by Nicole Mitchell, editor, The American Mold Builder

Those in the manufacturing industry know that it’s important to always have options – especially in a world where the Great Resignation still is occuring. For the most part, members of the American Mold Builders Association follow that rule. In fact, 58% of AMBA members are actively seeking potential employees at all times. But for those 42% of members not on the search, there may be some questions.

In the last issue of The American Mold Builder, molding professionals gave tips on the best recruitment strategies: community involvement, choosing the right channel for hiring notices, focusing on workplace values and more. But what happens after a company has the attention of someone who might fit the role? Interviews.

Who should be involved?
It’s most common for general managers or plant managers to be the primary hiring representative, as stated by 38% of companies in the AMBA Workforce Playbook. Twenty-four percent of companies said that they had a company executive on board as the main representative while conducting interviews. That includes presidents and vice presidents of the company. Following suit, the next primary hiring representatives held in manufacturing companies, according to the survey, are human resources managers.

While the primary hiring representative may change from company to company, it’s common for manufacturing workplaces to have more than one interviewer during the process. In fact, 76% of companies responded to the survey saying that they had multiple staff involved in the process. This commonly is known, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), as a panel group interview.

A panel group interview is where a candidate is interviewed individually by a panel of two or more people. “Panel interviews can be either structured or unstructured,” SHRM shared in its ‘Interviewing Candidates for Employment’ toolkit. “When organized properly, a panel interview can create a broader picture of the candidate than a one-on-one interview would produce.” While having a panel interview can be beneficial, especially when interviewing a candidate who already has been interviewed once, there are some rules to follow, according to SHRM – such as having no more than four or five people.

As with any group, there should be clear organization as to avoid confusion. “One interviewer should serve as the leader,” SHRM shared, “and other participants should serve in support roles.” Some roles include the person who asks questions and someone who takes notes. More than anything, make sure that everyone on the hiring team understands who the applicant is and what their place in the hiring process is.

In person or virtual?
Since the pandemic began in 2020, the US has gone virtual with almost everything – interviews included. Fifty-eight percent of manufacturing professionals responding to the AMBA survey said they currently hold phone interviews before face-to-face interviews. While virtual Zoom or phone interviews may be more convenient, there are other things to consider before making the decision to do so.

Due to the low-commitment nature of virtual interviews, occurrences of applicant ghosting have been rising during the hiring process. Ghosting is when someone applies for the job but drops out somewhere along the line with no explanation as to why, whether after an interview is scheduled, after an offer is made or prior to the first day of work. However, there are ways that companies have continued the process of virtual interviews while minimizing the number of ghosting applicants, such has implementing the use of texted reminders to applicants to get their attention.

Setting expectations
Whether companies choose virtual or in-person interviews as their process, the goal is the same – to hire someone that fits into the team seamlessly. This can be done by setting the stage properly and asking the right questions during the interview as to create expectations.

AMBA Workforce Playbook survey respondents were asked: “How do you set expectations for a potential employee during the interview process?” And many responded with similar answers. Some of the responses AMBA received were as follows:

  • Describe the company and its values
  • Discuss career path, hours, training, etc.
  • Discuss the job description and have prospective employees meet with team members from the department
  • Explain what is expected of employees while working for the company

While setting the stage in this way, companies look for one main thing during the interview process, and that’s something that can’t be changed with training – character. While interviewing, members of the hiring process should ask themselves, “How would this person fit in with our team?” If the candidate seems like a good fit after the interview, consider giving a shop tour and introducing the interviewee to the team.

Top tips for interviewing
Overall, there are many ways to conduct an interview. Companies can have more than one person present, host it online or in-person, require candidates to perform a project and more. Despite what a company chooses to do, there are some tips and tricks that should be kept in mind during the interview process.

1. Encourage communication
SHRM recommends encouraging as much interaction from the applicant during the interview as possible. “The interviewer should create an atmosphere that promotes communication,” SHRM shared. This can be done by minimizing the number of people involved in a panel interview, conducting interviews in a quiet location, scheduling enough time for the interview to take place
and more. In general, those leading the interview should create a welcoming and warm environment for the interviewee. Interviews can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing environment, and it’s the company’s role to minimize that feeling.

2. Take notes
While some professionals argue that taking notes is distracting to the interviewer, there still are benefits to doing so, especially when the notes are in response to guided prompts created by the interviewing company. Instead of writing on the resume or cover letter of the applicant, SHRM recommends recording notes on a separate interview evaluation sheet. Creating an evaluation sheet prevents the note taker from too much distraction during the interview and allows the interview team to collect the information needed to move forward with the candidate in a consistent manner so all candidates are evaluated in the same way.

3. Ask the right question
A portion of any scheduled interview will be used as a way to set expectations about the job and the workplace. However, resume questions are used to discover more about the candidate and how the individual might fit into the position. Resume questions could include, “Describe an error or mistake that you’ve made and how you solved it,” or “Describe a situation where you have positively influenced a previous coworker.” Asking the right questions helps the hiring team understand whether the candidate will be able to handle the work given to them as well as ensuring that the candidate will fit in with the whole team and has decision-making capabilities that match the role for which the interviewee could be hired.

It’s common for companies to feel under-experienced in their ability to interview candidates – and since the hiring process always is changing, that’s normal. Just under half of AMBA members who participated in the Workforce Playbook rated themselves as a seven or eight on a scale from one to 10 on their ability to successfully hire high-quality candidates. Seventeen percent of respondents listed themselves as five out of 10.

Just like the candidates being interviewed, the hiring team must do their research. Understanding the industry, learning the best questions to ask and creating an interview evaluation sheet are some of the ways of doing so. The AMBA Workforce Playbook is available for members at