MRO Q&A: Hiring Best Practices for Mechanics

MRO Q&A is a Food Processing series addressing maintenance, repair and operational issues in food plants.

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Q: We have hired several mechanics with considerable experience over the past four years, and they have not performed to our expectations. What are some hiring best practices we might be able to use?

A: The hiring process is an extremely important one for both the employee and the employer. It should consist of more than just having the prospective employee filling out an application and conducting a few one-hour interviews. Define your short and long term functional needs for this position. If your need is for a mechanic, you will have one set of criterion, but if you need this position to develop into a team leader or a maintenance manager in a couple of years, your criterion will differ.

Whatever the criterion, it should be defined as the applicant’s “demonstrated ability” to perform certain functions. These could include the obvious: welding, machining, fabrication, and making repairs, which require certain motor skills, but there also are cognitive capabilities, such as troubleshooting, problem-solving skills and data analytics. Requirements might extend to management and coaching, which require interpersonal skills. Beyond these, do not downplay the need for cultural fit within your organization. Determining the demonstrated ability around these skills can be a bit tricky, but interview questions can be developed which will provide insight into the applicant’s ability to “get along” with others in your company. These should be demonstrated as well.

According to research done by Schmidt and Hunter (1998), the top four validity coefficients for hiring practices are ability tests (64 percent), job try out (44 percent), interview (38 percent) and the application (35 percent). If you use the application as the sole method of evaluating a candidate, you could be wrong 65 percent of the time! Additional validity coefficients are reference checks (26 percent), years of experience (18 percent), prior training (11 percent) and academic achievement (11 percent). When using multiple tools in the assessment, the individual validity coefficients cannot be added, but the combined validity coefficient is higher than when used alone. If you were using experience as your main consideration for hiring, as stated in your question, you can see that you had an 82 percent chance of failure.

The results of your interviewing process are directly related to the thought, energy and effort you put into it. As the importance of the position to the organization increases, the need to find the right individual who “fits” in your organization is much more critical. Take the time that is needed.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Food Processing Magazine.

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