This article first appeared on November 28th, 2011.
Great question. This is something we have asked ourselves and many other people because it’s an issue we often face.
Hiring has definitely been one of the biggest hurdles we have faced in our business.
When we interview for a customer service role we always like to ask the candidate what they think the role entails, basically asking them to outline what they think customer service is about.
Before the interview you could try writing a list of key traits you want in a customer service rep. Do you want the person to be well spoken, calm, able to solve problems, flexible, assertive, empathetic, etc?
Work out what you are looking for and throughout the interview check against your list to see if the candidate matches what’s on your list.
We like to throw some hypothetical situations into the interview to see how well the candidate copes.
Give them a real example from your business, pick an incident where you had an irate customer and ask them how they would handle it.
Ask yourself if you would be happy to have this person representing your company.
Ask them questions about their past work history. We always like to ask if they have had any conflict in their last job, was there anyone they clashed with, or any situations that they just couldn’t resolve.
Most of the time the candidate will say no. I find this hard to believe, especially in a customer service role, there are definitely going to be times when you don’t get along with everyone.
Conflict isn’t always a bad thing; the interesting part is how they managed to resolve it.
The best advice we ever received was not to be afraid of hiring someone who didn’t have a lot of experience.
There are definite advantages to hiring someone who has experience but sometimes they can be stuck in their ways and they come with a price.
If you interview someone who has a great attitude, is flexible, willing to learn and will be an asset to your company, then go for it.
You can always train someone to do the job, but you can’t train someone to have the right personality.
You could consider bringing another colleague to the interview, having a second opinion is really helpful.
Depending on the role, there are personality and psychometric tests you could ask the candidate to fill out before the interview as a screening process.
The most important thing is to check their references and make you sure you ask relevant questions.