Until intelligent robots replace humans in production plants across the variety of industries, you will find plenty of job openings for machine operators, on any major job board. In many cases, on the job training is all they require from you, but in some instances you will have to demonstrate your skills with a particular machinery, even directly in the interviews.

Before we look at the questions you may face in your interview, let me share some good news with you: Machine operator is not a popular job title, and most production plants struggle with their hiring efforts. You will often be the only job candidate, and they will literally pray that you do well, that you do not answer their questions with silence, or a blank look. Because they need you. Unless they have people to operate the machines, the production plant cannot work.

I hope this information helps you to get rid of stress (if you experience any). Now we can look at the questions you may face.


Why do you want to work as a machine operator?

Try to find something positive about the job. But you should not refer to your education in the field–even if you have a relevant one. Such an answer would indicate a must (I have to choose this job since I already invested a lot of time and money in my education). It’s not an impression you want to make…

You can say that you enjoy working with heavy machinery. You’ve been always a technician at heart, and you understand machines better than people. What’s more, you see a bright future in the field, since people are always hungry to buy more. And without machines and production plants there won’t be anything to buy…

You can add a few skills that make from you a good candidate for the position. Precision, attention to detail, responsibility, to name just a few. Summarized and underlined, considering your preferences and personality, job of a machine operator seems like a good choice to you.


Can you tell us more about any relevant experience or education you have in the field?

Just do not remain silent, even if you have no relevant professional experience. I’m sure you’ve worked with some power tools back home, maybe helping your father when renovating the house, or cutting wood for the winter. Maybe you don’t have paid working experience, but that doesn’t mean that you have never operated any machines… Any experience is better than nothing, and while describing it you can again demonstrate your passion for this work.

Of course, professional experience with machines and tools is even better. Even if you gained it just as a part of your vocational school, or a short internship stint. Talk about the types of machines you operated (for example CNC), and tools you worked with.

It’s important to talk with some enthusiasm when you describe your past experience with operating machines. They should get an impression that you enjoy this type of work (at least to some extend), and do not go to job only to earn money…

How do you imagine your typical day in this plant as a machine operator?

The most important thing is to not get carried away with your answer. You will certainly participate in some interesting tasks, such as installing new machines, repairing defects, setting up the machine for some specialty work, etc.

However, the core of your job will be a repetitive operation of a machine, hour after hour, day after day. And you should be at peace with the idea. Say that you imagine working on your stand, operating the machine, doing regular quality checks and ensure that everything runs smoothly. Hour after hour, day after day.

And if they ask you whether you do not find such a repetitive work boring, say simply that almost all jobs are repetitive, and you do not consider it a minus. What’s more, you are aware that you will have to put your creativity to the test, sometimes, for example when helping to install or set up a new machine (participating in the process).


How important are safety rules and regulations for you?

We all know the picture: workmen walking around the production plant without helmets, joking, playing with their smart phones, having a good time. And maybe it looks the same way in their plant, at least when supervisor is not on the floor, but you should present a completely different attitude in your interview.

Say that you are aware of the dangers work with machines proposes. You do not want to have your hand mutilated, or cause harm to any other employee, just because you were cocky and neglected some rules.

On the contrary, you will always wear a helmet, and you won’t touch a machine unless you understand all safety rules of its operation. To take it one step further, as soon as you see someone from your colleagues neglecting the rules, for example walking around without protective equipment, you will warn them and ask them to follow the safety rules. That’s the attitude they seek in a perfect candidate for this job.


Tell us about a time when you struggled with motivation at work. What did you do to overcome a crisis?

Avoid some unrealistic answers, such as that you never struggle with motivation. Just like everyone else, you experience some highs and lows, which is completely normal, and each employer have understanding for that.

You can point out several ways of motivating yourself when you feel low, or like staying in bed all day long. One of them is your goals–things you want to achieve, in or outside of work. Maybe you want your children to go to good school, or you want to buy a nice car, or some other object that you envision when you do not feel like working, and image of it helps you to push on.

Another idea is mentioning the so called “negative motivation“. Fear is a strong emotion, and you certainly do not want to end up on the street. You have your commitments and expenses, bills to pay each month. Without a job you can hardly maintain your living standard, and if nothing else, this motivates you to try hard and keep going, even when you feel low on energy.

Yet another option is referring to team spirit, and the sense of responsibility. You know that you are not an isolated unit in the factory. Different work stations are interdependent, and your work impacts many people in the plant. Feeling responsibility for your colleagues, you do not want to let them down. It drives you to try your best, even when you do not feel like working hard…


Other questions you may face in your Machine Operator job interview

  • Tell us about the most difficult problem you have faced while working with a machine.
  • How would you describe an ideal colleague, and an ideal boss?
  • Name all types of machines, tools, and software programs you have worked with in your professional career.
  • What do you consider your greatest weakness when we talk about a job of machine operator?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time? How long would you like to have this job?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Are you a detail-oriented person?
  • How would you describe your work style?


Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a machine operator belongs to interviews with easy difficulty. Companies struggle to hire employees for these jobs, responsible and precise people they can rely on, and let them operate expensive machinery.

As long as you do not remain silent when hearing their questions, and demonstrate right attitude to work with your answers, they will give you a chance to prove your skills, at least during the probation period.

Do some research about your future employer, and do not forget to show some enthusiasm for the job. They should get an impression that you want to do the work, and do not apply only because you need money to live…

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Matthew Chulaw
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