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Navigating blue-collar worker recruitment strategies

Recruitment | 6 Min Read

Navigating blue-collar worker recruitment strategies


Blue-collar workers are often confused with unskilled labor, which cannot be further from the truth. In fact, blue-collar workers tend to possess dynamic skill sets that can be invaluable assets for organizations. However, conventional recruitment practices, which rely on outdated job profiles and requirements, need to be revised to evaluate and take advantage of this skilled workforce.

A proper skills-based strategy in place for blue-collar hiring that focuses on the abilities and potential of a blue-collar worker can help organizations attract and retain top talent that can help the organization grow.


What is blue-collar recruiting?

Blue-collar workers are individuals with specialized skills or training engaged in skilled trade jobs or manual labor involving physical work. Blue-collar employment includes highly specialized job roles that require strong skills in specific tasks. It is essential as it contributes to operations like goods production, infrastructural development, etc. Some industries that hire most blue-collar workers include hospitality, manufacturing, construction, and retail. Blue-collar recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult as the labor market has been tightening, and even as opportunities for employment of blue-collar workers are rising, recruiters are facing a shortage of skilled talent to fill those opportunities.


Is skills-based hiring the way to go?

Recruiters face several challenges in hiring blue-collar workers, and one of the biggest challenges in this market is the ability to identify skilled talent. Additionally, the traditional approach to blue-collar recruitment, where candidates were screened based on experience and qualifications, misses out on several candidates who may have gained the required skills in other ways. Organizations that wish to succeed in the dynamic market landscape must hire blue-collar workers with specific technical and soft skills.


Skills-based recruitment

Skills-based recruitment for blue-collar employees can help hiring managers assess whether candidates have the competencies required for specific tasks. This recruitment strategy focuses on the abilities of candidates rather than their resumes, which automatically widens the talent pool while supporting effective hiring decisions, reducing training costs, and gaining a more productive performance from a skilled team of employees.


Six ways to improve blue-collar recruitment strategies

1. Identify the skills and qualifications required

Before making a shift towards skill-based recruitment for blue-collar jobs, organizations need to establish a framework for the skills-based approach they plan to follow. For this, it is crucial that recruiters identify the specific competencies that may be required for successful performance in particular job roles and prioritize candidates’ practical skills and abilities over basic qualifications or experience in the field.


2. Craft job postings that focus on skills

In a study by McKinsey about taking a skills-based approach to recruitment, hiring managers received four times the applications they received just a week ago for an open position in their organization after they made a few tweaks to the job description. Transparent communication is as essential in job postings as in business communications. Clear explanations of the skills in a job posting can attract candidates with practical skill sets that the organization may seek.


3. Integrate job-specific and aptitude-based assessment tests into the blue-collar recruitment process

Once the focus has been shifted towards a more skills-based approach to blue-collar recruitment and the crucial skills and competencies have been identified, recruiters should now focus on integrating aptitude assessment and job-specific skills tests into identifying top talent among a pool of candidates. The tests should be scientifically validated assessments that can be implemented quickly, offer recruiters an objective and quantifiable method for screening candidates, and be customizable for assessing different skill sets for various job roles.


4. Consider transferable skills

Giving priority to candidates who can perform multiple roles within an organization can help recruiters effectively widen the internal talent pool for workers with transferable skills gained from varying industries.


5. Provide development opportunities and promote internal mobility

Whether it is skills-based training courses, on-the-job training, or a mentorship program, having well-structured learning and development programs in place is crucial.

According to a study by Deloitte, 64% of workers stated that they would be more interested in joining and remaining at an organization that focuses on creating value for workers, contributing to their professional development and helping them realize their potential.

So, initiatives like professional development programs not only improve retention rates but also allow workers to gain new skills to enable internal mobility.


Skills to look out for during blue-collar recruitment

1. Digital literacy

With the rapid advancement of modern technology, several blue-collar jobs require individuals to possess basic digital skills. Candidates should understand how to use mobile apps, digital tools, computerized systems, machines using a digital interface, essential management and scheduling software, etc.


2. Equipment operations

Depending on the job, blue-collar workers should be proficient in operating power tools, specialized equipment like cranes and forklifts, and heavy machinery. Whether using power tools for metalworking or operating excavators and bulldozers, working with machinery requires workers to have high levels of precision and safety awareness.


3. Health and safety

Occupational safety is a crucial aspect in several industries. That is why blue-collar workers with certifications in first aid, CPR, occupational safety and health administration training, and industry-specific safety protocols are always in demand. Employees with such activities and certifications can help enhance the overall workplace safety, preparedness for emergencies, and the well-being of employees.


4. Soft skills

  • Strong communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time-management skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Decision-making skills


5. Traditional skills

Job-specific skills that blue-collar workers must possess may vary from one job role to another, but they should always be one of the primary skills candidates are assessed for.


Six steps for establishing a successful, skills-based, blue-collar recruitment strategy

Step 1: Start small

You may not need to redefine your complete hiring strategy for implementing a skills-based approach to blue-collar recruitment. It would be prudent to start small by identifying the roles with high turnover rates, long time-to-hire, etc.


Step 2: Determine skills gaps

Skills gaps refer to the difference between the skill sets of your existing workforce and the skill sets required by the organization to achieve its goals. A structured skills gap analysis can go a long way in determining the need for new talent and skills development within the organization.


Step 3: Identify the role needing recruitment and establish the competencies required

A skills gap analysis can provide the insights required to establish the core abilities and competencies that a candidate should possess. The findings and the data from the skills gap analysis will help build the role required for organizational success.


Step 4: Create job postings with skills-based descriptions and integrate screening tests into the recruitment process

As discussed, it is crucial to communicate effectively with candidates through any job posting, as job postings and listings are generally the only way for organizations to inform candidates about the openings for specific job roles. Once applications are in, implement pre-employment assessments for the candidates’ relevant on-the-job skills and aptitude as a screening tool to identify applicants best suited for the position. The assessments should test candidates for their job-specific skills and soft skills, talent, growth potential, willingness to learn, and so on to ensure they fit the company culture well.


Step 5: Organize job simulations and structured interview

Once the unsuitable candidates are out, the remaining applicants should be invited for a behavioral interview. This round should consist of a structured interview involving pre-established questions in a fixed order. This way, interviewees can be graded on a scale, leaving no scope for bias. Then, there is the job simulation round, which will allow candidates to perform the daily routine tasks of the job they are applying for. The structured interview and job simulation help ensure whether the candidate possesses the required skills and traits needed for the job.


Step 6: Provide training and development opportunities for employees

Letting blue-collar workers know they have all the room they need to grow and develop their skills and abilities within the organization’s structure is one of the most critical steps in hiring and retaining top talent.


How Mercer | Mettl can help

Mercer | Mettl offers a wide range of psychometric and aptitude assessments that can be utilized by hiring managers for pre-employment screening of applicants for specific blue-collar positions. The tests by Mercer | Mettl are designed by seasoned subject matter experts to objectively identify and measure the strengths, weaknesses, aptitude, potential, areas for improvement, and more. The tests can also measure negative personality constructs in individuals that might make them unsuitable for specific positions. Using these tests as tools for pre-employment screening helps streamline the blue-collar recruitment process for organizations.



Blue-collar recruitment is no longer limited to posting template-based job descriptions and reviewing resumes to find candidates for further rounds. Today, hiring blue-collar workers requires finding candidates who may not have the right educational background or experience but are more than adept at the skills needed to successfully perform a particular job role. Blue-collar recruitment is not about finding workers but about finding individuals who are a perfect match for the open position and the company culture.



1. What is considered a blue-collar job?

2. What are blue-collar employees in HR?

3. How do blue-collar workers help in the workplace?

Originally published February 29 2024, Updated February 29 2024

Written by

Harsh Vardhan Sharma, with 6 years of content writing expertise across diverse B2B and B2C verticals, excels in crafting impactful content for broad audiences. Beyond work, he finds joy in reading, traveling, and watching movies.

About This Topic

The primary objectives of recruitment and selection are to ensure high-quality candidates who are culturally fit and work toward shared organizational goals and vision.

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