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

Continue reading “8 Interview Questions to Help You Hire for Emotional Intelligence In Customer Service Roles”

Trying to Hire Millennial Employees for Customer Service Roles? Make Sure You’ve Mastered These 3 Things First.

Manager in business attire

One of the most significant challenges facing companies today is attracting and retaining right-fit front line customer service professionals. For sure, this is challenging, but you can find and keep good-fit employees if you know what’s important to Millennials as it relates to the job search and company culture.

Millennials now make up about 50% of the workforce. And Millennials approach jobs and careers differently from Generation X (my generation) and Baby Boomers.

When I work with companies on finding, hiring, and retaining the best customer service employees, I focus on three things.

1. Developing an attractive social presence (This is tremendously important merely to get Millennials to consider a company.)

2. Hiring for motivational fit. You want people who are motivated to deliver exceptional customer interactions, people who are the best cultural fit for your brand and your customers.

3. A solid coaching and motivation strategy. You’re going to have to coach to develop your people because this is extremely important to Millennials.

Let’s look at each of the three elements of attracting, hiring, and retaining Millennials. Continue reading “Trying to Hire Millennial Employees for Customer Service Roles? Make Sure You’ve Mastered These 3 Things First.”

These Are the Interview Questions You Need to be Asking Customer Service Representatives

black business woman

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The information contained on this site is meant as general information only. It should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice.  

There was a time when customer service departments/jobs were solely reactive. The job was to answer questions and resolve problems. But increased competition and higher expectations from customers have led companies to require customer service professionals to take on a more proactive role.

Customer service representatives are spokespeople and even sales people in addition to problem solvers. Customer service professionals have significant influence on customer loyalty and purchasing habits. Therefore, the hiring, selection and performance of customer service professionals are of extreme importance to the overall success of organizations. We have prepared a selection of interview questions to equip you to hire capable, right-fit employees for the critical customer service role.

The following questions are designed to elicit specific examples of the core competencies of successful consumer affairs professionals. All questions are open-ended and call for the candidate to offer an illustration of their performance in each of the core areas. You should take detailed notes on the responses during the interview so you can go back and review in greater detail.

I’m going to share with you 7 categories of great interview questions. Consider setting the meeting up like this: “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.”

1. Customer Service 

Clearly, any candidate for a consumer affairs position must have a customer service mindset. This includes anticipating customers’ needs, thoroughly answering questions, having a positive attitude and understanding that the client is the reason you are in business.

  • What does giving “excellent service” mean to you?
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty to serve a customer.
  • What do you like most about being in customer service?
  • What do you think is likely to be the difference between success and mediocrity in this position?

  Continue reading “These Are the Interview Questions You Need to be Asking Customer Service Representatives”

3 Bold Ideas to Help You Screen and Hire The Right Talent for Your Culture (And weed out employees who don’t fit)

Companies with a defined and strong culture outperform their competitors by as much as 200%. Culture is what positions companies to innovate, deliver an exceptional customer experience and become an employer of choice. Company culture can make or break a company and one of the biggest threats to company culture is employees who are not a cultural fit for the company. Not only can wrong-fit employees threaten company culture, but research has shown that hiring the wrong employee can cost as much as three times the employee’s annual salary in replacement costs. It is imperative that companies defend culture by screening, hiring and retaining the right people. Here are 3 bold ideas to help you protect your culture by finding and keeping the right people.

1. Hire for motivational fit

Most companies screen applicants based on a skill set, experience and core competencies. Screening and hiring in this manner can lead to competent employees who are not a motivational fit. The result could be early burnout for the employee, negative impact on company culture and morale and frustration for managers who may have to deal with negative attitudes. A better way to screen and hire is to seek not only skill competency, but a motivational fit.

In order to excel and be happy, employees must be intrinsically motivated for the position. If you’re hiring a customer service representative, good motivational fit questions might include:

  • What do you like most about being in a customer contact position?
  • What do you want from your next job that you’re not getting from your current job?
  • What part of your current job do you enjoy the most? The least?
  • What are some of the things in a job that motivate you?

Strive to hire not just for skills, but also for motivational fit.

 2. Keep your star employees. Ask everyone else to leave.

When Jack Welch was the head of GE, the bottom 10% of organizational performers were routinely asked to leave. Welch noted that in many cases, the bottom 10% went on to successful careers at companies where they truly belonged and could excel. An on-demand Internet media streaming company sees management’s job as hiring, developing, and cutting smartly so they have star employees at every level. The Keeper Test managers at this company use is: “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving in two months for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep?” Consider keeping and developing your star talent and helping everyone else find better fitting opportunities.

3. Pay employees to quit.

An online retailer famous for its customer culture pays employees to quit. All new hires of the company must attend 4-weeks of Customer Service Culture training. This training is mandatory, not only for customer service employees, but every position in the company. After the first 2-weeks of new hire training, employees are made an unbelievable offer. If they feel that the company is not a good fit for them, they can walk away with their salary for 2-weeks plus get a check for $1,000. Two weeks later, after 4 weeks of training, new hires are offered $2,000 to walk if they don’t feel the job is the best fit for them. A third and final payout if offered 3 weeks after new hire training and employees who don’t think they are in the right place can take a check for $4,000. The company pays employees to quit because they are fiercely protecting their culture. Weeding out employees who don’t fit the culture early on helps maintain the culture. The offer is so high because the company wants to provide an amount that enables the employee to make the right decision and not feel they have to stay in a culture that doesn’t fit just to avert a lengthy period of unemployment.

Paying employees to quit is certainly a bold idea. But can you envision this strategy (at a payout level that makes sense for your organization) saving you frustration and money down the road?

The right employees will support and strengthen your culture, while the wrong employees threaten the culture and cost you money. Defending company culture through rigorous screening, hiring and retention practices takes great effort and the rewards are performance and profits.

Sources cited

Golden, Myra, “Keep the Star Employees. Everyone Else Needs a Generous Severance Package Now.”  2010 Retrieved from: https://myragolden.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/keep-the-stars-the-others-need-a-generous-severance-package-now/

Michelli, Jospeh, A. “The Zappos Experience” McGraw Hill, NY, 2011.

Ren, John, F. Company Culture: What it is and how to get it. Retrieved from: http://management.about.com/cs/generalmanagement/a/companyculture.htm

Hiring & Training the Right Customer Service Agents for Energy

If you work in the utility or energy industry and you’re concerned about hiring and training the right customer service agents, you’ll want to watch this presentation.

Can you provide a list of job competencies for call center agents for use in screening and hiring?

Q. Can you provide a list of job competencies for call center agents for use in screening and hiring?

We are preparing to ramp up for our peak summer season and desperately need tools for screening and hiring call center agents. We currently require a typing test and a voice sample. What else should we consider as we hire not just to fill seats, but to retain employees? Also, can you point me to sample interview questions we might use?

Myra’s answer to: Can you provide a list of job competencies for call center agents for use in screening and hiring?

Here are 5 core competencies you should seek in consumer affairs professionals:

1. Tolerance for stress – Candidates must demonstrate a healthy response to stressful situations and an ability to maintain control in the midst of chaos.

2. Decision-making skills – Consumer affairs professionals must be able to work independently and make decisions that balance the interests of the company and the customer and make decisions that are cost-effective.

3. Creative problem solving skills – Tough challenges for customers demands quick and innovative solutions. Your employees need to be able to think out-of-the-box and think on their feet to find creative ways to delight unhappy customers.

4. Ability to effectively deal with difficult people – Customers can be demanding, and your employees need to be able to respond to challenging behavior with diplomacy and tact. Ideally, you’ll want professionals who are skilled at defusing anger, creating rapport and influencing behavior.

5. Little need for control – People who have a great need for power or rigid structure might find consumer affairs work challenging, as consumer affairs work is unpredictable, chaotic and in a constant state of flux.

Identifying core competencies positions hiring managers to accurately and quickly evaluate candidates against the requirements of the job and determine motivational fit for the position.

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