Finding the right people for your call centre can prove daunting, especially if you've just been tasked with hiring replacements on short notice.
The key to effective recruitment is to find a process that works for you (and your contact centre) and stick with it. This allows you to be methodical in screening, interviewing, and hiring new agents, no matter how much notice you're given about the need for new talent.
Here are some ideas to get the recruitment process down pat:
Understand your needs
Getting to grips with what you're looking for in a new hire might seem straightforward. But you need to think about what you want quite carefully before posting your first job advertisement.
For example, are you looking for an enthusiastic employee who is keen to learn, or are you after someone who already has the specific skills necessary to excel at your organisation?
You also need to figure out exactly how many extra employees you're looking to hire - we'll explain why just below.
Drafting the perfect job description
Once you understand exactly what you're looking for, you can begin thinking about how you'll promote your position.
In the call centre vertical, regular job sites like Seek and Jora generally have plenty of interested applicants, unless you're looking for highly-specialised talent.
In general, you want to make your job description and title as detailed but as clear as possible. Meaning, include a heap of detail about the job, but don't use overly-complicated language if you want to avoid putting people off.
To an extent, you need to sell the job like your team sells your products. How else will you get the best applicants?
However, there's a balance to achieve. You don't want to oversell the role, especially for an entry-level position, otherwise you'll have literally hundreds of applications. Of course, if you have 10-20 seats to fill, this isn't such a bad thing, which is why you need to define how many people you're looking to hire beforehand.
Here's what you should include:
- The experience you want the agent to have. Be specific - this allows the applicant to more easily demonstrate how their previous responsibilities match up with the role on offer. Remember, if you're simply looking for someone who is keen to learn, it's normally a good idea to avoid stating this explicitly, for fear of receiving too many resumes and cover letters. Instead, state that you're looking for a number of broader skills, such as being a quick thinker, or having excellent attention to detail.
- The specific skills you're looking for. Again, list everything that's important to you, but don't over-complicate the role you're selling if you want to ensure you get the highest possible number of quality applicants. Being detailed here also gives the applicant the opportunity to verify that they're qualified for the role. Obviously many will apply whether they would make a good fit or not, but this helps to screen out some of the potential inappropriate applications.
- What your organisation offers. Why would someone want to work for you?
In terms of making your recruitment process as efficient as possible, this last point is potentially the most important.
If you fail to explain the benefits your organisation offers (remuneration, professional development, workplace culture etc), some of the best fits for your highly-skilled positions may forgo the opportunity to apply.
But it's also important in that it can greatly influence the sheer volume of applications received - especially for entry-level positions. If you oversell the position, not only will you struggle to find the best applicants in the flood of emails received, you'll also be faced with agents leaving when the work or the workplace isn't as expected.
Identifying the best applicants
To sort the good applicants from the average ones, you need as much information as possible in order to make the best possible decisions.
As a result, you need to make sure to ask for a cover letter as well as a resume.
While it can be tempting to just review applicants based on their CV alone due to the potential time savings this allows, in the long run this practice can actually prove less efficient, in that it leads to a larger number of wasted interviews.
Cover letters give you the opportunity to find out how well an agent understands your needs, and they also allow you to uncover how articulate an applicant is - which can give you a decent impression of the effectiveness of their verbal communication.
Therefore, to find the best applicants, look for those who have adapted their cover letter to match your specific organisation, and the specific needs you outlined in the job description.
If a person is able to do this successfully, they have demonstrated a skill crucial to any call centre agent - the ability to take information and infer meaning from it, using this information to develop an appropriate response to the initial communication. This is essentially what happens on every successful customer service interaction.
You've identified people who may make a good fit for your contact centre. How do you interview these applicants and decide which of them to hire?
Obviously, you need to enter each interview with the following:
- The applicant's resume and cover letter.
- An understanding of where this person could fit into your organisation, and how their experience, attitudes and skill set could help your team out.
- Some questions you'd like to ask the interviewee - either relating to them specifically, or broader things you might ask each applicant to gauge their response.
Consider the questions you're going to be asking very carefully. Asking the wrong questions isn't just a waste of time, it can also make your decision-making process more difficult, and even obscure your judgement.
Some things you could potentially ask (like Google's infamous "how much does the Empire State Building weigh") probably aren't going to be all that helpful when hiring call centre agents.
What to look for
It's a little tricky to boil down the art of picking great employees into a bullet point list. However, there are some things you can keep an eye out for:
- Enthusiasm. To what extent do they want the job? This can give an indication of how keen they will be to impress you as their supervisor or manager.
- Effective, engaging verbal communication. Obviously this is incredibly important in a contact centre environment.
- A professional, level-headed attitude. They should show up on time at the very least.
Note that it's perfectly normal for the interviewee to display signs of nervousness, especially if this is their first time applying for a call centre role.
Over time, it's possible to develop the ability to feel out good hires. When you're just starting though, stick to the basics, and take concise notes - this makes it much easier to make rational decisions after interviewing a number of applicants.
If you're in the fortunate position of having plenty of applicants to pick from, consider phone interviews! They're a nice and easy way to slim down your shortlist without having to spend too much time scheduling in-person interviews.
Once you've chosen an agent or agents to hire, it's far too easy to shelve your notes and not touch them until the next time you need new staff.
Rather than immediately filing away whatever notes you have, make an effort to actually review and annotate them - develop a process that works for you.
Your goal is to make your notes accessible the next time you need them. How many times have you gone back to look at something you wrote a few months ago and thought "what does that mean?".
By keeping on top of your information in this way, you can continually improve the hiring mechanisms as your organisation expands.
Here's a simple idea you can use to measure how effective your recruitment process actually is:
- Set a reminder for the date a few months after your new employee was first hired. On this date, give them an internal score of 1 to 5 based on your satisfaction with the agent's performance as their contact centre manager or supervisor. Depending on the amount of time you have, you could make this a rough qualitative score, or utilise your KPIs to develop a more rigorous measure of quality.
- Group each new hire based on their quality score - you could use ranges like < 2.5 and > 2.5 for example. Use a spreadsheet if you're dealing with a large team.
- Look for patterns in the recruitment process based on these quality scores. Did the better hires submit better-quality cover letters, or were they the only new staff with prior contact centre experience? Or were the underperformers distinct in that they displayed a lack of enthusiasm when interviewing?
This is why keeping good records from the get-go is so important. Without documentation of the application and interview stages, it can be incredibly difficult to monitor and improve your recruitment process.
Recruitment is a process which often involves a level of trial and error. However, with the right procedures in place, you can take much of the guesswork out of hiring new staff.
While it's impossible to pick the perfect employee every time, you can improve the likelihood of making an excellent hire with the following basic steps:
- First, come to understand what you're looking for and communicate this in your job advertisement, being careful to strike a balance between underselling and over-promoting the job.
- Then, pick applicants with the skills you're after. These applicants should have the ability to extrapolate information from your advertisement and show how their skills and experience can help meet these needs.
- Over time, keep track of the hires that were good, and those that weren't so good. Learn from your mistakes, and develop a set of best practices you can use on future recruitment drives.
The big question remains: how much time is it worth allocating to this last part - process improvement? How much time will deliver the best return on investment?
It really depends on the size of your contact centre, and what level of turnover is optimal for your organisation. 0% turnover isn't necessarily your goal - not only would this be quite difficult to achieve, it would probably actually cost you more than a 10-20% turnover rate, due to the time involved searching for absolutely perfect applicants.