Key Questions Asked to Evaluate your Skill Set and Knowledge
Recently I was asked by a client “Drew, what are the top 5 questions you are asking of your nonwoven candidates”?
This question always takes me back to my experience as a process engineer/manager working for a Narrow Fabrics textile company right after graduating from Clemson University. Working in a manufacturing plant gives you a strong reference point on skillsets needed in this environment. Every role in manufacturing requires specific skills, motivations, and personality traits that create a good fit between the company and their career path. Additionally, the manufacturing environment is unique compared to nonmanufacturing environments. Literally, the “moving parts” sometimes challenge relationships but create a unity that comes from working together to create success.
So, what am I looking for in a prospective nonwoven candidate?
My questions almost always revolve around the candidate’s experience – particularly the type of nonwoven/textile machinery they are familiar with. As a good example, I regularly interview engineers within the Nonwoven industry. During an interview with a Process Engineer, I specifically ask him/her about their involvement with machinery (meltblown, airlaid, drylaid, needlepunch, spunlace, hydroentangle, etc…) When they tell me what type of machinery they are familiar with, I dive into – “oh wow, so have you ever personally replaced nozzles on a meltblown machine, have you been involved with adjusting speeds, throughput, etc… This deeper dig tells me if they are a “wrench turner” type of candidate – someone who probably works hand in hand with the plant engineer. Or perhaps another process engineer is someone more familiar with data and time studies. Someone with a more data driven background will tell me more about the software they use and how they apply this to improving off quality or performance of the material. There is no right or wrong answers to this question, it just gives me an idea of where they will be motivated to be successful and therefore the best fit—for both the client company and for their growing career.
For managerial roles, not only do I want to know about machinery, but I also want to know what their management style is like, so a good process would involve the STAR technique. I want to put the candidate into a situation such as “What was your toughest situation you had as a plant manager and how did you resolve it, learn from it, change for the future? Tell me about this experience.” What I want to hear from the candidate should be addressed in a STAR format—very specific. Using a behavioral interview technique helps me learn a lot about the style of the manager without simply asking “What is your management style?” The STAR technique is widely known, and you can google the acronym to learn more on your own.
Below are some additional questions that I would recommend. This example represents someone interviewing for an R&D or Product Development role within the nonwoven healthcare industry.
Questions I would ask:
- Take me through a situation where you were involved in taking a new product development project from start to finish; or, take me through a situation where you addressed an off quality issue.
- Can you describe a situation where a product just would not work out the way the client wanted it to, how did you handle this situation? What was the result? What changes did you suggest or make following this incident?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? How will you determine if you get there? What do you need from your employer to support you?
- Based on how I described this role, what steps would you take in the first 90 days, 180?
- In your opinion, what is the ideal nonwoven equipment in producing medical filtration media and why?
- How much travel are you accustomed to (under a normal non-covid situation)?
- Tell me how you can accomplish tasks while working remotely. What does your day to day typically look like?
- What excites you about being in the nonwoven industry? What is your expectation of the evolution of the industry and its applications?
Lastly, I typically close the interview with a funny question or two to give me a sense of someone’s personality. I once had a candidate who had listed soccer / team sports on his resume in the “Other Interest” column. I quizzed him about this topic, and he ended up showing me a soccer MVP trophy he received while playing in a rec league in Raleigh, NC. The trophy was obviously the Five-and-Dime store variety, and we both had a good chuckle.
Nonwoven Executive Recruiter