September 1, 2022

How to Conduct Better Job Interviews So You Can Hire Good Manufacturing Employees

by Mike O'Neill

You’re always looking for the best-qualified candidates, but you seem to keep striking out on finding employees who fit in well with your team. The feedback from senior management and previous hires suggests that you need more consistency.

If this sounds familiar, my suggestion is that you overhaul your interview process. To conduct better job interviews, you need to

  • Understand the mechanics of a proper interview setting, whether it be in-person or virtual (Zoom)
  • Know what questions to ask of all candidates, who asks what, and how to create a natural flow from basic to advanced questions
  • Know how to take the information gathered in the interview and process it to choose the best candidate

As a former HR professional, I’ve conducted countless interviews over the last four decades. Of all my years of experience, and especially now as a coach and consultant, I’ve noticed that a major problem in many manufacturing organizations is inconsistent job interviews.

Interviews don’t have to go perfectly, but if you want to be consistent each time, you must have a process that you follow with each applicant. Interviewing isn’t an exact science, and you’ll often make decisions by gut feeling using the applicant’s answers and demeanors as cues. Below, I’ll walk you through coming up with a plan to have a successful job interview.

Step #1. Promote Good Communication

We all know the point of interviewing applicants is to see how their skills and personality might fit within the work environment. If the interview starts out poorly, you may overlook an otherwise excellent candidate who lost their confidence. If you promote good communication, you offer each applicant a fair start.

When applicants are comfortable and at ease, they are open to communication. The interview runs smoother when the applicant is engaged and participating. You’ll learn more about them and whether or not they would make a good fit.

To promote good communication:

  • Choose a comfortable and quiet place for the interview that is away from noise and distractions. Each applicant should be able to communicate effectively and be heard within the space you provide. 
  • Schedule enough time for each interview to allow you to ask all your planned questions and offer the applicant time to ask questions of their own. All attendees should have time to participate in the discussion. You don’t want the interview to feel rushed.
  • Make sure everyone involved knows the location, time, and setting (in-person/virtual) of the interview. Ideally, you should have your team ready to start the interview as each applicant arrives.

Step #2. Set the Tone

What: Set a casual tone for each interview. 

Why: When you set the applicant’s mind at ease, and they relax, you’ll see a decent glimpse of their personality.

You can hire good manufacturing employees by following the same structure and process of promoting good communication and setting the tone with ALL interviews. 

How: To set the interview tone:

  • Greet the applicant with a warm smile and handshake (if in person). Your interviews should feel casual, not like an interrogation. 
  • Be present, on time, and friendly. Your goal is to make each applicant feel welcome and comfortable with each representative from your organization.
  • Follow the same structure and process with each interview. Remember how I said inconsistent interviews were the biggest problem I saw? If you follow the same structure and process for each interview, you can conduct consistent job interviews. In Steps #3 through #5, we dive deeper.

Step #3. Facilitate Discussion

Your candidate needs to do the majority of the talking, and it’s crucial for you to ask open-ended questions that will facilitate discussion. Start with easy questions to build confidence before diving into more complex questions. 

The more your candidate talks, the less they will filter out. It lets you get a more authentic sense of who the candidate is and their personality. 

To facilitate discussion:

  1. Only ask open-ended questions that are job-related
  2. Ask questions one at a time and give the applicant sufficient time to form a response
  3. If you’re asked to repeat the question, don’t paraphrase— just repeat the whole question

Step #4. Maintain Consistency

Your interviews must be structured so that each candidate has a consistent experience. Your team or panel should consider a list of pre-planned questions to use. 

Maintaining consistency is essential for improving your processes because you can clearly see where you need to improve. For example, when you ask all candidates the same question, and they answer poorly, you know that your question needs revisions. 

To maintain consistency during interviews:

  1. Offer a quiet space for the interview
  2. Set the tone for each interview
  3. Start each interview with easy questions that progress in difficulty
  4. Improve the interview process as needed to attain better outcomes

Step #5.  Listen to Responses

The key to interviewing is actively listening to the responses. You want to get a sense of the candidate’s past experiences working within teams. Find out what does and doesn’t work for them and what challenges they may have.

Actively listening to the candidate gives you a feel of how they would work as a team member. The team’s dynamic is critically important. You can have the best candidate on paper, but it just won't work out if they can’t be complementary to the team. Your candidate needs to be a good fit for the experience, background, and culture you have in place.

To effectively interview a candidate:

  1. Listen carefully to what they say
  2. Listen to what they don’t say
  3. Listen with your eyes for non-verbal cues, and whether their body language supports the verbal answers you’re getting 

If you need more help with conducting consistent interviews, I offer consulting and training services. Comment below to find out more, or connect with me on social media.

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