8 Interview Questions to Help You Hire for Emotional Intelligence In Customer Service Roles


Too many hiring managers focus on candidates’ work history when filling customer service roles. They get excited when they read that the candidate has six-plus years working in customer service.

But past work in customer service is not a reliable indicator of future success in serving your customers.

To consistency deliver the best possible customer interactions, you need to hire for emotional intelligence —hiring people with empathy, friendliness, and connection, and then train those people on your systems and policies. These are the people who will do the best job for you.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to hire for emotional intelligence using eight strategic interviewing questions.

The Goal In Interviewing for Customer Service Jobs

We’ll get to the interview questions in a moment. But, for the questions to work, you have to set up the interview properly. When you interview candidates for customer service jobs, you want to get them relaxed and confident, so they can authentically communicate with you. Here are four things, precisely, for you to focus on in your interviews.

Make the Candidate Feel As Comfortable As Possible

Small talk is a fantastic way to get candidates relaxed. Talk about anything – traffic, the cup of coffee you spilled in your last meeting, or a unique piece of jewelry the person is wearing. You want candidates to relax because when people are relaxed, they are more communicative and genuine.

Get Candidates to Tell You Stories

When you ask interview questions, and I’ll give you several questions to use, encourage the person to provide you with detailed examples of how they recently handled specific situations. When candidates talk to you through stories and examples, you’ll get honest and comprehensive insight into how the person is likely to perform in a similar situation at your company.

Laying the Interview Foundation

After making a little small talk and getting your candidate relaxed, set the interview up by saying something like, “I’m going to ask you some questions and what I’m looking for is specific examples that illustrate how you have responded to specific situations in the past. I’ll be taking notes as you talk, but you keep going. Feel free to take your time and think about responses before answering the questions.”

Taking Notes

While your candidate is telling you stories of how they’ve handled specific situations in the past, you need to be taking lots of notes. I want you to jot things down so you can go back and take a close look at how all of the people you interviewed measure up to your expectations. It will be easy to forget the many examples you’ve heard during interviews, so you need to take meeting notes.

Sample Interview Questions

1. “Describe for me one of the most challenging customer interactions you’ve encountered, and how you responded to that situation.” The answer to this question will help you gauge how the candidate handles demanding customers.

2. “Tell me about your biggest customer success story when things started out poorly.” Listen carefully to the answer to this question. You can learn about how a person handles problems and how stress impacts them.

3. “Can you walk me through a situation where you felt you had no control over the outcome and discuss how you felt about that?” This question helps you determine a person’s need for control. If your customer service jobs don’t give employees a lot of power to control outcomes, and the person has a high demand for control, this position may not be a good fit.

4. “Describe a situation where you had to consider details from multiple sources to make a final decision.” What you’re looking for here is, can the person work with multiple parties to make the best decisions for your company and your customers.

These next four questions help you determine if the person is genuinely interested in serving customers and working in a customer service role, or if they’re merely looking for a job.

5. What do you like most about being in a customer service position?

6. What do you want from your next job that you’re not getting from your current position?

7. What part of your current job do you enjoy the most? The least?

8. What are some of the things in a job that motivates you?

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