Updated August 21st, 2018
| Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Question 1 of 39
Why do you want a career as a Heavy Equipment Operator?
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The interviewer wants to gauge whether you may be a long term fit for their company, or not. Be sure to give an example of why you are passionate about your career as a Heavy Equipment Operator and tell the interviewer that you are in this career path for the long haul.
"I have always had an interest in heavy equipment. As a teenager, I helped my dad on the job site in the summers and he would let me operate the smaller pieces of equipment. I guess you could say it's in my blood. I plan to be an operator for many years to come."
This role will require full commitment in varying weather conditions. Do you have experience working in tough conditions?
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The interviewer wants to know that you are able to work in any type of work conditions required in this role. If you are unsure of the work conditions, it is absolutely okay to ask the interviewer to elaborate, before you fully agree. You can respond by describing the work conditions you have previously been exposed to, and assure the interviewer that you are ready and capable of handling the position as it's been described.
"I understand that you have indoor and outdoor facilities, and that work must go on...rain or shine! I have worked in a variety of environments including outdoor yards, and even a chemical plant. I am happy to commit, even through tough working conditions."
What steps do you take when a piece of equipment starts performing poorly?
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The interviewer wants to see if you are experienced enough to know the proper steps you take if a piece of equipment starts to malfunction. Show that you are technically minded, and safety driven. Be sure to include an example of a time when you faced this type of situation in the workplace, if you can. If you have any education related to maintenance and mechanics, this is a good time to highlight that training as well.
"When a piece of equipment fails to work properly, I follow a 5 step troubleshooting plan. I verify that a problem actually exists. Then, I isolate the cause of the problem. Once isolated, I correct the cause of the problem. I will then ask a third party to verify that the problem has been corrected. Finally, I document the situation. I learned this 5 step process while earning my degree in mechanical engineering."
In your opinion, what skills and behaviors are most important, in order to be a successful Heavy Equipment Operator?
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The interviewer knows that you will likely list skills and behaviors that you personally possess. Assure the interviewer that you understand what it takes to be successful as a Heavy Equipment Operator. You want your answer to be unique. This will help you to stand out from the other potential candidates. For instance, saying that you think a Heavy Equipment Operator should be safe, and detail driven, may be a mundane answer that anyone would give. Dig deeper!
Here are some ideas:
- Capable of stress-management
- Open to feedback
"I believe the most important skills as a Heavy Equipment Operator would be to have technical and mechanical abilities, quick-decision making skills, and be capable of exercising patience."
How important is safety to you? What type of safety training do you have?
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The interviewer wants to see that you understand the importance of safety in the workplace, and that you are dedicated enough to your trade to have participated in some formal training. Walk the interviewer through your safety-related training and be sure to ask them if they are looking for specific experience. This will allow you to overcome any objections related to your level of exposure to safety training.
"Safe work practices are the groundwork to everything that we do. In regards to safety training, I have completed courses on Ground Disturbance, Occupational Health and Safety, and Excavation Safety. Are there any other safety courses you would like to see me have?"
6. What types of heavy machinery are you experienced in? It's a great idea to be clear on the types of machinery you will be working on, in this role, before going into your interview. This way, you can highlight any relevant experience. If you are not aware of the type of equipment used in this role, it is absolutely okay to ask! The types of machinery you are experienced with are likely listed on your resume; however, the interviewer would like for you to go into further detail on your level of experience and comfort-ability. Here is an answer example: "I see that you are looking for 5 years' experience in equipment 'ABC'. I bring 7 years experience with this particular type of equipment. I also consider myself an intermediate level operator in X, Y, and Z."7. Attention to detail is very important in this role. How do you ensure you remain focused and accurate at all times? The interviewer wants to be assured that you are able to remain focused and responsible while working with heavy equipment. Give an example of ways that you remain focused on the task at hand, even in a potentially distracting situation. Here is an answer example: "I feel that attention to detail is incredibly important, especially as a heavy equipment operator, because it can be the line between a safe and unsafe workplace. I stay focused on the job by taking breaks to energize, when it's appropriate. I am sure to follow safety checklists and regularly maintain the equipment that I am working on."8. If you were given a choice, which work related task would you leave for last? Why? Often times we will leave the tasks that we don't like for last in an act of procrastination. Other times, we will mindfully leave a task for last because we feel that it makes the most sense. Help the interviewer to determine which personality type you are by answering this question clearly. Here is an answer example: "If I were given a choice, I would leave my documentation tasks for last. I say this because I like to spend my time in the hands on, operating portion of my job. I do understand the importance of it, though."9. Tell me about a time that you naturally took on a leadership role without being asked. Did you enjoy being a leader? Were you happy with the outcome? Being a leader gives us a different perspective and allows others to grow. Explain that you enjoy helping others grow, and you are the type of leader that hopes to inspire others. Here is an answer example: "We often work in small groups on a variety of projects, however; last month I was tasked to complete a project with a group of 10. I quickly realized that I was the most seasoned of the group and so it was natural for me to be the leader since I had the majority of the answers. I really enjoyed that aspect of the work and was complimented by my supervisor on the end result. Everyone worked well together and knew their role."10. Would your former or current boss describe you as a worker who gladly goes the extra mile to complete their tasks? You can absolutely say that you will go the extra mile but it's best to give a real life example to the interviewer about a time when you did just that. Offer up your references as well and discuss with the interviewer what you feel your most recent employer would say about you. Here is an answer example: "My former boss would definitely describe me as an employee who goes the extra mile. In my most recent position, I was always available on my email and many of my service clients had my cell phone number just in case of an after-hours emergency. When you call my reference he will be happy to expand on that for you, I am sure."11. How would you react if your supervisor asked you to perform a task that you were not comfortable with? This situational question will give the interviewer a strong idea of the morale you bring to the workplace. Because safety is so important when operating heavy equipment, be sure to acknowledge that you understand the importance of workplace safety. Discuss how you would handle being asked to do something that makes you uncomfortable. Here is an answer example: "If I was asked to perform a task that I was not comfortable with, I would have a sincere discussion with my supervisor about why I was not comfortable. I believe that open communication is a key part of safety. Under no circumstance would I perform a task I did not feel comfortable doing."12. We are asking for 8 years of industry experience and you have just 5. Why do you think you are qualified for this position? To many employers, the number of years' experience is flexible - so long as you have the results to show for the years that you do have. Talk to the interviewer about your major career successes. This is the time to sell yourself. Make no apologies for your lack of years! Here is an answer example: "Although I have 5 years' experience vs 8 years' experience I can absolutely do this job well. In my previous role, I was outperforming colleagues who had 12 years of experience. To me, it's all about drive and ability to be a quick study. I have all of these qualities and more."13. On a scale from 1 to 10, how honest are you? Do you feel that you are a very honest person or do you have room for growth? This could be a tricky question as nobody is always 100% honest. Answer to the best of your ability and back your reply by speaking about your personal ethics. Here is an answer example: "I would love to give myself a 10/10 for honesty but truthfully - nobody is 100% honest all of the time. I will give myself an 9 because I always do my best to be as honest as possible."14. What causes you to feel dissatisfied on the job? Everyone will have their own particular triggers that cause them to feel dissatisfaction on the job. Talk to the interviewer about any factors that may deflate or discourage you in the workplace. Here is an answer example: "I can feel dissatisfaction on the job when I am not feeling heard or when there is not a mutual respect among the team members. I work best in more harmonious situations where there is little drama or gossip."15. What kind of people do you enjoy working with? Culture fit is a very important factor when looking for a new position. Talk to the interviewer about the types of personalities that you best work with. Be sure to remain positive and avoid using this as an opportunity to speak poorly of previous colleagues. Here is an answer example: "I best enjoy working with individuals who are driven, positive, energetic, and take accountability for their work. I do have the ability to work with a large variety of individuals; however, these are the ideal traits I would see in future colleagues."16. What are your salary expectations? The best way to discuss your salary expectations are to use your current earnings as an example. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise. Here is an answer example: "Currently, I earn a base salary of $45,000 per year plus a potential 20% annual bonus. Last year my earnings were $52,000 and I would like to stay in the same range or slightly higher."17. When have you had to make a split second decision? How do you react under unexpected pressure?
The interviewer wants to know how you handle pressure when an unexpected stressor arises. Being able to make quick decisions and think fast on your feet sets top-notch professionals out from the crowd. We all make a lot of decisions every day, so start off by telling the interviewer that you make a lot of quick decisions each day. Next, be prepared for a more significant example that will be sure to impress. Here is an answer example: "My current position requires me to make tough decisions on a regular basis. I work well under pressure like that. With split second decisions, I will always go with my initial instinct. Last week, I had two high-profile clients show up for a meeting at the same time. One client was late, and the other was early. I did not want anyone to feel bad for being late or too early so I had each party placed in a different conference room. My colleague started the meeting with our early meeting while I met with the client who was late. It worked out well because I am no stranger to multi-tasking and I have great support staff."18. What decisions did you routinely make in your last position? The way you answer this questions will give them a good idea of your level of experience, seniority, and ability to handle the decision making requirements in this potential position. If the job you are interviewing for requires you to be decisive and quick on your feet, you will need to be able to provide examples of how you have done these things in the past. If you worked in tech support, you were faced with problems that you needed to find solutions for on a regular basis. If you worked as a sales rep, you may have needed to know how to negotiate and make decisions on prices and benefits you can give your customers. You may have been faced with decisions that became so routine you didn't think twice! Refer to these types of decisions and be sure to highlight how these types of decisions have prepared you for a role like this one. Here is an answer example: "In my previous position I was quite often required to make decisions on staff scheduling as well as hiring and terminating. I feel that role prepared me quite well for a position like this one. I have well-honed decision making skills and my intuition, when it comes to hiring, has been elevated."19. How do you deal with conflict on your team? The interviewer is looking to hear about your ability to communicate with your team and handle issues in a professional manner, when they arise.
Think of an example where you worked closely with your team to resolve a conflict. You could also offer a scenario where you mediated an issue between two coworkers. Show that you can keep your head on your shoulders when dealing with conflict. Here is an answer example: "I have strong conflict management skills and in my current position, have had to exercise those skills from time to time. We are in a high-stress, highly commissioned work environment which can cause a lot of unnecessary conflict among the team. When a conflict arises, I like to deal with it swiftly, openly, and with poise. Transparency and openness is how I lead my team so I will call a group meeting where we express concerns and get it all out on the table."20. When have you used an inventive method to stretch company resources beyond the normal level? If you have an expense account or resource allowance it is very respectful to the company to be as thoughtful with that allowance as possible. Talk to the interviewer about a time when you have been able to stretch company resources. Here is an answer example: "I have recently implemented a schedule that allows for ride-sharing rewards which has cut down on our company's fuel expense by $9000 per month. I am quite proud of this initiative because it is not only financially responsible but also environmentally friendly."21. Why did you leave your last job? The interviewer wants to know why you chose to move on. A great response would be to say, "I was ready to take on a new challenge," or "there was no room for growth in that position." It's always best to draw attention to what you are moving onto rather than focusing on what was wrong with what you left. It's understandable to want a new challenge or to desire to learn new things. So share what you're interested in getting out of this new opportunity! If you left involuntarily, explain why and be willing to admit fault. Show what you learned from the situation and how you want to prevent that issue from happening again. Here is an answer example: "I was ready to take on a new challenge,"22. What is your availability? Before your interview, you may want to find out more about the schedule. This isn't always posted in the job posting or description. In a phone interview, you may discuss the scheduling expectations, or you may not. This is always a good topic to bring up, even if the interviewer doesn't ask you directly. If you are asked this question directly and you're really not sure what they are needing, you may want to first ask them, "What hours or shifts are available?" You could follow up with, "I am flexible and happy to pick up extra shifts or work weekends." It's important to show that you are flexible and available, but you also don't want to over-commit to hours you won't actually be able to work. Find out what they need and then share what you know you can do. Check your schedule before the interview to be certain of your availability so that you can tell them exactly what you can offer without hesitation. Here is an answer example: "What hours or shifts are available?"23. Tell me about a time when you received criticism from your manager. How did you react to that criticism? How did you make improvements based on that criticism? When you are thinking about examples of criticism, it’s best to show that you want to grow as an employee and that you can handle constructive criticism because it helps you learn and improve the quality of your work. Example: “I was instructed to create some presentations for our events. After my manager reviewed my work, some of the slides required additional copy, and he had different design concepts in mind. He had a background in graphic design, and since I do not, I listened to his ideas and incorporated them. I thought they looked very professional and in the following presentations I tried to include those design concepts.” Here is an answer example: 24. How do you handle a larger than average workload? The interviewer wants to be assured that you can handle the workload required of you in this position, and that you will not become overwhelmed if/when workloads unexpectedly increase. When workloads increase, stress levels do too. How do you react?
Here are some suggestions on how to handle a large workload:
- List your tasks and prioritize them
- Think of which tasks add to the company's bottom line, and start there (Closest to the money!)
- Exhale. Relax for a minute and collect yourself
- Organize your tasks by which ones you can complete independently and which ones you need help with
- Take sufficient breaks so you do not exhaust yourself
- Communicate your struggles with your leadership or team Here is an answer example: "When I have a large workload on my plate, I do not stress over the tasks that are in front of me. Rather, I make a simple plan of which tasks are high priority and which tasks are lower priority. The higher priority tasks, I complete first. Through this system, I am able to focus on my tasks individually, rather than stress out by the multitude of tasks ahead of me."25. When have you worked amongst a diverse group of people? Are you accustomed to working with a very large or diverse team of individuals? Assure the interviewer that you are able to handle an environment that offers diversity. Here is an answer example: "I have worked with diverse groups of people most of my career, including my time in University. I am most comfortable, and happy, in this type of environment because it offers a great learning opportunity."26. After receiving information from your supervisor, how do you ensure you properly communicate this information to your team? It is immensely important to accurately communicate information in the workplace, especially when it means the safety of others. Discuss with the interviewer how you go about communicating important information to your team. Here is an answer example: "When I receive new information from my supervisor I will run my understanding of it by the supervisor to ensure that my interpretation is correct. After that, I will relay the information formally (in writing) to my team, and then I will follow that up with verbal confirmation."27. Would you say you are a better verbal or written communicator? In which manner do you prefer to communicate - written or verbal? Discuss your preference with the interviewer and support your answer. Here is an answer example: "I prefer verbal communication because I feel that with written communication, a lot can be misread due to lack of tone, fluctuation, expression and body language. I will always choose a face to face conversation whenever possible."28. What are your weaknesses? Pick weaknesses that are not a core skill for this position. You can be candid in your answer; recognizing that you really aren't great at something and acknowledging your need to improve. Be sure to have an action plan in place for improving on this weakness.
Perhaps you are watching TED talks to gain skills in a particular area, reading the latest-and-greatest book on the subject, or maybe you are taking a seminar at a nearby community center. We are all human with our own weaknesses, so don't be afraid to share yours! Here is an answer example: "I believe I could improve on some technical skills including Excel and PowerPoint. Currently I am at a beginner to intermediate level; however, I would be more comfortable at an advanced level. I have enrolled myself in an evening/weekend workshop for the next six weeks. We will see how stellar my skills are after that course!"29. What are your strengths? Which personal strengths make you excellent at your job? Strengths can be skills or qualities that help you overcome difficult circumstances or accomplish challenging tasks.
In a work context, your strengths will help you to complete your to-do list, understand client needs, and help you to apply what you have learned in your training. Talk to the interviewer about a couple of your strengths and why those will help you to be successful in this role.
Some great strengths to mention are:
- Tech Savvy
- Flexible in Schedule/Availability
- Persistent and Determined
- Eager for Knowledge/New Skills Here is an answer example: "I think my strengths are in my perceptiveness and ability to be observant of the needs of others. These strengths are part of what makes me an excellent heavy equipment operator."30. Why is this job right for you at this time in your career? Discuss with the interviewer why you are looking to make a change, and how this particular role fits well with the changes that you are seeking. Be sure to give a more in-depth answer than the typical "I am looking for growth" answer that so many interviewers hear. Be thoughtful and draw upon the research you have done on the company. Here is an answer example: "I am looking for growth"31. Do you have experience working in a unionized environment? What are your thoughts on union based roles? While the interviewing company may have some, or all, unionized employees, it's best to answer this question as diplomatic as possible. Avoid complaining and try to focus on the perks that might come from working in a unionized environment. Here is an answer example: "Personally, I have not worked in a unionized environment; however, I have heard that unions are a great way to ensure continuity in the workplace. From what I understand, they offer security to employees which is always a bonus."32. Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. Keep your answer simple and avoid over dramatizing any event. Speaking negatively about others will always look unfavorable towards you. Telling the interviewer that you get along with everyone is not an appropriate or believable response either. Focus on a time when your work style was different than another person but perhaps you still had to successfully complete a project together. Discuss, in a positive tone, how you made it work! Here is an answer example: "Last month I had to collaborate on a project with a corporate project manager who works very differently than I do. I find timely follow up to be incredibly important and this particular PM seemed to be more relaxed with that aspect. I continued to work how I always do but did ask this PM a couple of times to communicate more frequently with me in order to make the collaboration smoother. I fully understand that not everyone will work in perfect synergy and that is okay. It's what makes everyone unique. There is always a professional workaround available - sometimes you just have to approach the situation head-on but in a respectful way."33. We measure productivity in a variety of ways. In your opinion, what are the most important performance metrics for this position? The interviewer would like to know that you can identify the most important parts of this role and understand how those relate to the overall success of the company. Reading through their job description, you should be able to pull out the key responsibilities in this role. These key responsibilities are directly connected to the success of the organization. Discuss what you think the key performance metrics are and how you plan to meet them. Here is an answer example: "From reading the job description and overall responsibilities of the role, I believe that the most important metrics to measure in this role are A, B, and C. In my current position I am measured by these exact metrics. I am a consistent performer in my current role and plan to bring the same enthusiasm to this position."34. When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work? Everyone handles the stress and disappointment of setbacks differently. Discuss with the interviewer how you typically cope with setbacks in the workplace. Here is an answer example: "Experiencing a setback is always disappointing, and can be a bit disheartening, but I understand that it happens from time to time. If I experience a major setback I will take a few moments to debrief with my supervisor and discuss what I could have done differently. Then, I move on!"35. Describe an ongoing problem at your current or former employer that you were able to overcome. Every place of employment will have it's challenges. Talk to the interviewer about a specific issue that you were able to overcome in your previous role. Be sure to remain positive. Avoid complaining or saying negative things about your previous employer or co-workers. Here is an answer example: "In my most recent position we had an ongoing concern with our equipment breaking down quite often. We found that the maintenance cycles were not frequent enough. I offered to complete a maintenance plan that would be followed carefully for 90 days. This plan ended up being implemented permanently because it decreased our breakdowns by 43%."36. As a Heavy Equipment Operator, you will be asked to work a variety of shifts. Do you have any restrictions on your availability? The interviewer wants to know what kind of flexibility you can offer them when it comes to your work schedule. If you have any restrictions in your schedule, this is a good time to address them. If there is a specific shift that you are looking for, be upfront about your preference. Here is an answer example: "I am more than willing to be a flexible employee by working a variety of shifts, as needed. Currently I do not have many restrictions in my availability with the exception of Tuesday evenings."37. The role of Heavy Equipment Operator requires high amounts of physical activity. What experience have you had within a physically demanding role? The interviewer wants to know if you have any physical limitations that would deem you unable to perform the tasks required in this role. In many states it is illegal for an employer to ask about your health history so this is another method of finding out about your physical capabilities. Here is an answer example: "I see in your job description that you ask for the ability to lift up to 50 pounds, and stand for long periods of time. These are the same physical requirements of my current position, and I can confidently say that I am able to meet these physical requirements."38. When you have a situation that could cause you to be unexpectedly absent from work, how do you handle it? The interviewer wants to be assured that you are a reliable person, and that you are capable of handling unforeseen circumstances in a professional manner. If you are unexpectedly taken from your work duties you should always communicate your needs promptly to your manager. Have you shift covered, if possible, or offer to make the time up at a later date. Being honest and transparent in these situations is always the best choice. Here is an answer example: "If I were to have a situation where I needed to be late, or absent, I would call my manager immediately and explain the situation. I, of course, would be incredibly remorseful as I really do not like to miss work. I do take pride in my high level of reliability."39. How would you fill your time, if faced with downtime during your working day? The interviewer wants to know that you are a dedicated employee who is capable of finding productive tasks, even during seasons or times when the workload isn't as intense.
A few ways that you can fill your time when volumes are low:
- Mentoring a junior employee
- Servicing equipment
- Offering to help a co-worker
- Studying safety manuals
Give an example of how you would fill potential downtime and be sure to highlight that you are a proactive and productive employee. Here is an answer example: "I am a very proactive individual and certainly do not enjoy sitting around, waiting for work to be handed to me. If I were to experience downtime in the workplace I would take that time to mentor more junior employees or brush up my knowledge in workplace policy or safety."
Author of Heavy Equipment Operator Answers and Questions
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace.
Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career.
Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise.
Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
First written on: 02/25/2014 Last modified on: 08/21/2018
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