Whether you’re running a small business call center or enterprise contact center, you need skilled and qualified agents, which means going beyond a simple resume review.
This guide will cover the steps you should take throughout the hiring process to attract the most impressive candidates. Also it should help improve your overall contact center performance and employee retention.
Call center agents are often the first touchpoint for your customers. Therefore, these employees must have all of the necessary skills and traits to effectively engage with customers and quickly resolve issues.
Studies have shown that 70% of customers will spend more money if a company has excellent customer service, and 97% will share their positive customer service experience with others.
Incorporating the right hiring strategies will ensure that you bring in the right people for the job.
Thus, here are the key steps to hiring call center agents that we’ll cover:
- How to write the job description
- Where to post the job
- How to vet call center job candidates
- Managing the interview process
- What questions to ask in interviews
- Onboarding and training tips
What your contact center or call center job description should include
First, you need to start with a strong job description for your call center agents.
The key components include job summary and duties, qualifications, benefits and compensation, company information, and application instructions.
Job summary and duties
Make a list of all of the job duties your call center agents will have, beginning with the most important or frequent.
You may want to break these duties down further by outlining the percentage of time an agent is likely to spend on any one task throughout a typical week.
For example, 70% of the agent’s time could be helping customers, 20% could be managing tickets in an online ticketing system, and 10% could be various administrative tasks and after-call work.
Skills and qualifications
In your job description, you can break down qualifications into these two sections:
- Required qualifications: must-haves that every applicant needs in order to be considered, such as strong communications skills and the ability to maintain a positive attitude
- Desired qualifications: important for the job, like certain technical skills or experience using a particular ticketing system, but are not necessarily a make-or-break requirement
Clarify the type of experience, education, skills, and even personality traits that you’re looking for.
For example, state that ideal candidates will have at least five years working in a customer service role and are committed to being friendly and motivated at work.
Benefits and compensation
According to CareerPlug’s Candidate Experience Report, the #1 reason job seekers declined an offer was due to compensation and benefits not meeting expectations.
Job seekers want to know more information about the job sooner in the hiring process so they can make informed decisions.
Consider including information about the compensation, whether it’s paid hourly or salaried, employment type (full-time, part-time, etc.), work hours, benefits offered, and any other perks that your call center agents will receive once hired.
While not all job posts may provide these details, providing this information gives candidates insight into your team’s culture, and transparency can make your call center job more appealing to applicants.
Aside from describing the role, you want it to be clear on:
- how and where the call center agent will fit into their department or team
- what other teams they may interact with
- who they will report to
- approximately how many positions are available (if you are hiring multiple agents)
Be sure to include a basic description of the company, such as its mission and core values.
This allows applicants to better assess if their own goals and values align with those of the company.
Application instructions and process
Finally, include brief instructions on how candidates should apply. Note what documents or certifications they should provide and any other information that you’ll require for consideration.
This should always be mentioned upfront.
Similarly, a brief overview of the hiring process helps the applicant understand what to expect — should they expect to do a mock call?
Will there be several rounds of interviews?
Where to post call center jobs
Next, where do you post the completed call center job description?
Call center agent jobs should can be posted on job search sites like Monster, Glassdoor, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Careerbuilder, and others for a wide reach.
Don’t forget the power that social media has over and for today’s job seekers.
Be sure to make use of LinkedIn and Facebook for posting call center agent jobs in order to attract even more candidates.
On your company’s website, you can also consider creating a separate page titled “Careers” or something similar to attract those interested in joining your company.
Post the full job description there, including instructions for applying.
Be sure to include any applicable contact information for HR or the person handling applications.
Tips for vetting contact center or call center agents
Before you start evaluating the call center agent applications you received, it’s helpful to answer these questions:
- What are the most important qualities for a call center agent?
- Which are the absolute minimum requirements for consideration?
- What skills would help supplement any missing qualifications?
- Do we need a cover letter and if so, what should it include?
- What traits would make a candidate a bad fit for the position?
These questions will help you sort through applications more quickly.
If someone doesn’t possess the necessary qualification, you can simply move on.
You can also build the ideal candidate profile when you can answer questions like these.
Keep in mind that sometimes the “perfect” candidate may be a misleading idea.
Even though a candidate sounds great on paper, his or her values or characteristics may not be the right fit for a call center position.
It’s therefore important to keep an open mind about checking off all the experience or qualification boxes, and to wait to make a final decision until you have a chance to talk on the phone or in person.
If something intrigues you on a cover letter or resume, follow that feeling.
After you’ve sorted through all of the applications and have narrowed them down to a few people that you want to interview, it’s time to start preparing for how you’ll handle that process and what questions you’ll ask.
Call center agent interview process
The interview process will have several components.
You may want to start with a phone call and schedule an in-person or video interview if all goes well.
The first time you contact a candidate you’re interested in, outline how the process will go so they know what to expect and how they can start preparing.
It’s wise to test candidates with a skills assessment to evaluate if they are the right fit for the job. These can take a few different forms.
You could do a video test where candidates are given a prompt and need to demonstrate how they respond to an angry customer scenario.
Or, you can present a list of customer questions and ask them to write down how they would handle certain situations.
Given that call center agents deal primarily with customers, these tests can show you whether they have the right balance of patience, friendliness, and firmness in how they interact with people.
The interview process
Aside from the skills test and the initial phone screening, prepare for a face-to-face interview as well.
This is where you can get to know the candidate and see how they answer questions in real-time.
What interview questions to ask
Prepare a list of questions before the interview and stick to them, almost like a transcript.
You don’t want the interview to feel overly stuffy and you want to evaluate candidates equally, so it’s okay to allow time for small talk and flexibility to make the conversation flow naturally.
Here are some of the most common and effective questions to ask prospective call center agents in an interview:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want this position?
- What do you know about the company?
- Why do you want to work in a call center?
- What is your favorite part about working with customers?
- What’s the most important part of customer service in your opinion?
- Describe a time you had to deal with an unhappy customer.
- How do you handle difficult people?
- Why are you right for this particular role?
- What kind of work environment are you looking for?
- Do you have any questions about the role or company?
These questions will keep you on task while forcing the interviewee to think on their feet.
Remember to always end the interview with a space for the candidate to ask questions or share any of their final thoughts.
Onboarding and training call center agents
Once you’ve vetted and interviewed your candidates and made an offer, the next part of the process is onboarding and training your new call center agent(s).
This is a key step in making sure your agents are equipped with everything they need to excel in their job.
Here are a few ways to optimize your approach.
Route simpler calls to new hires
Part of your training strategy should include routing the simpler matters, like basic inquiries about account information or how to do something, to new hires until they feel confident in handling more complex calls.
If you’re using a virtual call center like Dialpad, you can easily set up rules to route specific calls to new team agents or to route them for escalation as needed, instead of transferring your customer’s call several times and increasing the time to resolution.
Provide live coaching during calls
Call center agents need to have information readily available to solve issues on customer service calls, but this knowledge usually takes some time for new agents to attain.
Using Real-Time Assist, your agents will instantly get all of the necessary details so they aren’t leaving customers waiting and extending call times while researching a given situation.
It’s normal for new agents to initially feel overwhelmed or intimidated when they experience a problem with a customer.
In order to help reduce average handle time, this feature gives them the exact information that they need to solve these problems faster, helping them become more confident in their role.
Use sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis detects if a customer has a positive or negative attitude during a call.
With live sentiment analysis, managers can easily spot or be alerted when a call may require their attention to either provide real-time coaching or step in if needed.
This is particularly helpful for new hires who are still learning the ropes and may not be fully equipped to handle an unhappy customer.
As the name indicates, live sentiment analysis allows you to help agents live, in real-time instead of after a call.
New agents will learn faster and be more effective on future calls as a direct result.
Hiring the right call center agents is an important aspect of being a successful call center manager as your team scales.
This step-by-step guide helps make sure that you write a well-thought-out job description, ask the right interview questions, and properly vet your job applicants.
Building out a robust hiring process ensures that you hire call center agents who understand your business and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.
You can also find yourself a partner who you can outsource this process to. GPG offers many features that aid with your call center agent onboarding and training to make sure new agents can ramp up as quickly as possible.
Learn more about how our contact center works and how your business can benefit.