Who said machine shop hiring wasn’t fun?

In a recent Practical Machinist thread that we will summarize so you don’t have to read the entire thing, a machine shop owner relays how he hired a motley machinist crew since the 1980’s.

The poster suggested hiring from vocational schools with AA programs in welding and manufacturing technology where he found a misfit collection of employees including solid machinist with nipple rings, a former circus performer and a couple of ex-cons who knew how to hold a torch.

The help wanted ads didn’t apparently cut it with this shop owner who struck out with the meth-head who inhaled cigarettes in the bathroom and a guy who was the first person to shoot a police canine in Ventura County, California.

If you haven’t been dwelling under a rock, you know manufacturing is hot, unemployment is low and machine shops are facing a shortage of workers with aging baby boomers retiring.

LeBlond just hired two new people, and we learned a few lessons. We thought it was a good time to offer some machine shop hiring tips.

1.  Hire for Attitude

It’s unlikely you’ll find the dream candidate with the exact background, knowledge and skills that you require. Accepting this and determining that you can hire for attitude and coach the employee up will make hiring a lot more bearable.

2. Detailed Job Ads & Long Interviews

Draft a detailed job ad listing specific requirements to weed out less-skilled people. No one has time for multiple interviews. Hold elongated interviews and allow an hour and a half between appointments. Give the applicant a tour of the shop and introduce him or her to key employees. See if there is a fit.

In the interview, look to see if the applicant asks questions. The best candidate may ask fewer questions but good ones. Get creative with your questions. Ask what if they would do if money weren’t an issue. You might want to go with the candidate who says they would open their own business instead of heading to the nearest beach margarita in hand.

3. Compare Skill Sets

Have the applicant describe their current responsibilities and a typical day on the job. See if it matches the background and skill set that you are looking for.

4. Intangible Tells

Here’s an out-of-the-box machine shop hiring tip. Take a look at the candidate’s car or tool box. If it’s a total mess, it might be a tell on what kind of worker they will be. See how the candidate dresses. If they are too sloppy, that might be indicative of how they work.

5. Do Not Dwell on No-Shows

We had a shipping position open and scheduled four interviews. Three never bothered to show  up or even called to reschedule. Instead of dwelling on chasing them down, we focused on the candidate who made the appointment and ended up working out.

6. Cover Benefits Right Away

Describe benefits, vacation and sick/personal policies at the onset. If the person is looking for more vacation time than your shop allows, clear this stumbling block right away.

7. Unearth the Gems

It may seem odd to spend too much time with a potential candidate in the first interview. If your first impression, however, makes you lose interest, you might be surprised  at what gem lies underneath simply by taking the same amount of time with a later candidate.

Machine shop hiring doesn’t have to be a chore. You can get creative with your approach and might find a circus performer for your misfit group of machinists.

Don’t take hiring lightly, however. Your shop is your livelihood and the culmination of your life’s work. Bringing in the right people or machines can alter the future of you and your baby.

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