“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Got an interview coming up? In this article, we’ll take a look at how you can successfully prepare for an industrial trades on-site interview.
One of the secrets to acing an interview as a tradesman or tradeswoman is being well-versed in the company. Employers do not want applicants who don’t care or know nothing about the job they are applying for.
A company’s website is a treasure-trove of information. You can learn about their history, the products they produce or services they provide, the type of equipment they use, their company culture, where they are located and recent news. You can gain a lot of knowledge about how you can fit into the company’s culture and it will be a huge advantage if you bring up positive details about the company during the interview. Don’t just stop at the website. Also search Google, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor for reviews, other articles, and news about the company.
But what if you find out something bad about the company? Good! The interview is as much about you learning about the company as it is about them learning about you. Don’t be a grouch or bring up online gossip, but think about a tactful way to validate or dismiss the issue that you may have discovered. Be professional. If you read a handful of bad reviews about the company, go to the interview anyway and form your own opinion by giving your interviewer a chance to respond in person. Afterwards, you can combine your review with that of other people, and you didn’t burn a bridge in the process by canceling at the last minute.
Like any interaction, an interview is a chance for you to tell your story. The best way to tell your story is to practice beforehand by yourself or with a friend. Listen to your story and try to nail any inconsistencies, polish any setbacks or personal issues, and craft a compelling story that shows why you are the best candidate. Answer questions you expect to hear in advance, such as:
Think about work you have done that is most applicable to the employer. Talk about it as part of your work experience. Talk about how you performed the work but also how you interacted with other people on the team. Think about what the employer will most value in your experience and highlight those skills and/or experience.
Be prepared to do a test of your relevant trades skills for the employer. This may be a weld test, machining test, micro-soldering test or something similar. In some cases, an employer may do a more basic interview, but then want to schedule a multiple hour, half-day or full-day test to see you in action. Depending on the situation, it would be most appropriate for the employer to hire you to do the half-day to full-day test. Think of this half-day or full-day working interview as a way for you to try them out as well, and be paid for your time.
The skills test is your chance to show the employer what you are capable of. If you have a skills test scheduled, be sure to bring the equipment necessary to do the work. This equipment might include your welding helmet, gloves, and eye protection. Be sure to also wear appropriate clothing to do the test. Ask the employer what would be best to wear. It’s unlikely they will have you change from a button-down shirt and khakis into your work clothes for the test. Remember to ask about appropriate footwear.
In our experience, we would beg that you not try to “wing-it” with the skills test. If you do, it will end up being a waste of time and money for the employer and they will most likely be very annoyed. If you know that you don’t have the skills to do the job or complete the test, tell the employer that your experience is limited (be specific) but you are passionate about the work and you would love to learn more. The employer will appreciate your honesty and may offer to give you a chance in a more entry-level position (likely at a lower pay rate) so that you can learn the skill.
As mentioned above, the interview is your chance to assess the company, show that you care about your career and communicate that you are thoughtful and intelligent. Take the information that you learned online and from the company website and think of at least five questions that you would like to ask the employer during the interview.
Start this process by reflecting on what matters to you. Is it the equipment they have? Is it the long-term career track available at the company? Is it how teams work together? Is it what equipment the company expects you to have? As a best practice, ask questions about the company culture, variety of work, and opportunities for advancement.
Be careful with questions about pay. We know you care about pay rate, but be careful about making it the number one focus of the interview or your questions. You may make the employer feel uncomfortable that it is the only thing you care about and that you will be likely to jump ship if the shop down the street offers you fifty cents more. Be tactful and try to ask questions that emphasize your desire to find a long-term home.
If possible, you may benefit working with a specialty trades recruiter like Xemplar Workforce Solutions that has long-standing relationships with trades professionals and high-quality employers. Like with any agent relationship, the recruiter will most likely already know a great deal of information about the employer, especially more sensitive subjects such as pay and benefits. You will be able to enter the interview with more perspective on the company and ask more intelligent and relevant questions.
First impressions are everything. Therefore, showing up on time and being prepared for the interview should be a priority. Because you may be unfamiliar with the location, consider scoping out where the interview will be a day or so before the interview. At the very least, go onto Google Maps and check out the location and the route before the day of the interview. Sometimes addresses are wrong on navigation apps, so try to verify that the address that comes up is actually where the business is located. Take the days weather and traffic report into consideration. Also, do you have to cross any train tracks? Don’t get yourself stuck for 15 minutes at a train crossing. Have an alternate route ready to go in the event that happens. Additionally, sometimes there are multiple facility locations, so be sure to clarify any confusion with your recruiter at least a day before the interview (not a half hour before!).
On the day of the interview, you should arrive ten to fifteen minutes early, not 30 – 60 minutes early. This will give you plenty of time to be relaxed, handle any last-minute hiccups, and show the employer that you are organized and care about the opportunity and your interviewer’s schedule. If you get there earlier than fifteen minutes early, just stay outside in your vehicle a bit longer and review your interview questions or the company website on your smartphone.
What should you wear to the interview? “Dress up” for the interview unless told otherwise. That means a nice button-down shirt or polo shirt and khaki pants or your nicest pair of jeans (without grime or rips). For men, in general, a tie and jacket is not typical or expected and may be overkill (but use your judgment). If possible, avoid sneakers and, if you are meeting at the industrial facility and you own them, we recommend wearing steel-toed boots so that there is no issue giving you a tour of the location.
Major advice: DON’T WEAR A HAT. You may wear that awesome trucker hat every day of your life and you may even see a ton of people wearing hats at the company, but you will make a stronger impression without the hat.
All of this advice will be different if you have an on-site skills test. In that case, work clothes will be most appropriate, but still try not to look sloppy. Feel free to clarify with your recruiter before the interview. They will appreciate that you asked.
Turn off your cellphone before you enter the building and be sure to bring a copy of your resume and any other documents the employer has requested.
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Finding the perfect job is not easy. You’re an expert in your trade, not necessarily in searching job boards, making hiring manager calls, and dropping off resumes. Xemplar Workforce Solutions is a specialty recruiter that works with skilled trades professionals and the outstanding employers that value them. Contact us today so that we can get to know you and match you with a great, long-term career opportunity!