When things get heavy, one needs a calm mind, a sharp eye, and an experience. Hard to do the job without any of the three, and the same goes with succeeding in an interview. However, if you’ve worked with some heavy machinery before (think bulldozers, cranes, industrial forklifts and similar), and can demonstrate your sense for both efficiency and safety at work, you won’t find this interview particularly difficult.

On the contrary, many companies struggle with finding heavy equipment operators who are both experienced and serious. When they have one in an interview, they won’t torment him with countless questions. A few personal and behavioral questions, and unless you disappoint them with the answers, or remain silent, they will proceed straight to salary negotiation. Let’s have a look at the questions you will likely face, and how to answer each one.


Why did you decide to apply for a job of a heavy equipment operator?

You should focus on two things in your answer. First one is motivation, second one experience, or training/apprenticeship, when you apply for the very first job in the field (at the end of the day everyone has to start somewhere, and even the best operators have had their first job in the field).

When it comes to motivation, you can mention a good financial compensation, but should also praise the nature of the job, the importance, the meaningful purpose you see in it. Every day more and people live on Earth. We crossed 8 billion recently. All these people need to live somewhere, and they need infrastructure to commute to schools, jobs, businesses, and simply to take car of their daily duties. There won’t be any long-lasting infrastructure of 21st century without heavy machinery, and you feel great about being able to participate on creating such an infrastructure. What’s better than walking down the street with your son (or with best friend), showing them a building and saying that you were a part of a group who built it?

Second thing is your experience. Even if you apply for your first job, you’ve already sacrificed a lot for your career. Years of studies, thousand invested into courses and training, countless hours spent studying and practicing. Obviously with all the investment you’ve made into this career, it is logical that you finally apply for a good job in the field…

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Please tell us more about your experience with operating heavy equipment.

The most important thing is to specifically describe the types and models of excavators, cranes, bulldozers, and other heavy machinery you’ve worked with, either in your former jobs, or during your studies and apprenticeship. Type of the machine, brand, what kind of work you’ve done with it, and so on. Once they hear such things they will immediately recognize that you aren’t just a talker, but have actually worked with the machines, and know what you do.

Secondly, I suggest you to show your confidence in working with other machinery as well, especially the one they specify in the job description. Needless to say, if you specialize in one type of work only, or one machine, you should say so. In this filed definitely a specialist is more valuable than the “jack of all trades”, if you know what I mean…

How do you imagine a typical day while working here as a heavy equipment operator?

To find the right answer to this question, you should do two things: Read the job description carefully, and learn more about the principal projects of your future employer. That means what kind of construction projects they handle, in which places, and what role do people like you play in them. It should give you a basic idea of the job.

Alternatively if you do not know, or cannot find the information online, you can simply say that you imagine working with motorized heavy equipment, moving materials as needed on the construction site, following the directions of your superior, and trying your best to work safely and effectively at the same time. You can also say that you know the deadlines are tight in this field, and hence you definitely do not expect an easy ride. On the contrary, you know you’ll be busy and cigarette breaks won’t be frequent. But you are okay with that, because you enjoy your work, and aren’t a lazy person.


How do you make sure that nobody comes to harm during your shift, including yourself?

You can start by saying that it is pivotal for you to know all safety standards, and to abide them at all costs. What I try to say here is that you won’t neglect safety just because you are falling back with schedule. Your health and health of your co-workers is your first priority, and you won’t risk compromising it just to meet some tight deadline.

Then you can elaborate on your words, explaining safety precautions that relate particularly to the machine you operate (crane, excavator, forklift, etc).  Another important thing to mention is your vigilance. You plan to keep your eyes open at all times. Instead of relying on other workers to know what to do, where to go and where not to go while you are operating some giant earth moving machine, you will check it yourself, making sure that people do not stand on a wrong place while you do your job.

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How do you feel about working overtime, during the weekend, etc?

Let’s be honest. Few deadlines are met in the construction business. But that doesn’t mean that the companies do not try to meet them. And the employees have to follow… What I try to say here is that once a deadline looms, they may ask you to work overtime, on Saturday, in the night, or even on Sunday. This is the reality of the job, and you should ensure them that you count with it.

Of course, you are not going to work every weekend. But once in a while when they need it, you should be ready to deliver, and stay overtime. The key is to show them that you are ready to sacrifice something for your job. One more thing I suggest you to mention here is that safety protocols and precautions will always have no. 1 priority. Working overtime is fine, but if you feel very tired or sleepy and aren’t 100% sure anymore that your safety, or safety of anyone else on the construction site, is guaranteed, you simply won’t work. Trying to meet a tight deadline is one thing, putting someone’s health at risk another…


Other questions you may face in your heavy equipment operator job interview

  • Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline. How have you dealt with the pressure?
  • Have you ever had an accident in your work? If you have had it, please tell us how it happened, and why.
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • In your opinion, what role does communication play in this job?
  • After everything we discussed here, do you want to add something, or do you have any questions?


Final thoughts

Interview for a heavy equipment operator belongs to easier interviews. Construction business is always booming, and many companies lack people like you. As long as you do not remain silent while hearing their questions, and demonstrate your readiness to handle the equipment, and stick to the safety protocols, they will give you a chance to prove your words in the job. I wish you best of luck in the interviews!


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Matthew Chulaw
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