Questions to Ask your Skilled Laborers in an Interview

July 15th, 2021

You’re on a hiring mission, and you need a candidate who can do a very specific task. Sure, you also need a friendly, adaptable person with a can-do spirit who can learn new things quickly—who doesn’t?—but in this case, all of those qualities pale in comparison to the one you need the most.

You may need a CDC machinist, a cook, a translator who can speak fluid Hindi, or someone who can step up to a podium and command a crowd with their public speaking skills. You might need a trained electrician, an X-ray technician, or someone who can clean the soot out of an industrial chimney. In all of these cases—and many, many more—it’s not practical to hire a cheerful, smart, friendly employee who lacks these skills and simply train them on the job. These are tasks that take years to learn and a lifetime to master, and you need an employee who can step up to the plate on day one.

So how can you be sure that your candidate has what it takes? Here are a few questions to pose during the interview so you can rest assured that you and your candidate are on the same page and both of you understand what’s required and what’s being offered in terms of skill and value.

Ask them to describe their training.

This is a quick way to get a sense of how many hours (or decades) your candidate has been immersed in this activity. Depending on the nature of the skilled task and the needs of your company, a completion statement for a 20-hour training course or a simple state certification may be enough. In other cases, you may need someone who’s possessed this skill since childhood, or someone who has been taking formal lessons for five years or more. It’s easy for a candidate to say “I can do this”. It’s more helpful if they can say “I’ve studied with a master craftsman for a year”, or “I’ve been licensed and practicing since my early 20’s”, or “my grandmother taught me to do this when I was a teenager.”

Ask for a quick demonstration if the circumstances allow.

Of course you can’t usually ask a candidate to bake a cake or cut a child’s hair for you during an interview, but you can ask them to speak a few words in a non-native language or solve a common

puzzle that the task in question may present. Make the task or demonstration reflect the level of difficulty that the person will be likely to experience on the job.

Use tests.

Simply offering a written test can cover a lot of ground when it comes to skill assessment. But keep a few things in mind: some experts at a craft may not be able to convey that in a written test format, so don’t risk losing an expert candidate because you relied on only one weak metric. Also, it’s essential to use the same test for every candidate who applies for the job.

Ask tough insider questions.

If you don’t know what to ask because you yourself cannot bake a cake, speak Italian, or wire a house, then get your questions from someone else—someone who’s fluent in this area of expertise. Bring the candidate’s answers back to that person or source to find out how valid they are. For more, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

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