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Forklift operators are crucial in many industries, including manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, construction, and agriculture. They are responsible for the safe and efficient movement of materials and goods, which is essential for maintaining smooth operations and productivity.

How do you find the right person for the job? Here’s what you need to know about the hiring process:

hire a forklift operator

What Are the Responsibilities and Tasks of the Forklift Operator?

Forklift operators are responsible for tasks such as:

  • Operating forklifts to move, load, and unload materials and products
  • Inspecting and maintaining forklifts
  • Ensuring the safe stacking and storage of materials
  • Following safety protocols and guidelines
  • Communicating with team members and supervisors

hire a forklift operator

Essential Skills and Certifications for Forklift Operators

Forklift operators typically need a certification to demonstrate their competence in operating a forklift safely. According to OSHA guidelines, certification is required for employees who are operating forklifts. You can read more about this topic in our detailed article: Forklift Operator Job Description.

Important skills include attention to detail, spatial awareness, and good hand-eye coordination.

hire a forklift operator

Forklift Certification: Why It Matters

Forklift certification does more than satisfy an OSHA or company requirement. It also improves workplace productivity.

  • Safety: Certification ensures that forklift operators are trained to operate this heavy machinery safely, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries in the workplace.
  • Compliance: Forklift certification is often required by OSHA regulations. Employers who hire certified operators are more likely to comply with safety regulations, avoiding penalties and legal issues.
  • Efficiency: Certified operators are typically more efficient and skilled in handling forklifts, which can lead to improved productivity and reduced material handling costs.
  • Reduced Downtime: Properly trained and certified operators are less likely to cause accidents or damage to equipment, resulting in fewer downtime for repairs.
  • Insurance Benefits: Some insurance companies may offer reduced premiums to companies that employ certified forklift operators, as it demonstrates a commitment to safety.
  • Employee Confidence: Certified operators often have more confidence in their skills, which can improve their job satisfaction and morale.
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hire a forklift operator

Forklift Training: Beyond Basic Certification

The basic certification may be all that’s needed in many workplaces. But there are additional certifications that may be needed, depending on the job. A well-structured training plan template can help streamline this process. You may find a training plan template useful for this.

In-depth training on various types of forklifts can make an operator a valuable employee who can handle a variety of forklift tasks.

  • Rough Terrain Forklift Certification: This certification is for operators who work outdoors on uneven or rough terrain, such as construction sites or farms. It covers the safe operation of rough terrain forklifts, which have larger, sturdier tires designed for these conditions.
  • Reach Truck Certification: This certification is for operators of reach trucks, which are used in narrow aisles in warehouses to lift and retrieve loads at high heights. It focuses on the specialized skills needed to operate these types of forklifts safely.
  • Order Picker Certification: Order picker forklifts are used in warehouses for picking items from high storage shelves. This certification ensures operators can safely maneuver and work on elevated platforms.
  • Dockyard Forklift Certification: Dockyard forklifts are used in port and dockyard operations to handle shipping containers. This certification covers the specific skills required for container handling and port safety.

hire a forklift operator

Ensuring Forklift Safety

Employers should provide safety training to forklift operators to ensure compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. It’s essential to onboard new employees properly to maximize safety and performance. Learn how to onboard new employees effectively.

Training should cover topics like safe operation, load handling, and emergency procedures.

Forklift operator safety protocols and training should be part of the company’s operations and should be conducted on a regular basis to uphold safety standards.

hire a forklift operator

Crafting an Effective Forklift Operator Job Description

A job description for a forklift operator should be detailed. It should specify whether certification is necessary or whether the company will offer a forklift training course as part of onboarding and training.

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The job description should include:

  • Job title and location
  • Key responsibilities and tasks
  • Qualifications and certifications required
  • Physical requirements
  • Salary and benefits information
  • How to apply
Section Importance Content Suggestions Notes
Job Title Critical Be specific: “Forklift Operator” or “Warehouse Forklift Operator” Clear job titles help in SEO for job postings and clarity for candidates.
Summary High Brief overview of the role and its significance to the company This is the “hook” that encourages candidates to keep reading.
Responsibilities Critical List of tasks the forklift operator will handle Be as detailed as possible, specifying types of materials, safety protocols, etc.
Qualifications High Required licenses, years of experience, and other credentials Make a clear distinction between ‘required’ and ‘preferred’ qualifications.
Skills High Technical skills, soft skills like communication, punctuality Specify which skills are a must-have and which are nice-to-have.
Work Environment Moderate Describe the warehouse, outdoor/indoor, noise levels, etc. Helps candidates visualize their day-to-day work setting.
Physical Requirements High Lifting capacity, standing/sitting durations, etc. Important for ensuring candidates can safely perform their duties.
Compensation Moderate Salary range, hourly wage, benefits like healthcare Some companies prefer to discuss this during interviews, but a range can attract qualified candidates.
Reporting Structure Low Who the forklift operator reports to Helps candidates understand their place in the organizational hierarchy.
Application Process Moderate Steps to apply, documents required, deadlines Make the application process easy to follow to maximize the number of quality applicants.


hire a forklift operator

Where to Find Qualified Candidates for Forklift Operator Jobs

Forklift driver candidates can be found through job boards, recruitment agencies, and social media. Additionally, consider networking within the industry.

For companies that provide their own forklift operator certification and training, it’s most important to find potential employees who have – through previous employment or school record – demonstrated the ability to learn and be present when required.

Potential employees for forklift jobs can be recruited via events held for high school students soon to graduate, such as academic or job fairs. Another avenue could be using unusual ways to promote a job opening.

Advertising Forklift Jobs on Traditional Job Platforms

Traditional job platforms, such as local newspapers and radio stations, can pull candidates from nearby. If there is a trade school in the area or nearby, be sure to post an advertisement about your job opening there.

Advertising the Forklift Operator Role Online

Use online platforms such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and industry-specific job portals. Also, join Facebook pages that have been created for your local community or area. For free or for a small fee, you may be able to post your job opening for a forklift driver there.

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hire a forklift operator

The Interview Process: Screening and Selecting the Right Forklift Operator

Preliminary Screening for Forklift Operators

Before setting up a face-to-face interview, screen the forklift operator candidates’ applications. The forklift operator will be responsible for maintaining timely and accurate records, so the application should be filled out neatly. If the application isn’t filled out properly, that could be an indication of failure to read instructions and follow directions. Consider using a structured interview format to reduce hiring bias.

After checking the employment history, conduct phone interviews to further sort through the pool of applicants. If you have to reject some candidates during this stage, make sure to send an interview rejection letter.

In-Person Interviews for Forklift Jobs

During interviews for forklift operators, assess a candidate’s experience, certifications, and understanding of safety procedures.

Ask situational questions to gauge their problem-solving skills. For example, ask the candidate what should be done if there’s been a spill of fluid or boxes in a passageway. Or, ask the candidate what should be done if a hydraulic leak is occurring on the forklift equipment. The final step in the hiring process should be formalizing the employment offer in writing. Use a job offer letter template to help streamline this.

hire a forklift operator

On-the-Job Training and Onboarding a New Forklift Driver

Provide thorough onboarding that includes safety training and a review of company policies. It should also include training on the specific forklift the operator will use.

On-the-job training for a forklift job should continue to reinforce safe practices.

Introduce the new forklift driver to the work team members and supervisors.

hire a forklift operator

Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Forklift Operators

Common mistakes include not verifying certifications, overlooking gaps in safety awareness, and failing to assess a candidate’s practical skills.

When hiring for forklift operator positions, don’t rush the process. The interview process takes time, which no company can afford to waste. As part of the applicant screening, check the validity of certifications and call previous employers.

hire a forklift operator

FAQs: How to Hire a Forklift Operator

How often should forklift operators undergo safety training?

Safety training should be ongoing and should include periodic refresher courses. The frequency depends on the specific industry and company policies.

How much does a forklift operator earn in the US?

Forklift operator wages vary by location and experience but typically range from $12 to $25 per hour in the United States.

What are some niche forklift operator jobs?

Some niche forklift operator roles include operating specialized forklifts for industries like agriculture, aviation, or manufacturing, which may require additional training and certifications.

Is experience needed for most forklift jobs?

No. For many forklift jobs, the company that’s doing the hiring provides the training for certification.

How does pay vary between an entry-level forklift job and experienced forklift jobs?

The forklift operator with basic certification will earn from $12 to $25 per hour. But the experienced forklift operator will earn more money per hour, especially after attaining additional certifications. Also, forklift operators with multiple certifications often become forklift operator trainers, and can expect to earn about $40 per hour.

Image: Envato Elements

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