How to Nail the Blue Collar Interview

You’ve written your resume. You’ve searched through countless job descriptions on job boards. You’ve sent emails and filled out applications. You’ve pounded the pavement, put in the effort, and now you’ve been rewarded — you’ve landed a job interview. This is your chance to win the job you want. It all comes down to this…

There’s no doubt that job hunting can be stressful. A lot of work goes into it, and so much is riding on the results. A job interview doesn’t have to be stressful, though — three key factors within your control will decrease the pressure and increase your odds of landing the job.

How to Look — What do your clothes say about you? 

Your clothes speak volumes about you. From the moment you walk in the door, the outfit you wear communicates your judgment, the value you place on the job, the respect you have for the company, and whether or not you might be a good person for the job. It does this before you’ve even said a word, so make sure your attire says what you want it to.

While there are no strict rules on how to dress for a blue-collar job interview, there are some guidelines you can follow to make a good first impression. 

The first thing many people ask is, “Should I wear a suit?” Good question! The answer depends on what type of job you are applying for. Formal or business attire is usually the best for white-collar jobs in office environments, but for blue-collar workers (such as warehouse workers, manual labourers, or truck drivers), a more casual look is the way to go. However, this doesn’t mean wearing a tank top, Bermuda shorts, and flip-flops. A good guideline is to dress ‘one step up’ from what would typically be worn for the job itself. 

For most blue-collar jobs where jeans, work boots, and t-shirts are worn on the job site, wear a nice, new pair of dark jeans, and a collared shirt or blouse to convey your professionalism. The term for this level of attire is ‘dress casual’, and it is exactly what it sounds like — dressy but casual. 

For men, that means a collared, button-down shirt, dark jeans or khakis in new condition. A nice blouse with dark jeans or a knee-length skirt would work for women. For both men and women, leave the running shoes or work boots at home and wear clean, polished dress shoes instead.

Here are some other appearance guidelines to follow:

  • Do not dress provocatively. Tight clothes or showing too much skin is a no-no.
  • Do not wear clothing with slogans, funny sayings, political messages, or distracting artwork.
  • Your clothes do not need to be expensive, just clean and in good repair.

How to Act – Body language speaks volumes about you.

How you carry yourself says a lot about the kind of employee you will be. Are you confident and responsible, or are you guarded and defensive? Are you pleasant to be around, or are you rude? All this and more can be conveyed simply by standing, moving, and acting.

The assessment of how you act starts even before the interview — interviewers will often ask the receptionist how potential employees interacted with or behaved in the waiting room. So, be sure to arrive ten to fifteen minutes early. Be polite to the staff. Have your phone on silent, and do not take or make calls. Don’t fidget, and don’t interact too much with the other job candidates.

If you are offered a beverage while you wait, you should politely decline. It’s best not to do extra work for someone, and having an open beverage also introduces the risk of spilling. Maintain good posture whether standing or seated, and when the interviewer greets you, make eye contact, smile, and offer them a firm handshake.

In the interview, wait until you are offered a chair before you sit down. When invited to, sit facing the interviewer and lean slightly forward to convey your interest — never lean back or slouch, as this communicates indifference. Similarly, do not fold your arms across your chest, as this comes across as defensive. Keep your hands folded in your lap.

Maintain eye contact, but not too much — people find unbroken staring to be off-putting. Aim for a balance of about 70% eye contact, 30% looking elsewhere. Should your interview include more than one interviewer, share the 70% eye contact equally among them.

At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer(s) for their time, smile, and shake hands again. To go the extra mile, you can send a thank-you note or email 24 hours after the interview to thank the hiring manager for their time and lock in the good impression you’ve made.

How to Speak — What to say and not to say

While the right clothes and body language will ensure your audience is listening, what you say in an interview is the make-or-break factor for what you will hear at the end.

Here are some handy tips to follow that will help ensure you say (and hear) all the right things:

  • Do talk about your education (including college degrees and your high school diploma) and any specialized training related to the job.
  • Do talk about your work experience, as well as any specialized skills that are relevant to the blue-collar position.
  • Do talk about achievements such as awards, attendance records, or other things that show your character.
  • Do use metrics or numbers to make your accomplishments relatable — instead of saying, “I did really well,” say something like, “I moved 6000 units per day” or “I increased output by 20%.”
  • Do ask questions if asked — research the company website and the job description before the interview to prepare you. Asking something about the job role, like, “From your perspective, what would make someone an ideal applicant for this role?” is appropriate, as are questions about the recruiting process, such as, “What are the next steps?”

And just as important is what not to say (or talk about) in the interview:

  • Do not ask about salary or benefits — discussing compensation is best left until a job offer is on the table.
  • Do not discuss race, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy status, age, citizenship, or political beliefs with the hiring manager.
  • Do not swear, use slang, or tell jokes.
  • Do not negatively comment on previous jobs, former employers, or coworkers.
  • Do not discuss any worker’s compensation claims or disputes you may be involved in with the hiring manager.
  • Do not be overly familiar or casual — this is a job interview, not a date.

Be honest and forthright, but don’t say too much — answer interview questions completely… then stop. Do not ramble! If you are asked about your last job, they don’t need to know every detail about your coworkers, your commute to work, and what you had for lunch. Answer the question that was asked and leave out the commentary.

Now Go Nail That Interview!

Job hunting can be stressful. Many aspects of the recruitment process are beyond the control of a job seeker. However, there are things you can do to make the job interview stress-free and successful. 

By dressing appropriately for the role you are applying for, carrying yourself well, and speaking properly, you will minimize the stress and give yourself the best chance of hearing every job applicant wants to hear: “You’re hired!”