Dispatch professionals work in multiple sectors - from emergency services to transportation and logistics - but whatever organization they are employed by, their role is integral to a successful operation.
A dispatcher is responsible for coordinating the movement of service vehicles, workers and staff crews, equipment and/or products. They receive and relay information between relevant parties, and monitor activity to ensure the necessary goods, kits or people arrive at the right location at the right time.
They use a variety of skills to plan routes, communicate key information, and track the progress of multiple dispatch operations simultaneously. They are also the first point of contact for both emergency and non-emergency calls from the road, and must act quickly to solve any logistical problems that arise.
Given the critical nature of the role, it's important for an organization to run a stringent recruitment process when hiring a dispatcher. This should involve various techniques for assessing key strengths, abilities and behaviors.
This article will walk you through the general duties of a dispatcher, the essential skills required, and how to inform a successful hire through pre-employment testing.
What should a dispatcher be able to do?
As they work in so many different organizations, there is no fixed job description for the role of a dispatcher. For example, a dispatch operator for a taxi firm will not have the exact same responsibilities as an emergency services dispatcher.
That said, there are key tasks that all dispatch professionals should be capable of completing with a high level of skill:
- Using phones, computers and/or two-way radios to communicate effectively with callers, customers and drivers.
- Planning efficient routes based on current road conditions, typically with the use of mapping software.
- Actively monitoring the whereabouts and progress of all dispatched units using GPS devices.
- Coordinating the workload of all dispatch units to plan appropriate schedules.
- Redeploying or rerouting vehicles based on evolving events and information.
- Prioritizing incoming calls and assigning dispatch units according to urgency.
- Providing effective solutions to logistical problems, updating all necessary parties as required.
- Maintaining accurate logs and records of all dispatch activity and associated information using computer databases.
Skills to look for in a dispatcher
When hiring a dispatcher, you should assess candidates against a set of essential skills. These may vary depending on the sector you operate in, but there are a number of core skills that should be considered non-negotiable across the board.
Communication: dispatchers act as intermediaries between those in need of goods, equipment or services and those responsible for delivering them, passing information from one to the other. This makes effective communication critical, as they must take that information on board and relay it clearly, in both written and verbal formats.
Organizational: dispatchers handle a lot of detail that comes from various sources so they must have the ability to address each issue in a timely manner, as well as record information systematically. Organizational skills are also required for planning schedules and routes, and coordinating multiple parties.
Problem-solving: one of the key duties of a dispatcher is to provide workable solutions at speed when issues occur. For this, they must apply keen problem-solving skills, assessing each situation objectively and advising on the best course of action.
Teamwork: the job of a dispatcher does not exist in isolation. They are part of a collaborative effort that ensures things and people are where they need to be at the right time. This means they need to form trusted working relationships, show respect for others and understand how to use a collective skill set to the greatest effect.
IT: a dispatcher must have a working knowledge (or at least the capacity to obtain it) of relevant IT systems and software, such as databases, mapping software and logistics programs. What these are will depend on the systems adopted by your organization. Typing skills and the ability to use communication devices are also essential.
Useful abilities for a dispatcher
Along with these essential skills, recruiters should also assess the candidate pool based on a set of core abilities. It is these abilities that enable an individual to apply their skills in the most effective way possible.
Adaptability: a dispatcher's workload is never fixed. There may be times when they are overloaded with call activity, and times when there is little call activity to attend to, so they must be able to adapt as demands require. Adaptability is also needed to adjust plans as situations evolve.
Logical reasoning: a dispatcher must be able to look at the big picture, understand the role each working part plays in it, and how each of these working parts influences others. Logical reasoning comes into play here, giving candidates the ability to draw conclusions from patterns, rules and relationships.
Decision making: sound judgment and quick decision-making are key abilities for a dispatcher. They must base their decisions on all the evidence available to them, recognizing what is relevant, what is immaterial, and what the main priority is in each situation.
Attention to detail: it is a dispatcher's job to ensure critical information is communicated, clear instructions are given, and accurate details are recorded. This means they must be able to maintain concentration and pay close attention to detail at all times.
Resilience: there will be times when a dispatcher will work under extreme pressure. Not only must they have the ability to stay calm in these circumstances, but they must also be able to bounce back once a pressing issue is resolved and move swiftly on to their next task.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a dispatcher?
Dispatch is a difficult role to recruit for, since most of the skills required are practical, and can't really be measured through CV screening and interviews. This is where soft skills tests can help, giving you a strong indication of how a candidate is likely to perform in the working environment.
The tests you might find useful for a dispatcher include:
Time management: this test covers all aspects of time management through a series of multiple-choice questions. From planning and prioritization to multitasking, a candidate's score will tell you how capable they are of meeting time-critical demands and coordinating productive dispatch schedules.
Communication: here the test taker must respond to a series of hypothetical scenarios that assess key communication skills like active listening, problem sensitivity, and empathy. Results will tell you if a candidate has the skill to listen and respond appropriately when dealing with different people and problems.
Decision making: this test covers analytical thinking, problem-solving and professional judgment, all of which contribute to strong decision making skills. A high score tells you the candidate assesses facts and weighs up options with care to decipher the best course of action.
Adaptability: an adaptability test will tell you how a candidate is likely to respond to the fast-paced environment of dispatch, how well they are able to cope under pressure, and how capable they are of seamlessly switching from one task to the next.
For certain dispatch roles, you may also consider administering a personality test to measure things like stress tolerance and emotional resilience.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a dispatcher?
To build a well-rounded candidate profile, you should also use relevant aptitude and technical skills tests. For a dispatcher role, applicable assessments include:
Verbal reasoning: a verbal reasoning test covers language comprehension and a candidate's ability to form logical conclusions by interpreting complex texts. This is an essential skill for a dispatcher, who must quickly analyze the information given to them and determine an appropriate response.
Logical reasoning: this is a measure of problem-solving ability. Candidates must identify patterns and relationships to complete visual sequences, using the same set of skills they would when looking at all the working parts of a dispatch schedule.
Error checking: here a candidate must spot errors and inconsistencies in data sets and text. The assessment measures their capacity for maintaining accuracy and precision whilst working under pressure.
If the dispatcher role requires fluency in a second language, you should also include the relevant language test.
Our recommended test battery for a dispatcher
With such a diverse skill set required, it's no easy task to design an effective test battery when recruiting for a dispatcher. To help with the process, here are the assessments that we recommend:
Verbal reasoning: use this test to gauge a candidate's aptitude for information processing and interpretation.
Logical reasoning: to measure analytical thinking and logic in relation to complex problem-solving.
Decision making: results from this test will tell you if a candidate can make fast, well-informed decisions that lead to effective results.
Adaptability: use this test to ensure shortlisted candidates can cope with the ever-changing demands of a dispatcher role.
You'll find more information on pre-employment testing for dispatch on our dispatcher test page.