How to Hire a Machine Operator

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Machine operators play an essential role in the industrial workforce. Without them, many of the machines relied upon to transport objects and manufacture goods would cease to function.

But if you need to hire a new machine operator for your workplace, it can be crucial to pick the right person for the job to ensure you’re getting someone with the right skill set for the role. 

Roles and responsibilities

MACHINE OPERATOR OR MACHINIST?

Machine operators are also sometimes called machinists, due to the similarity between the two roles. However, machinists may in general have a slightly higher skill level, and be trained to operate a wider range of machinery. 

Machine operators are industrial employees that perform a variety of tasks related to machinery. They work with many different types of equipment, including milling machines, lathes, and grinders — some of which are computer-controlled.

It’s important to note that machine operator is a term that can mean two different things. Sometimes it refers to tool and dye makers, who produce precision metal parts. Other times it means someone who operates, maintains, and repairs machines. It’s worth bearing this in mind while crafting your job advert to ensure you’re attracting the right candidates!

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A MACHINE OPERATOR

The daily routine of a machine operator can vary significantly depending on the specific niche that they work in. That being said, here are some of the most common daily tasks for a machinist:

WHY EMPLOYERS VALUE THEM

A machine operator helps a company optimize its efficiency by ensuring that the machines that it relies upon to do business function properly. 

If a company didn’t have a machinist, they might experience frequent downtime or have to replace their machines more often due to poor maintenance practices.

In other words, machine operators can help the companies they work for reduce costs, improve efficiency, and, ultimately, sometimes even make more money.

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Machine operator job description 

SKILLS NEEDED

Technical skills are extremely important for a machine operator to have. It’s important that whoever you hire can troubleshoot a wide variety of mechanical issues and resolve them without requiring much supervision.

Additionally, a machine operator should usually have the ability to read blueprints and technical documents and quickly understand them. Having excellent math and analytics skills can help tremendously with this.

SALARY

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, material moving machine operators earn $37,790 per year ($18.17/hr) and machinists make $47,040 per year or $22.62 per hour.

That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that these figures are averages, and the expected salary in your geography may be more or less than this. 

In addition to location, experience and job niche can also have a significant impact on what the going rate is for the specific type of machine operator that you’d like to hire.

WORK CULTURE

Machine operators tend to work in manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and related locations. Many work standard business hours and have weekends off. 

But some employers need a machine operator to be on duty around the clock. In those scenarios, a machinist could still work standard business hours, but they might also be asked to work late nights, early mornings, or on weekends.

Top interview questions for machine operators

WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A MACHINE OPERATOR?

It can be incredibly useful to understand somebody’s “why” before you hire them. 

Of course, everybody that you’re interviewing is looking for a job because they want to make money. However, getting your applicants to think beyond this in the interview can be a great way to find out what motivates them. 

There is no right or wrong answer here – but, if a candidate can’t give you any reason why they want to be a machine operator other than to earn an income, this could be a red flag signaling that they’re not very committed to this career path.

HOW DO YOU HANDLE SAFETY WHILE WORKING WITH MACHINES?

Safety is essential for a machine operator. Without it, they risk not only injuring themselves but also their coworkers. 

You will likely have specific safety instructions in place already, but it can be a good idea to spend an interview question figuring out how an applicant approaches the issue of safety.

Their answer should indicate that they’ve given some thought to safety — or at least that they make it a priority while they’re going about their daily routine on the job.

HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN LOGS AND RECORDS OF THE WORK YOU DO?

Maintaining clear and accurate work logs is another crucial component of being a good machine operator. This question can help you figure out how your applicants approach the subject.

They should ideally be able to articulate some type of system to you, regardless of what it might be. The most important thing to figure out is whether this is something they think about while working.

IMAGINE TWO MACHINES BREAK DOWN AT THE SAME TIME. ONE WILL BE EASIER TO FIX BUT THE OTHER HAS A BIGGER IMPACT ON DAILY PRODUCTION. WHICH WOULD YOU FIX FIRST?

This question helps to expose how a candidate will respond under pressure. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, exactly – what you’re looking for in their response is how the person reasons through their decision.

An excellent candidate will often call back to previous examples with their work to come up with an answer. But the most important thing is that they carefully consider both options, assess the pros and cons of each, and then make a well-reasoned judgment call.

TELL ME ABOUT A TIME YOU MADE A MISTAKE WHILE OPERATING A MACHINE. WHAT DID YOU DO DIFFERENTLY AFTER?

Mistakes happen. Even the very best machine operators make them sometimes. But what separates the great machinists from the poor ones is often how they respond to their mistakes.

A poor candidate will often downplay previous mistakes or try to say that they haven’t made any. On the other hand, a good applicant will likely be forthcoming about previous failures and tell you about how they learned from them and what they did differently the next time.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU SAW A COLLEAGUE OPERATING A MACHINE INCORRECTLY?

This question will help you figure out the type of coworker that the applicant will be and how they would respond to an awkward situation with a peer. Ideally, in this situation, you want to hear that they would approach the person and tell them about the mistake that they’re making – not ignore it. 

The best answers to most interview questions often involve the applicant describing their reasoning, as this can help you to understand their thought process and how they would handle a variety of work-related situations. 

Other factors to consider when hiring a machine operator

TRAINING

Entry-level machine operators typically don’t need more training than a high school diploma. 

However, if you’re hiring for a more advanced, niche, or challenging position, then you may want to focus on applicants who have completed some type of industry-specific training.

For example, technical schools often offer certifications in machine operation. If a candidate has one of these, then you can assume that they’ll likely be able to begin contributing faster than someone without any specialized training.

PERSONALITY

Personality can play a big role in determining how well an applicant would be able to mesh with the rest of your team. You should usually get a sense of this when you’re interviewing them. 

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to hire someone with a personality that’s different from what you currently have on staff. You just should keep in mind that if someone doesn’t feel like they fit in with your team, they might not be as likely to stick around for as long as you expect them to.

AVAILABILITY

It can also be important to consider your candidates’ availability before making a hiring decision. This may not be much of an issue if you only need your machine operator to work during standard business hours.

But it could present problems if you have first, second, and third shifts and some of the applicants that you’re interviewing are only willing to work standard hours. At the very least, make sure you ask the question during your interviews.

Surehand makes hiring skilled machine operators a breeze

One of the most important parts of hiring a machine operator is knowing where to look for the high-quality candidates that you want to add to your team. Surehand makes it incredibly easy to find these types of applicants.

Our service does the work for you. Simply tell us what you want in a machine operator and we’ll pull from our database of skilled job applicants to show you the applicants in your area that are the best fit for your specific needs.

With our help, you’ll be able to find and interview as many skilled machine operator candidates as it takes to find the one that’s right for you.

But don’t take our word for it. Get started with a free trial of Surehand today to see exactly what we can do for you.

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