worker, particularly individuals who may not have looked for a job in the last twenty or thirty years, preparing to interview can be very difficult.

Interviewing for a job is not a skill everyone naturally possesses.  In fact, most people are not very good at selling their potential in an interview (and a lot of them are downright terrible).  Knowing how hiring managers assess job seekers can help your preparation. 

In manufacturing, a supervisor might manage upwards of 100 production workers.  Even with teams of only a few dozen, managing this many people can be difficult. The supervisor will have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities.  When a single employee has performance problems, it can eat a tremendous amount of the supervisor’s time.

When hiring, a supervisor will look for characteristics which indicate the job seeker will not be a performance problem.  In other words, the supervisor tries to pick out reasons why the job seeker will not succeed, and reject the job seeker for these reasons.  If the supervisor can’t find a reason to reject the job seeker, they are likely to be hired.

What characteristics do supervisors consider?

  • Work Ethic: Supervisors want to build teams of people who work hard and do not need to be pushed to do their job. I’m sure you have worked with people at both ends of the spectrum – individuals who can’t sit still and will find work if they don’t have any, and individuals who sit and wait to be told what to do. The former is easy to manage and the latter can be a huge source of frustration for the supervisor.
  • Reliability: One of the biggest challenges in a production environment is dealing with unexpected absenteeism. Businesses run very lean, often with every scheduled employee performing an essential job. There are no extra workers sitting around in case someone is a no show. This makes reliability a big concern.
  • Attitude: The most productive employee can be a terrible part of a company if they have a bad attitude and destroy the morale on a team. We see this in sports all the time – a superstar whose’s attitude causes a good team to turn into a bad one. The same happens in production environments. Supervisors look for characteristics that show how a job seeker might be disruptive in a team environment.
  • Mechanical Ability: In a production environment, having good mechanical skills can help a new employ get up to speed quickly and make it much easier for the company to train them. Supervisors will look for past experiences that show good mechanical ability.
  • Safety: Supervisors want employees who will make good decisions and safety is a big part of this. There are workers who will do whatever they can to circumvent safety rules. I’ve never understood this. Failing to follow the safety rules can lead to serious injury and will often lead to termination. Despite this, there are people who just won’t follow the rules. They can be very difficult to deal with as a supervisor, and supervisors will try to avoid hiring people like this.

If a person can demonstrate they have a good work ethic, are reliable, have a positive attitude, have good mechanical ability and are concerned about safety, they have a good chance of getting hired.