The Interview: Staffing Success — Hire the right people…and then keep them!

The next important step in hiring the best people for your organization is the interview.

While I won’t go into detail here, remember it is critical that everyone involved in your recruiting and interview process understands the important legal considerations relative to the hiring process.   You need to ensure a fair and consistent process that will yield the best candidates while protecting your organization from liability.

To determine which candidates to interview, it’s a good practice to first create a grid with the specified qualifications (education, experience, specific skills, etc.), and then fill in the grid for each candidate to provide an unbiased view of those who meet the qualifications and are most competitive for the position.

Then, take time to be prepared for each individual interview.  Study the candidate’s resume before meeting with them, and determine what questions you want to ask in order to clarify information they have provided.   Remember, sometimes resumes can tell you much more than you might notice with a quick glance.   Look at dates of employment, gaps in their work history, and verify that the information makes sense and that stated accomplishments match the job or company.

You may want to consider having your current employees participate in the hiring process—in developing the interview questions and potentially even in the actual interview.   This can be a good developmental opportunity for your staff members and will give you another perspective on the candidate’s fit for the position.

Take time to be prepared for each individual interview.  Study the candidate’s resume before meeting with them, and determine what questions you want to ask in order to clarify information they have provided.

No one likes to be interviewed, so try to make the candidate feel as comfortable as possible.  Let them do most of the talking.   Share information about the job (and watch their reactions – both verbal and non-verbal) but let them talk.  Ask them about their work experience, significant accomplishments or skills, and then listen carefully to their response.  Are you looking for someone who “sells airline tickets” or someone who “loves helping others plan their customer’s trip of a lifetime;” someone who “answers emergency calls” or who “saves lives and helps others get through a traumatic experience?”   Consider what you feel is most important to be successful in the position, and then listen carefully to how the candidate answers your questions, as this can tell you a great deal about their attitude toward the job and how well they might fit into your organization.

It’s also important to ask questions that will help to verify specific important skills.   If you are looking for customer service agents, don’t just ask if they have ever worked in customer service.   Ask the candidate to tell you about a time they had to resolve a problem for a customer and how they handled it.

Consider the unique issues of contact center positions.  Are you hiring for agents who will work independently from their homes, or someone who will work as part of a team in your center?   If your candidate has been working in sales, as a teacher, or in any position that is flexible and active in nature, ask questions to determine how they feel about working in an environment where they are sitting, tied (literally by a phone cord) to a computer all day.  They may not have thought about this and their answer can be very telling.

Other considerations in the hiring process:

  • Pre-employment testing. If you have specific technical or language skills, this can support your hiring decision and help to determine training needs that may need to be addressed.
  • Probationary period. Hiring, onboarding and training are extremely costly.   You want every candidate to be successful but you need the opportunity to take appropriate action if it becomes clear that long-term success is unlikely.   A probationary period is a very common practice to allow an employer to give a new hire time to learn the job and evaluate their potential for long-term success.  (Local laws and union contracts must be considered).
  • Evaluation of your hiring process. Have a process in place to evaluate your strategic plan for hiring on an on-going basis.   Look for ways to change the process to enhance your success rate.

Your available candidate pool, your company needs, and customer demographics can all impact who is best for your contact center.    Realize those who may look like great candidates, may not make the best employees.   Are you looking for someone who wants a job, or someone who wants THIS job?  This is a great job for the right people. Those are the ones you want to hire, those are the ones who will stay and be successful.  A carefully developed hiring process will help you find them.

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