How to Recruit the Best Manufacturing Employees

Manufacturing recruiters face unique challenges. Today's manufacturers struggle to recruit, hire, and retain skilled operators and technicians, assemblers, plant managers, and more. At the same time, disruptive technology is transforming the skill profiles of manufacturing companies - meaning manufacturing companies are competing for college-educated, skilled employees. Are you equipped with the right tools to deal with these issues?

Let’s look at some challenges that recruiters face in the manufacturing sector, followed by steps that can help every manufacturing recruiter source and identify candidates who can take the company forward, financially and as a trusted brand.

Challenges With Manufacturing Company Recruiting

When you’re trying to recruit for manufacturing positions, you can face obstacles such as a negative industry image, an aging workforce, lack of training and upskilling opportunities, and concerns about automation impacting job security. Below is an overview of these common issues and how you can address them to overcome hiring difficulties.

Negative Industry Image

Women and younger workers often consider manufacturing jobs to be unsophisticated and therefore unappealing. For female workers, it’s viewed as a male-dominated industry while younger people perceive the work as boring, repetitive, and even harmful to the environment. In one survey by Deloitte, 45% of respondents said that their negative perceptions of the manufacturing industry motivated them to avoid job opportunities there.

The problem here is that a lot of manufacturing companies don’t have the social media presence needed to dispel these negative assumptions and attract a younger, more diverse workforce. Using Facebook, Instagram, and even YouTube to present a company’s unique advantages can help overcome this resistance toward a career in manufacturing.

Aging Workforce

A lot of manufacturing employees are nearing retirement age, so companies need to find ways to appeal to younger workers if they want to avoid an industry slowdown. While they’re exploring new recruiting avenues, managers should both ensure that the skills, knowledge, and expertise of these older employees are successfully passed on as well as arrange opportunities for training and upskilling once new workers are hired.

Training and Upskilling

Manufacturing companies often face difficulty recruiting candidates because new arrivals may be unprepared to fill specific job positions. By providing more training and upskilling opportunities, the industry can hire and retain younger workers who may lack the skills and experience needed to succeed at the beginning. 


Manufacturing is facing significant challenges due to automation. Last year, this article indicated that machines and AI could have taken over 42% of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Concerned that they might eventually lose their livelihood to a computer or robot, job seekers refrain from applying for manufacturing positions. Manufacturers need to find a way to respond to these concerns about automation if they want to attract talent.

Manufacturing Recruitment Strategies That Work

1. Stand Out From the Competition

Are you attracting top candidates and standing out from the crowd? Applicants want to know what you stand for - and most importantly, they want to see consistent, authentic branding across multiple channels.

When competing with high-profile manufacturers, be clear about what makes your company unique. You can do this by:

  • Emphasizing the values and culture of your workplace. 

  • Telling stories that showcase your company's career paths. 

  • Demonstrating a commitment to employee safety.

2. Look for Passive Talent Too

Although many manufacturing workers may be satisfied with their current jobs, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t open to new opportunities. This means that many candidates who might be interested in working for you are not actively job hunting. Try to connect with these skilled prospects by:

  • Getting the word out that you’re hiring. You need to communicate relevant content about your company, its culture, and job openings on social media and through blog posts on the company website. 

  • Go over past resumes. Passive job candidates can be found among previous applicants. Go through the most promising options and reach out to them. In a lot of cases, the first runners-up during your last hiring session will be exactly what you need this time around.

3. Enlist Your Employees as Recruiters

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in -referrals can be invaluable. If you’re looking to grow your assembly team, for example, talk to your existing workers. Do they know any qualified individuals who are looking for a job? If they do, you’ll spend less time and money on job postings and find great candidates more quickly. 

Once you’ve let your team know that you’re hiring, communicate regularly with them using whatever channel works best for your business. Depending on your communication structure, this could be a team email, employee meeting, or sign in the lunchroom. When employees are aware of what’s going on in the company, they can more easily spread the word on your behalf.

Finally, give your employees the opportunity to give feedback on your referral strategies. They may be able to direct you toward resources you weren’t aware of, like industry-related Facebook groups or discussion boards.

Millennials and even Generation X job seekers are researching your company – and your competitors. Most job seekers check roughly 18 sources before even applying! Is your website ready for the job seeker experience?

4. Maintain a Strong Digital Presence

The majority of job seekers today check out 18 to 20 options before they finally start applying. What sort of experience does your website and its hiring page deliver to them?

While a lot of manufacturing businesses have thorough job descriptions on their careers page, they don’t always make it clear what it’s like to work for the company. How will a job seeker be able to tell if they are the right fit? This is where elaborating on company culture can mean the difference between an application and a pass.

On a similar note, you’ll also want to ensure the following:

  • Mobile-Friendly Layout: Many job seekers browse for opportunities on their smartphones. Are your job descriptions easy to read on mobile devices?

  • Functional Application Form: If candidates can apply online, make sure that the application form and its submit button are always functioning properly. If one or both don’t work, it’s simpler for job hunters to move on to the next prospect.

5. Fine-Tune Your Hiring Process

Hiring candidates quickly and efficiently is critical. Unfortunately, there are often hiccups along the way.  Excessive and undue delays in between initial interviews and job offers can negatively affect the hiring process, alienate perfect candidates, and demoralize recruiting teams. It's easier to manage the cycle when everyone knows the candidate path from recruitment to a job offer. This level of insight and cooperation also leads to better and faster hires.

It is important to note that hiring technically doesn’t end once a candidate has joined your team. Onboarding is equally important to employee acquisition and retention, so make sure that any new hires receive the guidance and resources they need to excel in their new role.

6. Re-Examine Your Hiring Software Filters

Automated hiring software is used by many US manufacturers in some capacity. A study conducted by the Harvard Business School found that 75% of all US employers use applicant tracking software. This tracking software supports filters that can be added to screen out candidates who may be deemed a bad fit. 

Researchers have found that this software may be partially responsible for the worker shortage as millions of viable candidates are filtered out before recruiters ever see their applications. Researchers found that companies may add too many filters or the wrong types of filters. For instance, applicant tracking software can filter out applicants with a work history gap. These applicants may be qualified and may have been unemployed due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. Manufacturers will likely want to re-examine and re-evaluate the filters they’re using with applicant tracking software to ensure they’re not missing any qualified candidates. 

7. Start A Paid Apprenticeship Program

Students are often an overlooked source of talent. It’s important to remember that what students may lack in experience they can often more than make up for in ambition and drive. An apprenticeship program could create a new pipeline of talent where you’ll be able to train potential new full-time employees your way. By the time students in the program are ready to enter the workforce, they’ll already understand your company’s processes and they’ll be fully integrated into your company’s culture. 

8. Offer Employees Voluntary Benefits

Offering voluntary benefits allows you to compete with the benefits large companies use to attract talent at little to no cost to the company. Employees will then have the ability to personalize their benefits package according to their own needs. Things like dental insurance, cancer insurance, and critical illness insurance can be added to packages at a discounted rate. These added benefits can make a job offer with your company more enticing, which can help you attract and retain top talent. 

Manufacturing recruiters are always looking for ways to be more effective and get a leg up on their competition. To plug the skills gap and attract the highly skilled workforce that can propel their companies into the future, manufacturers must get creative as talent needs shift.

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