Interviewing Tips for a Blue Collar worker…
Scanning the newspapers, filling out applications, and making phone calls isn’t all you have to do to get the job anymore. Now even machinists, tradesmen, maintenance, and most of all types of blue collar workers must interview with either a human resource professional, an executive or owner from the company before meeting the person who would be their immediate supervisor or even see the inside of a facility. Whether it’s protocol, a way to weed out the weirdo’s, or to save the time of the hiring manager, there isn’t anything you can do about it, except prepare for it!
Keep in mind, that blue-collar workers often intimidate some white-collar workers. Blue-collar workers are willing to get their hands dirty while white-collar workers are not. Blue-collar workers have a specific skill or trade that white-collar workers rely on. Yes, some blue-collar workers would like the pay that white-collar professionals earn, but in real time life, a blue-collar worker can make great money, and a great living, while learning to adjust accordingly to what they’re making. Often, white-collar workers are not able to make this transition, and are not willing to do so as easily.
It is absolutely true that in the interview, first impressions are the lasting impression. As a staffing recruiter with over eleven years of experience, only a select few of my many, many, blue-collar interviews have stood out. Appearance is key in these situations.
Just because your collar is blue, does not mean you need to prove to the interviewer that you are comfortable in a manufacturing setting, by looking like you just came out of one. You do not live in a factory so don’t appear as though you do.
Hair should be washed, and well maintained. If you wear it long, tie it back to look professional. Do not wear a bandana, a ball cap, or anything else on your head except your clean hair. Also, be clean-shaven. If you do have facial hair, it should appear neat, maintained, and look as though you always keep it that way-not as if you’ve been on a long hiatus from shaving while you were out of a job. (Having facial hair that does not wear well, or that is properly groomed, just comes off as being lazy or uninterested in how you look). Male interviewers tend to be bothered by this more than female interviewers.
A trademark of the blue-collar worker, are usually rough, dirty hands. Sometimes no matter what, the dirt just doesn’t come off! Especially, deep into the fingernails, but a little extra scrubbing and elbow grease can make a huge difference. You will have to shake someone’s hand, and this should be done with confidence and clean hands. Take an extra minute, use a little hand lotion to smooth the rough edges, and cut your nails neatly!
When dressing for interviews, wear Sunday church attire whether you attend church or not. Clothing should be clean, unstained, and ironed. 3-piece suits are unnecessary, but you should present yourself professionally. Don’t wear anything too flashy or trendy. Simply wear clean clothes, even if it is clean jeans and a collar shirt with buttons. Your clothes do not have to be name brand; you can buy a nice pair of pants and a decent shirt for the interview at a Wal-Mart or Target for under $50.00.
Many interviewers, especially females look at hands and shoes. Shoes should be as clean as you can get them. Wear the best pair of shoes you own that look well with the pants you will wear, and be sure to pay attention to your socks. A second opinion is a good idea if you need help in this area. Ask someone who cares that you get the job-sometimes that may not be your best buddy. If you are required to wear Steel Toe boots for the job, it’s okay to wear them to the interview if, and only if, they are in good condition.
If you own a watch, wear it. Do not ever look at it during the interview, but be sure to wear it. An interviewer told me one time that he checks to see if a person is wearing a watch. He said that if they didn’t have a watch on, they were less likely to know what time it was. He continued, that they were unaware of the time either because they have too much time on their hands and like it that way, or are less likely to be on time.
Another thing worth noting-the way you smell. Hopefully you know to wear deodorant! Keep the cologne, after-shave, or perfume to a minimum if you even wear it at all; you really should not have a smell to you. The chance that someone is going to like your choice smell is slim, so why take it? This especially applies to smokers. If you smoke, do not go into the interview with cigarettes in your pocket, and don’t smoke after you’ve showered and brushed your teeth prior to the interview. Yes, you may be able to smoke on the job, but you will find this out after you get the job. Don’t risk getting the job because of your bad habit(s).
Following your appearance, your eye contact, speech, and enthusiasm are the next key factors. Look the interviewer in the eye as much as possible. Command attention when you are speaking, and talk about your previous job duties as though you enjoyed doing them. Take pride in your previous work experience. If at one time, all you did was put one widget onto another widget, talk about the importance of what you were doing that impacted the end result and know what that end result is. Know about the companies you have worked for, what they made and whom they made them for. Many times, an interviewer has a hard time picturing a blue-collar worker on the job because they have never done the job themselves. Explain your role as though you were teaching someone who was going to do your job. Do not talk down, but use descriptive language in order to create an image for the interviewer. I once had a welder describe the difference between his TIG welding, and other common welding by comparing it to a painter. There are painters who paint houses and there are painters who paint portraits. Regardless of how he actually welded, he made it to the next round.
If you work on machinery that is unique in any way, it is appropriate to bring certifications or other visuals with you, but how you present this makes a difference. Carry any certificates you have in a binder or portfolio and ensure that the documents are neat and legible. Do not pull your card out of your back pocket in a crumpled mess. I interviewed a Boring Mill Operator who brought in a binder with all of his certifications, and pictures of the actual equipment he worked on. I knew that in the twenty-five years of his work, he had taken great pride in his job. He had pictures of himself next to the machines to show the size of the equipment that he worked on. He also provided examples of the detailed prints he had worked from to prove his ability to read and create from prints. In another section, he had pictures of when he had brought his son’s classmates in to show off what he did as a job for a school project. This all proves that he is interested in what he does, he takes great pride in his work, and will also promote the company he is going to work for in a positive way.
Many blue-collar workers are experts at company promotion, even more so than the white-collar workers who work there. Although you should speak descriptively about your job, you should also assume that the person you are speaking to does have an understanding of what you will be doing. You want to be sure that you are not talking down to the interviewer, and assume that they know exactly what you do and how you do it.
Be prepared. Bring your resume along with a portfolio as described above, if you have one. Bring a pen. You will most likely fill out an application even if you bring a resume. A resume simply shows that you made an effort to put on paper what you have done and gives you a slight advantage over those who do not have resumes, but most employers will require a separate application. Do not sigh and roll your eyes when you see the stack of papers coming at you. This is all part of the interview process, you are being observed from the moment you walk into the facility, to getting the application, filling out the application, and even as you walk to your car. Speaking of which, wash the car, and if it is a broken down mess, do not park where anyone can see you.
Remember, just because your collar is blue, you should know that if you are being interviewed, someone needs the skills you have, so own those skills with pride and confidence. Interviews take practice and most people will have to go through several prior to accepting a job offer they want. For any worker, regardless the color of their collar, the interview is the first step to a career. Take the time to prepare for it, just as you would prepare for the first day of the job.