Telephone Operators

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Also known as:
411 Directory Assistance Operator, Directory Assistance Operator, Information Operator, Local Telephone Operator, Long Distance Operator, Telephone Exchange Operator

ABOUT TELEPHONE OPERATOR CAREERS
Video transcript

It used to be that the telephone operator was the heart and soul of the phone industry. Over the years, as technology became more sophisticated, it began to replace the live voice at the switchboard. But there are some things automated phone systems can't handle without human help.

For example, operators step in when customers are having difficulty finding a phone number. Operators help people place collect or credit card calls. The job often involves dealing with special needs, such as children or people with speech limitations.

Operators are often called upon to contact the authorities in an emergency. These workers are often employed by telephone companies or large businesses. Operators need to speak clearly and have good hearing. They need good spelling and computer skills too. Fluency in more than one language can be a big advantage in getting a job.

The work can be stressful - you need to be able to handle a high volume of calls quickly, accurately, and pleasantly. Entry level positions generally require a high school diploma or GED, with training then provided on the job.

As technology takes on more of the operator's duties, the number of available jobs continues to decline. Part-time and shift work is common. Many operators move on to become dispatchers, receptionists, customer service representatives, or supervisors. But no matter how few in number, telephone operators add a needed human touch to an increasingly automated industry.

SNAPSHOT
Provide information by accessing alphabetical, geographical, or other directories. Assist customers with special billing requests, such as charges to a third party and credits or refunds for incorrectly dialed numbers or bad connections. May handle emergency calls and assist children or people with physical disabilities to make telephone calls.
Leadership
LOW
Critical decision making
HIGH
Level of responsibilities
LOW
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
HIGH
Dealing and handling conflict
HIGH
Competition for this position
HIGH
Communication with others
LOW
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
HIGH
Comfort of the work setting
HIGH
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
LOW
Exposure to job hazards
LOW
Physical demands
LOW
Daily tasks

Offer special assistance to persons such as those who are unable to dial or who are in emergency situations.

Listen to customer requests, referring to alphabetical or geographical directories to answer questions and provide telephone information.

Suggest and check alternate spellings, locations, or listing formats to customers lacking details or complete information.

MAIN ACTIVITIES
Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Telecommunications Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
Communications and Media Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.
Clerical Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
Transportation Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Administration and Management Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
TOP SKILLS
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Service Orientation Actively looking for ways to help people.
Social Perceptiveness Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Complex Problem Solving Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.