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Astounding Differences From CNC Operators to CNC Machinists: 3 Ways to Improve Recruiting Tactics

CNC Operators and CNC Machinists are two distinct roles in the skilled manufacturing industry, each requiring their own set of skills and experience. CNC Operators have a basic understanding of CNC machine operations, while CNC Machinists possess a degree of knowledge and experience with CNC programming.

Having a clear understanding of these roles can save your business from costly mistakes and help ensure quality products are produced efficiently. We’ll also cover some recruiting strategies to entice these professionals to your organization. Employers need to recruit the right individuals with the desired skill sets or experience in order to support long-term growth.

In this blog post we will explain exactly what sets apart a CNC Operator from a CNC machinist so you can make smart decisions when recruiting individuals for either role.

1. CNC Operators

Among the multitude of roles within the manufacturing industry, CNC Machine Operators hold a crucial position that directly impacts the overall efficiency and productivity of the operation. Tasked with managing highly sophisticated and automated machinery, these professionals are responsible for ensuring that the equipment is running smoothly and performing at an optimum level. Their expertise in operating, maintaining, and troubleshooting machinery becomes the defining factor in maintaining the quality of the products being manufactured.

A CNC Machine Operator is a skilled technician responsible for operating CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines. They are responsible for loading raw materials into the CNC machine, performing maintenance and cleaning on the equipment, running machines and troubleshooting any mechanical issues that arise during operation. CNC Machine Operators must be able to read blueprints and part drawings, as well as set up and operate machine tools such as drilling, milling, and grinding.

The ideal CNC Operator candidate should have a minimum of 6 months to 2 years of experience in operating CNC machines. This is often a skilled position with room to advance to a CNC Machinist role. They should be highly skilled, demonstrate mechanical aptitude, and have strong mathematic skills. The best candidate for this position has exposure, and passion for growth.

2. CNC Machinist 2

The CNC Machinist holds a vital role in the manufacturing industry, as their expertise and skills are key to producing high-quality, accurate products. These Machinists shoulder the responsibility of programming, setting up, and operating CNC machines with precision and efficiency. To ensure parts meet specifications, they read and interpret complex blueprints, engineering drawings, and work instructions. By continuously honing their skills and staying current on industry trends, CNC Machinists play a significant role in shaping the future of modern manufacturing.

The CNC Machinists 2 is a step up from the CNC Machine Operators, requiring more knowledge and experience in loading and testing the program as well as Setups. They possess a strong understanding of CNC programming, machine setup, tool selection, and quality control processes. It should be noted that CNC Machinist 2’s are not writing the G-code programming but should know enough to select the correct pre-loaded programs. A successful CNC Machinist should have at least 2 to 4 years of experience in CNC Machine programming, Setup, and G-code programs.

Recruiting the CNC Machinist 2 with the right skill set is essential to your team’s success and efficiency. This individual should possess strong leadership and effective management skills as they may be required to supervise CNC Operators. CNC Machinists 2’s must also have excellent problem-solving, communication, and mathematic skills, as they will be responsible for troubleshooting CNC programming issues.

3. CNC Machinist 3

Generally, a Machinist’s job requires them to fabricate, modify, or repair mechanical objects. Therefore, they must have a strong knowledge of mechanics, mathematics, metallic properties, and machining. The CNC Machinist 3 is the most highly skilled position and requires mastery of writing the program and setup. This person is the one who takes a blueprint and figures out how to make the part. This involves picking out tools, determining the speeds and fees, and programming CNC Machines in G-Code Programming. Essentially, they are responsible for building the software and selecting the tools to make precision parts. A minimum of 4 years of experience is generally required for this role.

This individual is experienced and knowledgeable in tool making and die maintenance with CNC operation and CNC programming. The CNC Machinist 3 also takes on leadership responsibilities such as supervising and managing CNC Operators.

4. Recruiting for CNC Personnel

Successfully recruiting CNC Operators and Machinists requires an expert understanding of the unique skills and qualifications these professionals possess. To start, it’s essential to develop a detailed and accurate job description that highlights key responsibilities and requirements such as certifications, experience, and technical proficiency. But that’s just the basics. There is much more to developing a successful recruiting strategy:

1. Develop an Attractive Environment

The key to attracting and retaining quality candidates is not just a competitive salary, but rather creating a workplace that employees actively choose to be a part of. Establishing such an environment requires a conscious effort to build an atmosphere that prioritizes respect, recognition, and connection with the company’s mission. Doing so will foster loyalty, leading to increased productivity and a greater sense of job satisfaction that keeps employees happy and engaged. By doing so candidates of the highest caliber are more likely to be attracted to your organization over others.

2. Prioritize Candidate Engagement

Once you’ve attracted potential candidates, it’s crucial to implement an engagement strategy. 24hr response time is a must to keep candidates engaged. Research conducted by SHRM suggests that companies who respond to job applications within 24 hours are 12x more likely to engage with candidates who they consider to be the most qualified. Additionally, job seekers are 3x more likely to respond when they receive a prompt follow-up. As such, employers need to demonstrate that they value each candidate’s time and effort.

3. Invest in Training

Finally, employers should consider offering training and continuing education opportunities to CNC personnel as they are key components in showing support for their team’s long-term growth and career goals. This will enable the organization to build a highly capable workforce who have the necessary skill set to achieve greater efficiency and productivity.

Therefore, recruiting the right individual with the necessary skills and experience for your team is essential to success. Carefully reviewing job descriptions, establishing a desirable atmosphere, and providing effective training opportunities are all key components to attracting and retaining CNC professionals. When carefully crafted, these recruitment strategies will ensure the formation of a skilled and productive team of CNC professionals.


In summary, CNC Operators and CNC Machinists both perform important duties responsible for the production of high-precision parts. The Operator largely focuses on setting up and controlling specific processes. On the other hand, the Machinist requires a higher level of skill and specialization in areas such as G-code Programming and operations management. Recruitment efforts should focus on a professional well-versed in industry trends and technologies as well as able to demonstrate solid decision-making skills. Finally, staying current with safety protocols is essential for keeping these highly technical staff members safe as they work with expensive machinery. This illustrates why understanding the difference between these two roles is so important for ensuring your business runs efficiently.

If you are looking for help recruiting CNC professionals, contact our team or check out our services. We will gladly help you find the right individual, or help you decide on the right role for your needs.