A Secret To Landing A Job In The Trades

Some of you may never have interviewed for a job. Or, maybe it was a simple session for a low-level, part-time position where the main issues were: Are you willing to work for what we’re willing to pay? And, when can you start?

The skilled trades are more than a job. Learning a trade is a career path. It offers better compensation and opportunities than most jobs worked by new college graduates. Skilled tradespeople are entitled to think of themselves as professionals, not just workers.

This means the typical job interview is more complicated than you’ll find going to work as a server in a bar or restaurant. When you interview work for a skilled trade position, even as a raw trainee, the owner or manager checking you out will want to know as much as possible about you.

It takes a while to become proficient in a trade. If it is a licensed trade, you will probably go through at least a couple of years of classroom and hands-on training before you are competent enough to pass a licensing exam. Whether licensed or not, a trade professional will be expected to earn money for their employers. That’s hard for a raw novice to do. It usually takes a while for an apprentice to develop enough skills to generate more revenue than it costs the employer to train and pay the newbie. That means those employers will be picky about who they hire. They don’t want people who will drop out after a few weeks or months, nor do they want to hire someone who is likely to leave for another job soon after they become productive enough to bring in more money than they cost.

The best employers will ask a series of open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. They are intended to you to get to talk about yourself, your background, your work experience, even your hobbies. They may ask how you would handle a dissatisfied customer or some other thorny problem routinely encountered on the job. They may ask about your ambition, what you see yourself doing in the years to come. A good interviewer will speak no more than 10% of the time. The job candidate should do most of the talking.

I cannot tell you exactly which questions will be asked. Every employer will be a little different. Some interviews might take 10 minutes, others an hour or more. Often there will be more than one interview, as employers screen perhaps dozens of applicants and select a handful of those they deem most promising for follow-up interviews.

Nor can I tell you what to say. All of you reading this are individuals with your own personal backgrounds and ways of looking at the world. It’s hard to fake your way through an interview with an experienced boss. You have to be yourself.

However, I will let you in on one little secret that will help you land an entry-level position in the skilled trades. That is, be enthusiastic. Don’t talk only about how much money you want to make. Talk about how much you enjoy making things and fixing things and the pride you take in a job well done. Talk about how important it is for you to work for an employer that recognizes and rewards top performers, and that you intend to join their rarefied ranks.

The best employers understand that mechanical skills can be learned. Attitudes are almost impossible to change. Apply for a job with the right attitude and you’ll find most employers anxious to hire you.