Top 5 Interview Questions for Call Center Jobs

When it comes to call center operations, staffing is no picnic. Not only is it a challenge to find a crop of candidates who are willing to work for most call centers’ notoriously mediocre wages, but it’s perhaps even more difficult to find individuals who truly understand what it means to be an extraordinary customer service representative, a necessary skill if your goal is to actually retain clients and turn a profit. So, what’s a hiring department to do in the face of this dilemma? It boils down to one key element: the interview. Here are the top 5 questions that will help you weed out your candidate pool with confidence.

#1. Is the customer always right, and why?

What you’re looking for here is more than just a yes or no answer. The “why” explanation is what’s critical. For example, let’s say that your candidate says yes, the customer is always right. Does this mean that you give them what they want, regardless of the circumstance? Let’s take the flip side – the customer is not always right. Does this mean that you ignore their request or needs in favor of towing the company line?

The answer is a bit of both – someone who identifies with and sympathizes with the customer while ensuring that the business remains in good standing with regard to reputation and bottom line. Listen for some version of these answers:

  • Yes, the customer is always right because they are the reason that you have a job. But, instead of just giving them what they want, try to explain company policy and meet them in the middle.
  • No, the customer is not always right. But, instead of immediately dismissing their concerns, listen to their point of view, apologize, and let them know how much they are valued as a customer.

#2. How do you deal with conflict management?

Customer service is just that – serving the customer. Customers don’t generally get in touch because they’re happy. They call when they need to make a change, when they have questions, and especially, when they’re unhappy. Depending on the nature of the issue, you may have people who are only slightly miffed, and then you may have those who are downright belligerent. What that spells for the customer service representative is some manner of conflict in quite a few calls.

The level of frustration no doubt increases if the caller has gotten stuck in the IVR loop of doom before finally getting to you, or when they’ve been passed off from one person to another, and their issue is still unresolved. If you have someone who can manage conflict – someone who is largely unruffled in the face of several screaming customers – then you may just have a winner. Ask each candidate to describe a challenging customer service experience and how they handled it. And, ask them directly – how do you react when a customer is screaming in your ear? You’re looking for patience, the ability to listen calmly without becoming argumentative, and the ability to use tone of voice and customer-centered care to de-escalate a sticky situation.

#3. Can you multitask?

What you’re really asking here is “how well can you jump from one task to another while you’re on the phone?” Customer service representatives do way more than just answer a call and take a message. They are reading through call scripts, booking appointments, researching the answers to customers’ questions, surfing through a client’s website, troubleshooting software drama, taking live chats, locating order and shipping details, and more, all while listening to and documenting callers’ concerns.

You need to know that the person you’re hiring can switch back and forth between tasks and applications at a rapid pace, without missing a beat. Beyond assuming that the candidate is giving you an honest answer, there’s no way to test for this skill in advance of hiring. It’s something that you will have to see in action, once the representative has had some time to learn the ropes. If they previously worked in a customer service role, whether at a call center or in some other setting, you could ask a corroborating question, like the one below.

#4. Have you worked with multiple communication channels simultaneously?

In short, you want this answer to be yes. Yes, they’ve taken a call and a live chat at the same time. Yes, they’ve facilitated an online order while responding to another customer’s email. Yes, they’ve made 100 outbound calls a day and followed up on social media inquiries, all while ensuring that their email inbox wasn’t overflowing. Yes, they’ve processed a transaction at the register, answered the phone, and looked up a wedding registry, all in the same 3 minutes. They’re fast. They’re organized. And yes, they can still make every customer feel like they’re incredibly important, no matter how many things are going on at once.

#5. How do you deal with constructive criticism?

Why is this question important? Well, in any new position, there will be a learning curve. Not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace. The long and short of it is that mistakes will be made. When that happens, you’ll want to be relatively certain that the person you’ve brought on can take criticism in stride and use it to further their understanding of the job rather than becoming upset or defensive. If you get the sense that the interviewee is ultra sensitive and may have a hard time asking for or accepting help when they’re unsure of themselves, then that is a definite red flag. If you’re afraid to ask for help, then you are afraid to be wrong. And if you’re afraid to be wrong, then you aren’t going to handle constructive criticism gracefully. That’s definitely a hard pass.

Regardless of how good your interview questions are or how well candidates respond, there are some people who interview exceptionally but offer a lackluster performance once they’re actually onboarded. An added bit of security comes from professional references. These should absolutely be required, even if you are hiring from a staffing agency. Be specific in asking for past supervisors, as you’re much more likely to get an honest response from a supervisor than from a coworker. And remember – hiring is a lot like dating. People will usually show you what they think you want to see, so you’ll have to trust your gut. With any luck, your instincts about people will be spot on.

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