4.2 Staff selection criteria

4.2 Staff selection criteria

The high cost associated with the staffing, training, and relatively high turnover rates in call centers makes it extremely important that recruiting processes ensure the best possible hires. The first major decision is whether to conduct the search internally or externally, using a recruiting agency, or to use a combination of both. If an organization has no experience in the recruitment and selection of call center personnel, then one option is to use a specialized recruitment agency. There are many general recruitment agencies, but it is important to select an agency with extensive experience in selecting call center personnel.

Call centers have unique selection and hiring challenges. Distinct skills and abilities are required when a brief telephone conversation or typed response to an e-mail is the only contact. Call center CSRs must listen, speak, read, type, and analyze all at the same time. Supervisors, team leaders, and managers must possess many of the same skills, along with business/staff management competencies and experience. They will also need to understand voice systems, data collection and interpretation, contact flow, and cost per call.

Telephone interviewing of candidates for all three levels of call center jobs is an essential part of the selection process. The aim of the telephone interview is to establish candidates' work experience, communication skills, telephone voice skills, and selling ability (if applicable). It will also reveal their attitude, enthusiasm, and the creativity of their telephone performance. Another important part of the selection process is role playing, which provides an opportunity to assess how good the applicants are at communicating and selling themselves. Three different role-play scenarios should be used to test the extent of a candidate's customer service orientation, communication skills, ability to handle complaints, and phone selling skills.

The following sections list some of the special skills and competencies that are important skillsets for the call center operating environment and provide some criteria for recruiting and selecting of CSRs, supervisors, and managers.

CSRs

  • Above-average oral and written communications skills

  • Refined sales and customer service abilities

  • Ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment

  • Keyboarding and computer skills

  • Comfortable with intranet and Internet, e-mail, and use of headset

  • Pleasant telephone voice and manner

The recruitment and selection process for CSRs should include

  • Telephone and e-mail screening

  • Behavioral interviews

  • Simulation/role-playing exercises

  • Testing for keyboarding and written communications skills

  • Evaluation of sales and customer service aptitude

  • Screening of references provided

Supervisors/team leaders

Recruiting supervisors/team leaders is similar to CSR recruitment but will emphasize different skills. For this level, experience in leading and managing teams within a call center environment is an important criterion. Interview questions should address these skills and the interview should include role-playing based on specific scenarios involving motivating, coaching, and counseling team members.

The following skillsets are important attributes for supervisors and team leaders:

  • CSR skills and competencies

  • Call center monitoring skills

  • Ability to set up and interpret call center performance measurements

  • Experience with workforce management tools

  • Exceptional mentoring and coaching abilities

  • Working knowledge of voice systems and other call center applications

  • Proficiency in the preparation of reports and charts

The recruitment process is similar to that for CSRs.

Managers

The strategic importance of the call center manager to the establishment and effective operation of the center requires special consideration in recruitment and selection, which may therefore involve an executive search or external recruitment agency that specializes in this type of recruitment. Call center managers should possess the following skillsets:

  • Ability to effectively lead and manage the call center

  • High-level communications skills

  • Ability to achieve agreed-upon targets and key performance indicators

  • Ability to effectively manage resources within defined budgets

  • High-level focus on continuous improvement