A Peek Inside the World of Recruiting for the Plastics and Polymer Industry
Regional Technical Manager. Technical Sales Representative. Plant Manager. Vice President of Production. Technical / Quality Manager. Product Manager.
Those are just a few of the recent positions Lee Group Search has recruited for in the plastics industry.
But what is the plastics industry? Why does it require a specialized interest to recruit for?
Let’s get on the same page and start by understanding the industry itself.
Officially speaking the plastics industry is part of the chemical industry.
These are companies dealing with polymer chemistry – polymer materials are what we refer to as plastics. They’re making films, melting it, stretching it, adding ingredients, playing with formulas. It’s incredibly complex.
You might, given the amount of media coverage surrounding single use plastics today, immediately think water bottles. But the reality is plastics manufacturing is critical in a wide range of industries – from building and construction to electronics to aerospace and transportation.
Back to recruiting.
The reason it can be so challenging – and then so equally rewarding – to find the right candidate to fill the right job opening is because of how specialized the positions can be.
Much like the misconception around plastics factories being nothing but single use water bottle developers, there is a stereotype around what a leader does.
These plants are far more sophisticated than Lucy and Ethel organizing chocolates on a factory line (if you don’t get that reference, Google this classic Americana TV memory).
Let’s take the vice president of production role recently placed as an example.
That position oversees multiple manufacturing plants and multiple plant managers report to them.
It means we’re recruiting for someone with strong leadership skills. Someone who can delegate to elevate. Someone who can manage and handle the complexities of leading leaders.
That position requires an ability to see the overall strategy and vision for an organization and execute on it across multiple locations.
It also means understanding the tactics required to enhance efficiency, reduce waste and scrap, all while managing team members as well as customers.
There’s also roles like technical sales representatives. These aren’t sales reps making cold calls.
Sure, they are an outside sales person for these companies. But often times they are actual engineers.
Remember how we said plastics is so much more than water bottles? With sales, we’re not just talking about selling widgets. They are selling a unique solution that a customer needs. We’re talking custom creation of something made out of a specific plastic and in a specific shape to create a specific result.
Some people need to have sustainable products, things need to be biodegradable, and those items often need to be heavily engineered.
Others are in the food industry have to think through creating plastic solutions to package their goods that don’t harm humans.
A technical sales representative needs to be able to think through all the challenges potential clients have, how they can be accomplished, and for how much. It’s a very complex sell and it requires a very complex and competent candidate.
Recruiting in the plastics industry can also be complex, and it’s why Lee Group Search has spent so many years and time ingratiating itself into that world.
“We have to understand the world we are recruiting in and we have to know the specs of these positions and what they do at a very high level,” said Wes Ashworth, Vice President with Lee Group Search. “If you didn’t know it, you would be so lost and you would reach out to all the wrong people.”
An inexperienced recruiter searching for that technical sales representative in plastics could waste a thousand hours looking at the wrong type of profiles and resumes, for example.
“We know what we’re looking for,” Ashworth said. “We know what our plastics clients need, and we understand the impact of having the right person in the right seat.”