This special interest group is a collective of human resources and talent folks in the power industry networking, sharing and learning from each another. 


You need to be a member of Energy Central to access some features and content. Please or register to continue.


Best practices for hiring electric distribution system operators?

I have recently had some conversations with Electric Distribution Operations Leaders and the conversation continues to turn towards hiring practices for Electric Distribution Operations. What are some of the aptitude testing, pre-screening techniques, and non-traditional approaches to finding good candidates for Distribution Operators, Controllers and Dispatchers?


Hello Rich,

When I worked at a large utility here in New England, we staffed the Distribution System Operator positions with more experienced lineworkers and electricians.  Although their total pay was lower with essentially no overtime, they were usually at a point in their lives where: 

  1. climbing a pole was a real challenge (we required a proficiency test every year);
  2. they had enough money with kids grown and "off the payroll"; and
  3. they were ready to move to an indoor job.

The initial qualification training for these positions included work on a simulator to learn to use our Distribution SCADA systems. Once in a while, a former lineworker would take the training and then conclude this job wasn't suitable and "go back to the tools".  



RIchard Cummings's picture
RIchard Cummings on Jan 31, 2020 6:24 pm GMT

Thanks Mike, it happens  Similar for this new generation in the workforce, wanting to change jobs more frequently.


Appreciate your comments 


High performers in a given role share a common set of performance traits. We assess 85 traits of a candidate and map the traits to a specific role. We then provide a predictor of success in the role. Our instrument, has an 85% predictive validity. Interesting, the matching of a person’s traits with the role finds the best fit. So, the company gets high performers and the employees find great satisfaction. A win-win!

We have 306 job benchmarks within the Electricity Industry, including 12 unique distribution benchmarks (i.e. Line Workers, Control Room Operators, etc.)

New Brunswick Power has used the instrument for over 15 years. Here’s a link to “Behaviour And The Million Dollar Hiring Risk” 

“We’ve used SuccessFinder for over a decade to make talent decisions. I can’t imagine running my organization without it. It gives key insights into the natural behaviour of people and helps them see the kind of work they will thrive in. I believe it has materially impacted our business. I’m a big fan." — Gaetan Thomas, CEO, NB Power



Approaches to finding candidates and hiring Electric Distribution Operators, Controllers, and Dispatchers vary widely across organizations. We see two common themes:

  1. Quality and comprehensiveness of the training program – In a comprehensive training program that starts with basic math and basic electricity, and progresses through go/no-go gates, there is less concern about selecting and screening for the job attributes related to aptitude. Conversely, if a training program does not include basic prerequisites, or if there is not a way to measure and remove a candidate that is not progressing, then screening is more of a concern.
  2. The extent to which Human Resources is a strategic role, aligned with the Distribution function – Lack of alignment between HR and Distribution often results in inaccurate job descriptions, candidate selection that does not fit the role, and interview protocols that do not uncover the best fit for Distribution jobs. Alignment requires adhering to organization-wide fairness, consistency, and other HR processes while enabling job specific targeted selection criteria. It is not an easy balance.

Solving these common issues requires:

  • Accurately identifying what you want to measure, and picking a reliable and valid assessment to measure it.
  • HR practices (e.g., job descriptions, picking first round candidates, interview protocols) aligned with the technical and behavioral (e.g., shift work) demands of the job.
  • A comprehensive training program to teach, monitor and measure progress accurately.
  • Using the many available assessments and screening instruments appropriately. They should measure what they purport to measure (be reliable) and measure consistently (valid) for the intended purpose. For instance, unstructured interviews are notoriously unreliable.  The American Psychological Association Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP) has published Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection 5th ed. It is the gold standard for assessment and selection.

Tap Into The Experience of the Network

One of the great things about our industry is our willingness to share knowledge and experience.

The Energy Central Q&A platform allows you to easily tap into the experience of thousands of your colleagues in utilities.

When you need advice, have a tough problem or just need other viewpoints, post a question. Your question will go out to our network of industry professionals and experts. If it is sensitive, you can post anonymously.