4 Common Manufacturing Interview Questions And How To Answer Them

Josh Didawick

4 Common Manufacturing Interview Questions And How To Answer Them

Your resume and cover letter did their job. They got your foot in the door. Now the selection process heats up with one or more interviews. Some people are naturally relaxed in this setting. Others tend to feel more nerves than usual. Your reaction will depend on different factors, including your personality, preparedness and the job. Do not let unnecessary fear or anxiety work against you. Through preparation and understanding a hiring manager’s point of view, you can feel more at ease.

One of the first things to recognize going into most interviews is that a lot of the questions are going to be behavioral interview questions. These questions ask what you have done in the past. What can be most difficult with these questions is remembering all of your good experiences and examples. The more experience you accumulate and the higher the positions you are seeking require more preparation to knock the ball out of the park.

Something else that is helpful to recognize is what the interviewer is actually asking. For a lot of questions, there is rarely one correct answer. There may be a few bad answers, but good answers can come in many shapes and sizes. The questions are usually based on key competencies, which can also be thought of as skills or attributes. These competencies often align with the organization’s values and mission. Typical competencies that apply to most jobs are teamwork, leadership, communication and customer service, just to name a few.

Here are several common interview questions, along with some thoughts on how to answer them.

Tell me about a time you made a change to a process.

Change management is a common theme in many organizations. Most companies have to be constantly evolving and changing to meet customer needs and stay ahead of changing markets. Leading and managing change can give insight into other skills, such as leadership and communication.

In order to answer this question effectively, you want to check a few boxes while telling the story. Think about a change that was controversial or received some pushback. That is a good opportunity to show leadership and diplomacy by handling objections or outright resistance. This is easy to find in change initiatives, so you do not have to demonize your opponent, but discuss how you listened and tried to incorporate their ideas and concerns into your initiative.

Discuss how you communicated the change to those around you. Think about your communication strategy when you were presenting the idea, testing and implementing it. Positive process improvements should be shared, especially when multiple shifts and locations are impacted.

Change rarely occurs with just one person. Be sure to share the credit and be clear about what your role was in making the change successful.

Finally, talk about the results of the change process. What were the tangible outcomes (increases in productivity or profits?), and identify any intangible outcomes (more buy-in from the staff due to their involvement, improved morale). Use quantifiable results whenever possible. It shows that you followed-up and were aware of the impact on the entire process.

Be ready for the follow-up question, “Would you have done anything differently?” Rarely does something go off without a hitch or we cannot identify area for improvement. Find the balance between basking in the glory of a successful change initiative and self-evaluating yourself to identify areas for improvement.

Give me an example of a time that you did not get along with a co-worker or dealt with conflict on a team.

Most people have had a situation in their career where they did not get along well with a co-worker. Maybe you have been on a team where it felt like you were standing in between two firing squads because you had colleagues that could not keep the peace with one another. Either way, these make for great opportunities to exhibit leadership skills.

Do not answer the question by simply telling the interviewer(s) how big a jerk you worked with and how anything positive that happened was despite your numbskull colleague’s efforts. For starters, be diplomatic about others’ shortcomings. The real point of this question is to find out how you went about getting along with the person, getting the best out of yourself and producing for the team.

Maybe your strategy was to take a backseat. Perhaps you had to step up and play a slightly different role than you normally would have. It might have just taken a mediation session or one-on-one conversation to iron out any differences or get to clearer understanding. The bottom line is, in a situation like this, the question is a prime opportunity to for you show you turned a bad situation positive.

Tell me about a time you or your team underperformed or failed.

Think back honestly and sincerely and there is a very good chance you can identify a time that you did not, at a minimum, meet expectations. Better yet, you or your team may have fallen flat on your face. This type of question is not designed to make you look bad. First of all, it can weed out the people that have never failed at anything. Those people have either never recognized their own failure or they have never pushed themselves far enough to fail.

Discussing something that mattered but went poorly can show self-awareness, as well as resiliency. A couple of key points is what you learned and how you applied that lesson in the future. Using that stumbling block to ensure success later on is a good sign for any employee.

You find out that some of the parts being used on your production line are defective; not all of them, but you know some are. What would you do?

This question is not behavioral unless you have never encountered this situation. You may have to answer based on what you would do in theory. If you have a concrete example to use, go for it, tying an answer to a real business situation is almost always best.

Whether you are answering it in theory or past practice, this question poses a problem. There are a number of variables you do not know in this situation, so the answer really can go in a number of different directions. The answer should give the hiring manager insight into your problem solving process. You have the ability to discuss the importance of quality, customer service and how you want to be able to stand behind ever product that goes out that door. The “right” answer will vary by company. Some employers may think a few defects here and there is acceptable. Others are going to expect the first employee to catch wind of the problem to stop the line. You may not know the culture well, so you have to go through your problem solving process, identify potential opportunities and solutions, then discuss how you might go about implementing them while minimizing downtime.

These are not trick questions, but they can be tricky. Think about what the hiring manager is really trying to get at in asking a particular question. Which competencies are important to their company? They will want to hear how you have handled situations in the past. It is not all about your answers. Hiring managers will also be interested to hear how you strategize, problem solve, communicate and work with colleagues and other stakeholders.

About The Author

Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick is a seasoned HR professional and consultant with extensive experience creating and guiding organizations’ HR strategies, as well as coaching individuals committed to successful careers. He specializes in taking on complex organizational issues to affect positive change and high performance. For individuals, Josh helps them put their best foot forward when seeking that next career, promotion or milestone in the workplace. Josh has had several articles published and presented at conferences on HR-related topics.

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