November 16, 2020 - For decades, the key to landing a good machine operator job was all about having the right experience behind the controls. But for a new breed of companies, operating skills aren’t the only thing they’re looking for.
What’s more important? Fit. Attitude. Heart. At least that’s the case for Turner Mining Group. It’s a contract mining company that employs 250 people across the country — a number that’s growing weekly.
Liz Freeman is talent acquisition manager for Turner. She’s self-described “people person” who grew up in construction — her dad was a general contractor. Turner is the perfect place for Liz to mesh her two loves.
“When Keaton Turner [the company’s CEO] hired me he said, ‘I want people with good hearts. We can teach them how to operate and we can teach them how to be safe, but we can’t teach them how to be good people,’” Liz says. “This is hard, hard work and you’ve got to love the tribe you’re working with.”
We asked Liz a few questions about her recruiting and hiring process and advice for equipment operators looking to break into a company like Turner Mining Group. Here’s what she said:
IF YOU’RE NOT LOOKING FOR TECHNICAL OPERATING SKILLS, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Be a team player. “You have to want to do whatever needs to be done on site for the team to succeed,” Liz says. “If you’re hired to run a dozer, you have to be willing to run the haul truck if someone’s sick, or pick up a shovel to build a silt fence.”
Drive. “You can’t teach someone to be passionate about this work. We want the type of person who gets up in the morning, and, while they’re making their coffee, all they can think about is getting out on site and running equipment. We want people who have ambition and want to be better.”
A willingness to learn. Turner Mining knows everyone (even experienced operators) can benefit from learning from each other. “That’s probably the biggest mistake people make during an interview — acting like they already know it all, like they’ve mastered every piece of equipment on the planet.” That’s why the company pairs seasoned workers with those who have never operated. Machine youthful enthusiasm and a fresh perspective with on-the-job experience has big payoff for the operators and the company.
WHAT’S THE BEST STRATEGY FOR FINDING A JOB AS A MACHINE OPERATOR TODAY?
Make connections. “Connect directly with the recruiter or talent manager at the companies you’re interested in,” Liz says. “Most companies the size of Turner have someone like me on staff. Send that person a connection request on LinkedIn with a message letting them know your intentions. Or call up the company and ask who to talk to about operating jobs. That personal touch is important. It shows me you’re willing to put in the effort.”
Be proactive. “If there’s a company you want to be a part of, be proactive. Put yourself on their radar. They may not have the exact role you want available, but they can tell you how to get started with the company and move into the position you want. Personally, I don’t want to leave any stone unturned as I’m building Turner’s talent pipeline. So I take the time to connect with anybody who reaches out to me.”
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD AN EQUIPMENT OPERATOR ASK DURING THE INTERVIEW?
According to Liz, don’t make your first question about money. “Yes, it’s important, but we don’t want people who are just here for the money. We want people whose first concern is culture and growth.”
What should you ask? Here’s a few questions she recommends:
How can I grow in this company? How long will it take me to get where I want to go?
What are the benefits of working here? What can you offer me?
How does a site operate? How do your teams work together?
“I also tell every candidate to reach out to a company’s current employees. Message the machine operators on LinkedIn or Instagram. Tell them you’re interested in a job and ask what it’s really like there. What’s great? What could be better? What’s the growth path? How do they treat their people? You’ll get such a raw, transparent view of the company that way.”
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR A NEW MACHINE OPERATOR THE FIRST FEW MONTHS ON THE JOB?
Stay connected. Liz suggests staying connected with the recruiter or hiring manager. “Give that person feedback on what they should be telling other recruits about operating jobs. I always check in with new hires to make sure what I told them during the interview set the right expectations for what they’re experiencing now.”
Get to know your project manager. “Before you ever set foot on site, get your project manager’s phone number, give that person a call, introduce yourself, explain what you were hired to do and ask questions: What’s the site like? How do you run it? What’s it like to work for you?”
Ask for feedback. Liz acknowledges a lot of people don’t like to ask for feedback from managers. “It can be scary,” she says. “As new employee, you want to fit in and come in hot. But if you ask the tough questions about how you’re doing, then you can share what’s tough back. It should be a partnership, a two-way street.”
Big thanks to Liz Freeman for sharing her insights on what today’s employers are looking for in an equipment operator. Curious to learn more about Turner Mining Group and job opportunities there? Be sure to follow the company on Instagram and LinkedIn.