Asking the right questions is one step toward ensuring you make the right hires.
Call centers suffer from high employee turnover rates. The mean annual attrition rate for U.S. contact centers was 31% in 2018, and those surveyed say hiring the wrong type of person for the job was the No. 1 reason for their attrition.
All that turnover is costly. Companies lost nearly $15,000 on average for every bad hire in 2017, according to a CareerBuilder survey. About three-quarters of employers (74%) surveyed say they’ve hired the wrong person for a position. Without steps in place to ensure strong hires, these costs could easily fall on your business.
Of course, there are more than just financial costs to a bad hire. Sorting through resumes, conducting interviews, onboarding, and training new hires takes a lot of time. And poor hires can risk lasting damage to your reputation and customer satisfaction, both from individual poor performance and the compounding effect of overworked employees while you’re understaffed.
When it comes to hiring for your call center, getting it wrong is expensive. Getting it right, on the other hand, pays off in reduced turnover and saved time, money, and frustration.
5 must-ask call center interview questions
How can you hire top talent? Start by asking the right interview questions.
A resume and cover letter are great for determining a candidate’s hard skills and experience. But for personality and culture fit considerations, the interview allows you to truly engage with a candidate and see how they think on their feet, which they’ll have to do every day in your call center (if hired).
Here are five call center interview questions to help you determine whether a candidate is a good fit for your business or whether they just look good on paper.
1. What was it about the job description that made you want to apply?
When a candidate cites specifics from your job posting, it’s a good indicator of attentiveness.
Working details from your job listing into their answers is a sign that a candidate is particularly interested in your role, and not just mass applying to every job listing they encounter.
A candidate’s answer to this question will also tell you what they’re looking for in a call center job, which will help you figure out whether they’re a good fit based on how well your open position aligns with their expectations.
2. Tell me about a time you received good/bad customer service. How would that experience inform your work here?
This question serves two purposes. First, it will tell you whether the candidate can think like a customer. Being able to empathize with customers is a crucial role for all contact center representatives.
Second, their answer will tell you how observant and reflective they are. Do they pay close attention to conversations and notice how they could be improved? Can they apply real world experience to their job in a thoughtful way? Attention to detail and the ability to reflect on experiences will also be crucial skills for any call center employee.
3. I’m an angry customer—how would you talk me down?
You want to know in advance how potential agents will handle irate callers. If you simply ask them, however, most applicants will claim they’ll do all the right things.
While the pressure of a job interview isn’t the same as an angry customer on the phone, it’s worth simulating a realistic high-pressure customer situation. Consider writing a script ahead of time (using real quotes, if possible) from experiences your existing agents have had.
Training someone on soft skills, such as maintaining a pleasant tone of voice and active listening, is difficult and time consuming. Ideally, you want to hire a candidate who already knows how to do these things. When listening to the candidate’s response, pay close attention to how well they demonstrate active listening, patience, and empathy.
4. How do you deliver great customer service?
There are a lot of right answers here. Ideally, your interviewee will talk about their strengths and priorities for great customer service.
They might talk about how they actively listen to customers or manage their time well to resolve issues quickly. Perhaps they discuss how they develop in-depth product knowledge.
The best answers will draw on specific examples to showcase how they’ve demonstrated great customer service, not just a recitation of what great customer service is.
5. Tell me about a specific time you handled a high-pressure situation
Call centers can be hectic places with routine high-pressure situations. Whether it’s a sudden flood of calls or angry customers, you need to hire people who know how to perform well under stress.
In answering this question, you want candidates to describe the situation they were in, the steps they took, and the outcome.
If your interviewee has call center experience, they’ll have stories to tell. But any candidate should be able to speak to a stressful work experience and what they consider good handling. Their answers will indicate how they deal with job stress and you’ll be able to see whether you agree with their approach.
Go forth and hire well
These five questions will help you get to the heart of how interested a candidate is in the position, how they’d handle high-pressure situations as a call center rep, and how skilled they are in other key call center skills.
The information provided by candidates will make it easier for you to choose the right one by illuminating how self-reflective and open to coaching they are. Feedback receptiveness and a desire to improve are important qualities in a great hire. With the right staff, you can reduce turnover and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.
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