How to Hire a Machine Operator

Does your growing business need a machine operator? The primary responsibility of a machine operator is to set up, operate and maintain machinery.

Here are some tips to help you find quality machine operator candidates and make the right hire for your business.

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Machine operators searching for jobs on Indeed*

656,963

Job seekers that clicked machine operator jobs

357,073

Resumes for job seekers with machine operator experience on Indeed

35,934

Machine operator jobs that received clicks

What is the cost of hiring machine operator?

  • Common salary in US: $14.80 hourly
  • Typical salaries range from $7.35$24.70 hourly
  • Find more information on Indeed Salary

*Indeed data (US) – April 2021

As of April 2021, machine operator jobs in the U.S. are very competitive compared to other job markets, with an average of 18 job seekers per machine operator job.

Why hire a machine operator?

Hiring a great machine operator ensures the company is able to maintain smooth production operations by minimizing issues arising from machines. A machine operator can:

• Establish and set up machines to operate production cycles
• Manage and control machine settings as needed
• Supply parts or raw materials to semiautomated machines

Deciding between a full-time vs freelance machine operator

It’s relatively rare for companies to hire machine operators on a freelance basis. Chances are, if you’ve invested in the kind of equipment that needs a machine operator, you’re looking toward long-term production cycles that require a full-time position.

However, it’s possible to retain a machine operator for short-term projects or production cycles, or if you’re only certain of having enough work to justify the position for a shorter span of time. Seasonal heavy-equipment operators are a good example of when short-term contracts would be appropriate.

Whether you’re hiring for the short or long term, the general advice on skills, recruitment and interviewing for machine operator positions still applies.

What are the types of machine operators?

There are as many types of machines that require machine operators as there are industries. Higher salaries are expected the more strenuous the work involved and the more specific the skills and qualifications needed to run the equipment.

  • Heavy equipment operators: Also called operating engineers, they run excavators, front-end loaders, bulldozers, backhoes and other such large machines used in construction and demolitions work.
  • CNC operators: They work with automated lathes, grinders and milling machines whose onboard computers guide their tooling processes, and so they also need to program those machines.
  • Set-up person and quality control specialist: In a machine shop, a set-up person is needed to put in place the tooling on all the machines used for a production run, while quality control specialists check over the results. These positions need to operate every machine in the shop.
  • Forklift operators: This is a common position in warehouses, tasked with running and maintaining the forklifts used to organize and stack product shipments.

Machine operator jobs generally require training and apprenticeships.

Where to find machine operators

To find the right machine operator for your business, consider trying out a few different recruiting strategies:

  • Keep a database of potential candidates on hand. If someone reaches out with a resume, hang onto it and add them to a database that’s easy to access and search.
  • Make use of employee referrals. If you already have machine operators on your team, there’s a good chance they may know other qualified candidates who would fit your needs.
  • Consider using a staffing agency. Going through a staffing agency can add expenses to the hiring process that may or may not be practical. If you can afford it, the upside is that any candidates who come through the agency are already vetted for their expertise.
  • Post your job online. Try posting your machine operator job on Indeed to find and attract quality machine operator candidates.

What are the types of machine operators?

There are as many types of machines that require machine operators as there are industries. Higher salaries are expected the more strenuous the work involved and the more specific the skills and qualifications needed to run the equipment.

  • Heavy equipment operators: Also called operating engineers, they run excavators, front-end loaders, bulldozers, backhoes and other such large machines used in construction and demolitions work.
  • CNC operators: They work with automated lathes, grinders and milling machines whose onboard computers guide their tooling processes, and so they also need to program those machines.
  • Set-up person and quality control specialist: In a machine shop, a set-up person is needed to put in place the tooling on all the machines used for a production run, while quality control specialists check over the results. These positions need to operate every machine in the shop.
  • Forklift operators: This is a common position in warehouses, tasked with running and maintaining the forklifts used to organize and stack product shipments.

Machine operator jobs generally require training and apprenticeships.

Writing a machine operator job description

The job description is the reflection of the precise staffing needs. The job description of a machine operator should be accompanied with clearly outlined job roles and duties and the required skill set.

When writing your machine operator job description, consider including some or all of the following keywords to improve the visibility of your job posting. These are the most popular search terms leading to clicks on machine operator jobs, according to Indeed data:

  • Machine operator
  • Manufacturing
  • Production
  • Hiring immediately
  • Operator
  • Forklift operator
  • 3rd shift
  • Production operator
  • Factory

Interviewing machine operator candidates

Hiring the right person as a machine operator helps the company be on track for its target revenue, profitability and growth by achieving efficiency in production operations. They should also be confident answering questions regarding:

• Experience with operating machines in production manufacturing
• Awareness of the Mastercam software and reading blueprints
• How they’ve managed to enhance the production efficiency to help achieve the company’s revenue and profitability targets

Need help coming up with interview questions? See our list of machine operator interview questions for examples (with sample answers).

When should I hire a machine operator?

Any time you’re ready to start producing and shipping products to market, you’re going to need machine operators. Don’t rush the hiring process, but do try to be efficient about it. When a field is as highly competitive as this one is, quality candidates don’t stay on the job market very long. 

How do I choose between two good machine operator candidates?

If two candidates for a machine operator position seem to be in a dead heat, think about their soft skills and what their personality could bring to the workplace. Having the right skills and certifications is great, but working well with your team is even better.


Be on a particular lookout for the candidate whose personality and communications skills add a needed quality to the shop or the production floor, like persistent positivity or a drive for excellence. 

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