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What to look for when hiring heavy equipment operators

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Hiring can be a stressful process no matter the job. In the construction industry, employers need to find people who either already ring a specific set of skills to the job or are eager and able to learn those skills very quickly on the job.

Employers who need heavy equipment operators to run their fleets need to know how to identify job seekers that can help the entire crew succeed and stay on track to meet deadlines. Here is a quick guide that will cover what to look for when hiring heavy equipment operators.

Heavy equipment operator career outlook

Heavy equipment operators working in the construction industry can have a fulfilling career with plenty of opportunities. The job pays well and there is good demand for people with the skills it takes to operate construction equipment and machinery.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a construction equipment operator in 2018 was $46,990 per year for salaried employees and $22.59 per hour for hourly workers. Many of the jobs require a high school diploma or equivalent and come with a moderate amount of on-the-job training.

But perhaps the highlight of all the statistics is that the job outlook for construction equipment operators looks very bright. The BLS expects 10% growth in equipment operator jobs from 2018 to 2028.

So, with that in mind, there should be no shortage of candidates for employers looking to add heavy equipment operators to their crews. The next step is finding and hiring the best.

The basic skills of a heavy equipment operator

People who want to be successful heavy equipment operators must possess a few basic skills. It’s not always an easy job, physically or mentally.

The necessary skills for this type of job include excellent hand-eye coordination, mechanical skills, comfort working at different elevations, appreciation of outdoor working environments and - perhaps most importantly - a strong work ethic.

Look at applicants’ experience and qualifications

In a perfect world, the ideal candidate for heavy equipment operator jobs has the skills and training needed to run each of the different pieces of machinery in your fleet. They may have acquired those skills from past jobs or they could have received certification after having been trained at a trades program, such as one that may be found at a local community college.

Some job candidates you come across may also have gone through an apprenticeship program to gain the skills needed as a heavy equipment operator. Many of these apprenticeships are structured as three- or four-year programs that will combine technical instruction with training in the field or on actual job sites. Job candidates who have gone through apprenticeships will likely bring with them knowledge of safety practices, first aid procedures and a good amount of operating knowledge.

According to ZipRecruiter, those who want to land a job as an equipment operator in the construction industry will be more successful in their search if they have prior experience operating heavy equipment as well as experience in construction in general. Look for job applicants who list on their resumes what specific equipment and machinery they have experience operating.

The best candidates will also list on their resumes whether they have acquired the appropriate CDL license for the job. There are, of course, some pieces of equipment that require a more specialized license to operate, so be sure to ask applicants exactly what they are licensed to operate.

Can they make simple repairs?

It’s one thing to be able to operate heavy equipment, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to recognize when something is amiss mechanically. The best operators not only know how to run the machinery, they also know how to keep an eye out for minor problems and make those simpler repairs if necessary.

Ask job applicants whether they have experience following preventative maintenance plans and implementing the recommendations those plans provide. Preventative maintenance plans encourage keeping an eye out for normal equipment wear and tear and also potential mechanical issues. These plans also put an emphasis on scheduled inspections, part replacements and performance tests - all things operators should be able to handle.

Do they prioritize safety?

Safety is always one of the top concerns at any construction site or other location where heavy equipment is present. The best heavy equipment operators always consider safety when they are working.

Workers should be up to speed on safety standards and recommendations as set by OSHA, including what they must wear when operating heavy equipment, what parts of the equipment must be working properly in order for it to be considered safe and what safety measures must be considered when operating a specific type of equipment or machinery.

Hire people who value teamwork

Heavy equipment operators and others in the construction industry are constantly working as part of larger teams. The best applicants will be able to mesh with the rest of the construction crew, taking instruction and providing feedback.

Those communication skills also relate to safety when there are large, powerful machines operating on the job site. Part of being a team is knowing where coworkers are at al times and being aware of what they are doing so everyone can remain safe while working.

In addition, a good fit for this and any other construction job will be able to take care of their responsibilities on the job so that they don’t drag down the rest of the team and affect its productivity and performance.

Take care of your equipment

Your crew’s skills behind the wheel don’t matter if you do not take care of your equipment. Make sure to follow a regular maintenance schedule to keep machinery running at peak performance.

That maintenance routine should also include checking and cleaning the air filters that protect the diesel engines that power your equipment. Take a look at our Filter Blaster products to see how you can improve your heavy equipment diesel engine life, performance and fuel economy.

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