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Hourly Hiring: Challenge in Manufacturing's New Era

Sean Behr
By Sean Behr CEO, Fountain

When the global economy shut down in 2020, the manufacturing industry witnessed a historic slowdown. Now ramping back up to pre-pandemic production levels, experts predict 4 million jobs will become available during the next decade, with approximately 2.1 million of these openings going unfilled due to the lack of skilled workers.

“Help Wanted” signs have become all too common across America’s manufacturing sector.  Hiring managers are finding it increasingly hard to attract hourly workers. Even raising the hourly rate doesn’t seem to be enough to find enough workers needed to fill the gap. 

One solution for manufacturing hiring managers is to take a page from the playbook of companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other “Gig” economy companies who hired hundreds of thousands of applicants while other industries struggled to fill job vacancies. 

Reduce Your Time-to-Hire

According to a Glassdoor survey, the average interview process in a US company takes 23 days. 

However, Gig economy winners like DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber, when faced with huge demand for labor, are able to hire in an hour! 

You’ll attract more job candidates -- and keep them interested throughout the hiring process-- if you can drastically shorten your time-to-hire. Job applicants feel the negative impact of slow hiring. If you are too slow, you risk losing candidates accepting another offer from another company. And the longer you wait, the lower the quality will be as top candidates go elsewhere.

Make Your Application Process More Nimble

To make your application process as easy as possible, use automated screening to get rid of unqualified people and filter out those that aren’t a fit right away.   

Have applicants answer simple questions about their level of education and technical experience; require candidates who will be driving to submit a valid license by photo with their mobile phone early on. Right at the start of the application process, ask applicants if they’ll work the hours you need to fill and immediately screen out those who cannot.

The interview process alone can slow down the hiring process. Limit interviews as much as possible to a few key decision-makers, and schedule video calls as soon as a qualified candidate makes it through pre-screening.

Use a Mobile-First Approach

You’ll reach more applicants if they can apply via mobile phone.  And use personal messages via text throughout the application and screening process to let candidates know you’re still interested.  

Most applicants carry out their job searches on mobile devices. If applicants find your job application process frustrating on a smartphone they’ll likely give up. 

Enable hourly job applicants to use their smartphones to upload resumes, but don’t expect them to manually type out their entire work histories. Requiring too much manual entry will lead to a high application abandonment rate.

Attract Non-Tech Candidates, Too

Broaden the talent pipeline by using social media to reach applicants with diverse backgrounds from a variety of industries. Use social media channels to highlight desirable career paths in manufacturing to young, enthusiastic, and tech-savvy job seekers who may not normally consider the industry. 

Hiring shouldn’t be limited to those who have worked in manufacturing, but perhaps who also have worked in retail or food and beverage or other industries. Job listings should also express the necessity for non-tech skills such as conceptual thinking, decision making, and social flexibility (e.g., the ability to excel in a frequently changing work environment). 

Recruiters also can start even earlier by instituting pilot programs at local high schools or by hosting “open house” events to allow students to see what highly skilled, well-paid careers in manufacturing could look like. 


The pandemic changed nearly every aspect of human life as we once knew it. As one of the hardest-hit industries, manufacturing has had to pivot and navigate the post-pandemic world by remaining flexible. 

These new challenges—like the labor shortage—also present new opportunities for manufacturers to rethink how they find, hire and retain workers. So, take a page from the Gig economy and make your application process faster, easier and more interactive and you’ll soon be on your way to meeting your hiring goals.

Sean Behr is the CEO of Fountain, a technology company providing high-volume hiring solutions to leading companies in the manufacturing, retail, construction and restaurant industries.

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