Smart Hiring for Time-strapped Contact Centers

Written by HighPoint’s John Loughlin

Published on Contact Center World

When it comes to hiring, contact centers may not always have the luxury of time. All too often, they have to ramp up quickly for the next big product launch or corporate initiative. This creates a significant hiring challenge. Contact center managers want to make sure they’re hiring the right people as their frontlines of customer service, but often do not have the opportunity to delve into personality traits, experience levels, or personal motivations. As such, many contact centers struggle to hire and retain the right employees.

It doesn’t need to be that way. Even companies that must ramp up quickly can take steps to attract the best candidates and interview them objectively and then retain them once they’re on the job.


Build a Perception as the Best in the Field

Attracting the best candidates goes well beyond providing fair financial compensation. Despite having large hiring needs, contact centers should work to be the employer of choice in their vertical.

Being the best in the field will bring out the best candidates. If a candidate hears that an organization “Will hire anyone with a pulse,” that company’s value goes down, and they will only attract the least qualified candidates. Having a reputation for only taking the best candidates often means that only the best candidates will apply, and that they will strive to work for that company. This is also known as street value. The question is, what is your organization’s street value?

Job candidates also want to know that the organization they will be working with has excellent tools available, making it easier to provide service that exceeds the customer’s needs. Up-to-date technology that makes it easy for agents to provide solutions to inquiries is a necessity but does not stop there. Having processes that includes goals, employee development and pathing, talent management are all just as important as the functional tools.

Refine the Hiring Process for Better Decision Making

When faced with the challenge of hiring a multitude of new employees, contact center recruiters are often pressured to hire a certain number of representatives in a certain time frame. This mindset leads to hiring mistakes, such as hiring on the premise that the candidate reminds them of a friend or that they seem nice. “Gut instinct” is good for on the fence decisions but not as a methodology for a new hire. These errors can end up costing centers time and money in the long run.

By refining the hiring process, recruiters can make better decisions within a short time frame. In addition to using resumes and cover letters to screen candidates, recruiters can hold short phone interviews with non-job-related questions to see if candidates can articulate answers to questions and are ready to work in a contact center environment. If so, those are the candidates to bring in for face-to-face interviews.

Ensure Candidates Match the Company’s Mission

Since a company’s mission is what drives its operations, it’s important that new employees share in that mission. To assess a match among potential hires and a company’s mission values, recruiters can design questions around those values and work those questions into the interview. This is an area that may be overlooked in the interest of time, but often ends up being a key factor in retaining employees once they are hired. If their values differ greatly from those of the company, they may not stay long.

Behavioral based interviewing and the STAR Methodology

Even with better screening, interviewing hundreds or thousands of candidates is daunting. Adding metrics to interviews makes the whole hiring process more objective; interviews that use a STAR (Situation, Task, Action Result) response make it easier to quantify the best candidates and root out the “Paper Tiger,” a candidate that looks good on paper but may be an ineffective employee.

There are two main components to the STAR system: the question and the response. First, the interviewer must ask a behavioral question that delves into a specific scenario, what the candidate did and details about the outcome. Candidates who can completely describe a work situation, task they were responsible for, action they took, and result that occurred earn one point or STAR. If for instance, the candidate can’t describe an outcome or wasn’t directly responsible for the scenario, he or she will not earn a point. Candidates accumulate points throughout the interview, and recruiters can then rank candidates objectively based on their responses to questions. This process leads to hiring based on skill and actual experiences, rather than on subjective feelings about a candidate.

Contact center managers can also gain insight into their hiring process by examining metrics about the recruiters themselves. For example, Recruiter “A” hires 60 percent of the people she interviews, and Recruiter “B” hires 25 percent — but Recruiter “B’s” hires stay with the company longer or perform better. The center may want to look into what “B” is doing, asking, or assessing during interviews and incorporate those practices into the company-wide interview model.

Provide Fair Compensation and Incentives

While contact centers may be unique in the need to hire potentially large numbers of people very quickly, there’s one thing that these operations have in common with other types of enterprises: the need to fairly compensate their employees.

Though they may say otherwise in interviews, job candidates are nearly always looking for an appropriate pay structure and compensation package. Potential employees will have done their homework, via Glassdoor, other sites, or word of mouth, and will often know what to expect. At the outset, call center hiring managers must be prepared to present these prospects with pay packages that are commensurate to what the rest of the market is offering. If they do not, these prospects may decline the offer or simply leave when something more equitable is presented to them.

Regular base salaries can be augmented with incentives, which can be a great way of promoting the spirit of competition on the work floor. Incentive amounts do not need to be exorbitant, and the number of employees involved in the payout can be limited (for example, to 1/3 of the staff). But any amount can go a long way to spurring employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

Retain the Best Employees by Valuing Their Contributions

Metrics are also useful in helping contact centers manage their talent pool. By using objective data to rank employee outcomes, HR managers can determine the top-performing employees — those who possess the potential for leadership — and offer mentoring and a formal structure or plan for advancement. Promoting from within the company is a good way to show new hires that career paths exist for employees who are interested and have the appropriate skills.

Employees will stay with a company that they feel values their ideas and suggestions. Best-in-class contact center environments accept and appreciate ideas from all levels of the organization, not just the leadership. In these contact centers, employees feel empowered. They are part-owners of the processes and systems they are working in, and have a vested interest in their success.

Finally, employees want to feel as though they are adding quality to the company they work for. Organizations that have ways for employees to do so — either through workplace recognition programs, opportunities to give back to the community, and so forth — will benefit. Employees are more likely to turn a job into a career if they feel that they are making a difference.

Contact centers may be subject to special circumstances, but they can be filled with talented and committed individuals who will become valuable and long-term team members. All it takes is following a few simple guidelines. While it may be true that “time waits for no one,” the hiring process can still be performed thoroughly, thoughtfully, and successfully.