Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters

Machine operators must be comfortable working with a range of equipment. Just like any skill, it takes time to fine-tune your comfort level and capabilities, and nobody will be an expert from the start. Strong candidates will be honest about the machines they’ve worked with—and if there are any gaps in their knowledge.

What to listen for

  • Look for signs that the candidate knows when to ask for help and when to power through.
  • Listen for signs that they recognize the importance of mastering their work and show commitment to improving by any means possible.

Why this matters

Employers should always hire workers who can prove they’ll keep themselves and their colleagues safe. Machine operators who come to an interview with certifications or special safety training are already invested in their future, especially if they can walk you through how they’ve checked specific machines. These pursuits also imply they’ll be diligent and motivated workers.

What to listen for

  • An understanding of safety guidelines and how to perform accurate checks.
  • An ability to solve quality-control issues efficiently and independently.

Why this matters

Strong recordkeeping skills are a must for a machine operator—and you’ll want to find evidence that applicants can document information in an organized and accurate manner. Apart from boosting accountability and safety procedures—records enable managers to check who’s responsible for equipment, and when it was last checked—meticulous documentation can help prevent expensive repairs and warranty claims. There’s no precise science here, but a strong answer will highlight a candidate’s care and attention to detail.

What to listen for

  • Candidates should mention model names and serial numbers when describing logs.
  • Answers should demonstrate an organized mindset, able to keep records even when busy with other tasks.

Why this matters

This question forces candidates to demonstrate their initiative and their work ethic. Neither option is absolutely right—though fixing the second machine first may show dedication to the company and its mission, given the importance of daily production quotas to all manufacturing firms. This question examines a candidate’s thoroughness, the criteria they use to prioritize tasks, and probes whether they’re up to the challenge of working with several machines on the fly.

What to listen for

  • Hypothetical situations can provide insight on how a candidate might react under pressure.
  • Experienced candidates will be able to refer back to similar situations in their own work.

Why this matters

Everybody makes mistakes—even the most experienced machine operators. The question is, do they learn from their errors? . Honesty is therefore crucial here, as are the practical steps candidates took to sharpen their conduct. In short, this question helps you understand an employee’s willingness to face up to their mistakes, and demonstrate their capacity to be a forthright, responsible, and developing member of your team.

What to listen for

  • An explanation of how a mistake helped the candidate grow as an employee demonstrates their resilience.
  • Listen out for procedural references. Candidates who discuss the need to feel physically safe and protected in their work environment show they value self-improvement.

Why this matters

What this question really gets at is whether or not the candidate would do anything. A willingness to confront a colleague who isusing a machine unsafely shows courage. If approached in the right way, this can encourage a positive change in their colleague’s behavior, and potentially even change company policy at large—as well as keeping both staff and machines secure.

What to listen for

  • The best answers outline the situation, what their role was in it, what action they took (and why), and the result of their actions.
  • The ability to critique others shows a willingness to put professionalism above personal relationships.

Why this matters

This may seem like a typical interview question, but for machine operators, it’s fundamental. Machine operating is difficult. Day to day, these workers are confronted with physical strain and challenging technical problems. The willingness and ability to collaborate with colleagues to fix machines—or with managers to address broader safety issues—is therefore crucial. There are no right answers here, but a team-oriented mindset is essential.

What to listen for

  • A desire to work collaboratively, support colleagues, and solve problems collegiately.
  • Recognition of the specific challenges and time commitment that comes with the role.

Why this matters

Because many machine operators work directly with clients, ideal candidates will be able to explain complicated technical ideas in layman’s terms, without slipping into jargon. Understanding expectations and requirements are important too—machine operators may have to relay input or feedback from a client back to your team. In other words, though machine operators are primarily prized for their technical knowledge, they should be personable too.

What to listen for

  • Good machine operators will carefully understand technical concepts before discussing them with others.
  • Specific examples of when they liaised between clients and staff.

Why this matters

This is the candidate’s chance to show that they’ve researched your work. If they don’t mention specifics about your production or the types of machines they’re likely to operate, they may not be interested in aligning their values with yours. You should only settle for the best, and any candidates that haven’t bothered doing the legwork probably aren’t worth your time.

What to listen for

  • Look for proof they’ve analyzed the job requirements and explored your website.
  • Specific examples of how their own achievements can support your business.