Thursday, July 10, 2014

Attitude: The Missing Attribute in Contact Center Hiring



Let’s face it; hiring new personnel can be a long, arduous task. Prior to announcing an opening, the job description must be created and approved. Recruiting efforts must be discussed with HR to ensure the best candidates are brought to the forefront. A lot of screening and evaluation prior to conducting the first interview must also take place.

I’ve spent countless hours mulling over applicant resumes to determine if a candidate’s skills translate into the skill set I am looking for. This scrutiny is very important and is often the most difficult of the preparation phase. After this procedure, the actual interview process can begin. I must confess I am old school by nature. As such, I focus on a few details prior to officially conducting the interview. While exchanging pleasantries, I focus on the applicant’s appearance and body language. Did they put forth a sincere effort to make a great first impression? To me, this shows a genuine desire on their part to secure the position. In addition, I look to see if they have a pen and paper. Sadly, these details are often ignored by many candidates. What better way to impress than to bring the necessary tools of the trade for an interview? As I mentioned, I am old school.

Get Away From the Resume

I will generally request the candidate provide more detail about themselves that is not on their resume. This is an ice breaker for them. This allows them to find a comfortable starting point in which to begin the interview. I firmly believe that everyone should be well equipped to speak about the one thing they should know best. For the most part, this works well in dissolving their nerves and setting them at ease. It is at this point, that I take an approach that veers from the norm.

Rather than discussing their resume, I begin by asking the candidate questions that speak to them as a person. I am curious to know the most recent book they’ve read or I the last movie they saw. The questions will vary but the goal is to determine WHO I am speaking to rather than what their skills are. It is my aim to hire the right person and teach the skills, versus hiring the skills and having the wrong person. To do so, I must discover what soft skills they possess, which are best defined as “The character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people.”

    It is my aim to hire the right person and teach the skills, versus hiring the skills and having the wrong person.

For my line of business, attitude ranks high on the list of soft skills. At the heart of customer service, is a desire to assist others with empathy and kindness at all times. I constantly remind myself and those in my charge that we are one call away from disaster should we deviate from exceptional customer service. This could be the loss of a customer, the loss of revenue, public embarrassment to the business, and at worst, termination. Therefore, the majority of my focus is not on someone’s technical acumen. Instead, I want to know who they are and how they handle pressure.

    Therefore, the majority of my focus is not on someone’s technical acumen. Instead, I want to know who they are and how they handle pressure.

I’ve heard it said, “What you say or do in difficult situations reveals who you are.” Now, I recognize we all make mistakes, and at times handle ourselves in a less than stellar manner, therefore I do not apply 100% certainty to this. However, I believe there is some truth in that statement. Tough times reveal our true character. Let’s face it; the contact center agent will be placed in stressful, difficult and upsetting situations. How they handle it is not based on the technical skills they posses. On the contrary, the interpersonal skills will come to the forefront.

So, what can be done to determine one’s character? I believe there are two easy approaches:


    1. Give an assessment/personality test

This is a great way to identify personality traits. There are a variety of tests available such as DISC assessment, Newcastle Personality Assessor, and The Winslow Personality Profile. Each is designed to reveal character or psychological makeup. I would suggest that any such testing programs be under the control of the Human Resources. This is to ensure issues of privacy are not violated and to be certain the overall control (testing and the results) of the program is consistent across the entire organization.

    2. Focus on past behaviors

Offer scenarios that require the candidate to discuss how they behaved in the past under difficult circumstances. I use customer interactions that have occurred in my contact center and place the candidate in the role of the agent. The goal is not to frustrate them, or test their knowledge but to assess their behavior. The assumption is their past actions will likely manifest thereby giving you a personal, real-time observation of what you may expect from this person.

While there are pros and cons to each, what is important is that you find the method that bests fit you personally as well as that of your company. Identify the company values, work as a team across departments and utilize the expertise of your HR staff. By doing so, you increase your chances of selecting the right candidate who will not only help the company grow, but they will also grow with the company.




Sean is a Contact Center manager with over 13 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

His contact center is a past winner of the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" award for Small to Medium-Sized Centers.

Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins

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