< Back to Hiring Blog

A quick guide to recruiting in the manufacturing industry

December 10, 2020
10 min read
Learn how iCIMS can
help you drive ROI

As the global manufacturing industry evolves it faces new challenges, particularly in sourcing talent. While company leaders navigate trade regulations and push toward shorter production runs, the talent they need is in short supply.

Seasoned workers are aging out of the workforce and replacements are getting harder to find, which increases costs. Compound this with a growing need for hard-to-find roles like health and safety engineers, which take twice as long to source and hire as line jobs like assemblers and fabricators.

Companies need talent today. But they also need a plan to diversify their workforces for tomorrow. Employers will face a massive shortfall of labor if they can’t attract more young and female talent away from other industries.


Understanding the manufacturing workforce

Ask someone on the street to describe what the typical manufacturing worker does, and you’ll likely get an answer that includes an assembly line.

The reality is that industry is far more complex. The manufacturing workforce is diverse, with each function area possessing its own distinct set of skills, responsibilities and contributions to the manufacturing process. The following are a few of the job areas employers recruit for.


Production workers form the backbone of the manufacturing sector, playing a pivotal role in transforming raw materials into finished goods. Their roles span across a spectrum, from assembly line workers in mass production facilities to artisans crafting specialized products. Their expertise lies in executing tasks that require precision, consistency and attention to detail.

Engineering and technical

The engineering and technical segment of the manufacturing workforce is responsible for designing, developing and optimizing production systems, machinery and processes. Their roles often involve leveraging advanced technologies, conducting research and looking for new ways to drive innovation and continuous improvement.

Quality assurance and quality control

Quality assurance and quality control teams are responsible for developing and implementing standardized processes, conducting inspections and analyzing product samples for inconsistencies or defects. By maintaining quality standards, these professionals play a significant, if indirect, role in customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

Supply chain and logistics

The supply chain and logistics sector of the manufacturing workforce oversees the movement of materials and products throughout the production cycle. This involves coordinating with suppliers, overseeing inventory management, optimizing transportation routes and ensuring timely delivery to distributors or end consumers. By leveraging advanced logistics technologies and strategic planning, these professionals enhance operational efficiency, minimize costs and mitigate risks associated with supply chain disruptions.

Maintenance facilities

Maintenance facilities provide essential services to ensure the smooth operation of production facilities. This specialized area of the workforce focuses on preventive maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs to minimize downtime. By implementing proactive maintenance strategies and leveraging predictive maintenance technologies, these professionals optimize equipment reliability, prolong asset lifespan and enhance overall operational efficiency.


Main challenges in manufacturing recruitment

Recruitment in the manufacturing industry is fraught with challenges that significantly impact the industry’s ability to attract, develop and retain a skilled workforce.

Skill shortages

A shortage of skilled labor is the foremost challenge to manufacturing recruitment, hindering the industry’s growth and innovation. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, the demand for specialized skills in areas such as automation, data analytics and advanced manufacturing processes has surged. However, there is a widening gap between the skills employers seek and the qualifications possessed by potential candidates.

Aging workforce

The current manufacturing workforce is aging quickly, with a significant portion nearing retirement age. This poses challenges in terms of knowledge transfer, succession planning and ensuring a steady influx of skilled workers. To mitigate the impact of an aging workforce, recruiting teams should seek to diversify the talent pool by recruiting younger workers.

They should also seek to engage more women; to give a sense of the opportunity here, the current overall workforce of the United States is 53% male. Yet men represent 71% of the manufacturing workforce.

Automation replacement

Automating production processes has led to innovation, but also raised concerns about job displacement. As various aspects of manufacturing become increasingly automated, there is a growing apprehension about the potential for job losses and the displacement of existing workers.

However, automation often creates new opportunities and roles that require a different set of skills and expertise. Proactive reskilling, retraining and workforce development initiatives are essential to keeping workforces engaged and harnessing the full potential of automation in manufacturing.

Talent competition

The manufacturing industry faces intense competition for talent from other sectors including technology, healthcare and finance. This competition exacerbates the challenges associated with skill shortages and necessitates innovative recruitment strategies to attract top talent. Recruiting teams should expect to differentiate their organizations by highlighting competitive compensation packages, professional development opportunities and a strong company culture.

Shifting demographics

Manufacturing recruiting is challenging because perceptions of the industry are something of a paradox. In the United States, there’s a considerable nostalgia for manufacturing as a profession. In fact, an overwhelming majority has a high opinion of manufacturing, seeing it as essential to economic prosperity and a high living standard. Three in four Americans think we should invest more in manufacturing.

The challenge is convincing people that manufacturing is both good for the country and right for them personally. Many don’t ever consider manufacturing as a career, primarily because they hold an image of manufacturing that’s outdated. Overcoming this perception requires concerted efforts on the part of employers and recruiters to rebrand manufacturing, highlight its technological advancements and showcase the diverse and rewarding career opportunities.


7 steps to developing a recruitment strategy

1. Identify roles needed

Today’s open roles won’t necessarily be tomorrow’s. Building a pipeline of talent helps recruiting teams align their recruitment efforts with evolving business objectives, industry trends and technological advancements. Having qualified, interested talent on deck also mitigates the risks associated with talent shortages, succession planning and unplanned turnover. Better still, by recruiting for future roles today, recruiters buy themselves time to nurture relationships and establish their organizations as employers of choice.

2. Define brand perception

Employers that can tap into the people’s pride for homegrown manufacturing and connect it to a modern, compelling employer brand put themselves in an excellent position to recruit the quality, diverse workforce they need today and for years to come.

This means highlighting modern, cutting edge technologies, offering competitive compensation and benefits, having a strong company culture, taking pride in what you produce, supporting local communities and putting safety first.

3. Use career sites

Career sites should excite and engage job seekers. Done right, one of three things will happen. Job seekers will get excited and apply today. Not see a current opportunity, but join your talent pool in the hopes of applying later. Or disqualify themselves because they’re looking for something else. All three are desirable, as you’re getting the most and best qualified candidates.

Here are a few ideas to make your career site all it can be:

  1. Feature employee testimonials. Pick high-performing individuals from across your organization, especially if they originally came from outside the industry. Video testimonials are even better, and are remarkably easy to do. Job seekers can smell inauthenticity and recruiting marketing jargon – they want to hear from your employees!
  2. Show off the diversity of your organization. Manufacturers usually have deep ties with the area they’re located in. Feature pictures and videos of your employees at work, involved in team-building activities, or giving back to the community.
  3. Make it easier to find relevant roles. AI recruiting software can match job seekers to open roles based on criteria including skills, leadership, and aptitude. Better still, our job matching feature seeks to mitigate bias by looking beyond where someone went to school or how many years of experience they have.

4. Use an applicant tracking system (ATS)

Manufacturing recruiters work in two different worlds. One with high-volume roles. The other with hyper-specialized positions where candidates are fewer. They need recruiting solutions capable of filling both.

To get the most out of your manufacturing recruiting, you need an applicant tracking system that can support high volume hiring, source niche talent, and move applicants with diverse skills, backgrounds, and credentials through the hiring process as quickly as possible.

Moving to the iCIMS Talent Cloud is easier than you might think, even for the largest, most complex manufacturing organizations.

Take UK-based TT Electronics, for example. Faced with a shortage of engineering candidates, TT Electronics chose iCIMS to help attract more talent with niche skillsets and streamline its recruiting process. They also ended their reliance on recruiting agencies, saving £170,000 per year as a result.

There’s also Samsonite, the global luggage company, which selected the iCIMS Talent Platform to power its recruitment strategy while maintaining ADP as its HCM provider.

Both of these companies discovered the power of an ATS purpose-built for their recruiting needs. Learn more about focused applicant tracking in The business case for a focused and inclusive ATS.

5. Invest in employee referrals

Recruitment teams don’t recruit great people by working alone. They recruit great people by leveraging the employees they already have.

Employee referral technologies are relatively inexpensive to operate and result in consistently high performers who typically stick with your company longer. In fact, about one-third of companies say employee referrals are their top source of quality candidates.

Here are a few strategies to overcome common challenges in employee referral programs:

  1. Referrals aren’t top of mind for your employees: Work with department heads and team leads to schedule time for referral conversations periodically.
  2. Employees refer candidates outside existing: Ensure your referral process is easy and all employees understand how it works.
  3. Referrals are inconsistent across teams and fluctuate over time: Employees may not be aware of openings outside their immediate team or business unit.
  4. Employees consistently report not knowing who to refer: Pull employees’ networks into a collective database to pair potential candidates with current and projected openings.

6. Craft effective job descriptions

The most effective job descriptions go beyond itemizing the responsibilities and qualifications of a role. They tell a story that excites your ideal candidates.

By infusing creativity and authenticity into job descriptions, employers create a memorable impression and – hopefully – generate more applications. In other words, a well-crafted job description conveys essential information about the role while also saying something about the organization’s culture, values and employer brand. Embedding video content can be an excellent way to further elevate your job descriptions and engage job seekers.

7. Develop an onboarding program

Let’s say you found your next all-star hires. They’re great fits and eager to get started. Digital onboarding builds on their excitement by reinforcing the culture and mission that brought them to you in the first place. The result is engaged employees who are bought in and set up for success. This leads to longer tenures and happier, healthier employees.

That’s great for candidates. But what about you? When onboarding is efficient, organizations save money by reducing time spent on administrative tasks.

[Looking for more onboarding tips and tricks? See How successful onboarding kickstarts employee engagement and retention.]


Best practices for manufacturing recruitment

Increase workforce diversity

Manufacturers have long struggled to diversify their workforces.

Sourcing is key to improving diverse hires. Hiding names and photos on resumes is a great way to prevent bias if you’re already attracting a diverse candidate pool. If not, you’re not addressing the root of the problem.

Manufacturing jobs are changing too. As automation increasingly becomes a part of manufacturing processes, employers require a different set of technical, in-demand skills. Employees with those skills may not look at manufacturers when considering the next step in their careers; it’s up to employers to make job seekers aware of this option and champion the industry as somewhere they should want to work.

Avoid downtime

Having the right employees with the combination of the right skills, credentials, experience and certifications is essential to keep production on schedule and avoid wasteful downtime. Missing just one key player from the floor during a shift can cause major inefficiencies. According to IBM, a single hour of downtime can cost manufacturers upward of $100,000.

This is where a strong candidate relationship management (CRM) system drives ROI. CRMs help keep candidates engaged over time, making it quicker, easier and cheaper to source qualified talent.

Here’s an easy model to building and engaging healthy talent pipelines:

  1. Grow your pipelines of manufacturing talent by encouraging job seekers to opt into communications on your career site, LinkedIn page, and other digital properties. You never know what niche skills or certifications you’re going to need in the future, so add silver-medalist candidates and other quality talent to your pipelines as well.
  2. Organize your pipelines based on your hiring needs. Common categories include some combination of skills, experience level, and location.
  3. Keep your pipelines engaged. Send weekly digest emails to highlight job openings related to talent pools a candidate has subscribed to, based on their interests. Job search advice, company news, and fun updates all work great.

[For more on building strong talent pools, see The definitive guide to building your pipeline.]

Remove stress from job offers

A serious job seeker is likely juggling multiple job opportunities from various manufacturing employers, each with their own timeline. That’s stressful for candidates and employers alike.

As an employer, your goal is, of course, to lock down candidates as quickly as possible. This is where automating the job offer process comes in handy – it streamlines the process, cuts through red tape, and makes negotiations easier.

The result? You’ll trim days off your process and beat the competition to the punch.

Invest in employee training

Your recruiting can be unparalleled, but that’s no advantage if your current employees are leaving just as fast. Great recruiting starts internally – with retention. This means allocating resources to training programs and fostering growth opportunities for engaged and motivated employees. If your organization hasn’t already, consider formalizing periodic career conversations, mentor programs and an opportunity marketplace – somewhere where employees can take on new tasks and stretch assignments.


Retain skilled professionals with iCIMS

Looking for more information about manufacturing recruiting? Check out our manufacturing recruiting software. It’s got a quick-hit list of solutions. You can also submit to see a demo from there.


Learn how iCIMS can help you drive ROI

Explore categories

Explore categories

Back to top

Join our growing community
and receive free tips on how to attract, engage, hire, & advance the best talent.

Read more about Manufacturing

How to make your manufacturing jobs more attractive

Read more

How one industry is finding ways to bridge the gap in tech-savvy workers

Read more

The right recruiting software can help you overcome the manufacturing talent shortage. Here's how.

Read more

About the author

Alex Oliver

Alex is well-versed in content and digital marketing. He blends a passion for sharp, persuasive copy with creating intuitive user experiences on the web. A natural storyteller, Alex highlights customer successes and amplifies their best practices.

Alex earned his bachelor’s degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University before pursuing his master’s at Montclair State University. When not at work, Alex enjoys hiking, studying history and homebrewing beer.

Read more from this author >