Fill Your Contact Center Seats with Passion, Not Just People!!!


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World-renowned soccer superstar, Mia Hamm, once said, “If you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion.” As leaders, it is not only our job to achieve the goals set before us, but to assemble the team that will turn goals into reality. Far too many of us have the mentality of just “getting people in seats” instead of taking the time to find the team members who have the passion and drive not only to achieve our Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), but to also make brand ambassadors of our customers along the way.

I know what you are thinking right now; that is easier said than done. After all, we get hundreds of resumes that sum up a potential team member’s education, job history, tenure at each stop, and what they accomplished along the way. It is simply impossible to gauge the person’s passion and fit within your culture by reading resumes. It is a process that can become monotonous at times when we are looking to search for the “checklist” of required qualifications and skills based on a sheet of paper. The sad part is that we have been trained to accept this as the way the recruiting process “has always been done”. We typically look for two or three things that seem to align with our job qualifications and duties, interview them with age-old “tell me about a time” questions (which many applicants have looked online for tips or simply make up stories to “fit” what they think we are looking for), and quickly decide if we chose them to fill one of the available seats.

I am guilty of this myself, yet, what I have found over the course of the last twenty plus years, is that this approach has yielded mediocre results at best. This mentality has us in a vicious cycle where we are always in the hiring mode, dealing with people who only show up for a paycheck, or, worst of all, are detrimental to our culture. In order to combat this issue, my team and I have evolved our hiring process over the last year to approach it as if we were looking for the next Mia Hamm to lead our team onto the field.

Here are a few questions for you. Do you think it is a fluke or by following the mentality of “just getting people in seats” that has helped the NBA’s Golden State Warriors to three of the last four championships? Is it a coincidence that they just happen to have the right people to consistently beat one of the best players of all time, LeBron James, year after year in the finals? Of course not! They took their time and assembled a team of superstars that fit their culture and had the passion to drive that team towards success. Our teams are no different.

So how did we do this? We put our culture and core values at the forefront of our recruiting process. Yes, we still have to go through resumes and review their basic information to ensure they meet the required qualifications, but we do not talk about their job history or technical aptitude in detail until the final round of the process. Our mentality is we can always teach you our platform or our business model, but we cannot teach you passion or change your character.

The first step is the phone interview. During this phase of our interview process, we simple talk about our core values with the potential candidate, outlining each value in detail and explaining how each value affects every aspect of our team members’ workday. From our employee evaluations to each interaction on the phone with a customer, our core values will be the judge of our employees’ success so it is critical that applicants understand that from the beginning. A few examples of how we rate our employees that we share with our applicants:

• Evaluation Factors
You have passion, drive, and perseverance?
You show respect to others, no matter what position you hold within the company?
You understand that every opinion is valuable and that great ideas can come from anyone?
You seek opportunities to learn and further your understanding of our business
You share knowledge and experience with others in a constructive way
You contribute constructively while in meetings

These direct examples of what the applicant would be evaluated on during our phone interview process has filtered out many people that are just looking for a job where they can simply occupy a seat. I feel this is because it is showing them that it will be impossible to hide within our center and collect a paycheck. Instead, we are looking at you every day, from your performance on the phone to how you engage with every staff member in the company to gauge if you are a successful member of the team. We have found two things from this approach; it either energies applicants to become more excited about our company or it drives them off to find an employer who will accept their desire to do the bare minimum requirements to just collect their paycheck.

The second step is where we interview the applicant for the culture fit and determine if they have the passion to help us deliver the greatest customer service possible. Applicants come to the office dressed in their best, with crisp copies of their resumes, waiting for the same old questions they have heard time and time again. SURPRISE!!!!! That is not happening at PerfectServe. Instead, we casually greet them at the entrance, conduct brief introductions, and lead them not to a conference room (Seriously, who still interviews in a conference room?), but, instead, we escort them to our break room. Once there, we enthusiastically ask, “What game are we going to play?” You heard me correctly. You do not have to re-read that sentence. The response typically? Well, it is what you would expect. There comes a deer in the headlights type look followed by “Are you serious????”. Once our applicants get over the shock of what they just heard, we invite them to put their resumes, ties, purses, portfolios, and jackets on a couch and choose between pool, air hockey, supersized Jenga or Connect Four.

During this phase of the interview process, our goal is simple: Do we see this person fitting in with our culture? What are they passionate about? Finally, how did they adapt to our environment versus the old traditional interview process? It is a time to pull back the layers of the onion and see who and what is this person all about. We ask questions such as:
• Do you consider yourself a nerd and why or why not?
• Do you prefer DC or Marvel or neither? Why?
• What do you like to do for fun/to relax?
• What does customer service mean to you?
• What is the greatest customer service experience you ever had and why?
• What is the latest book you are reading? Tell me about your favorite parts and why?
• What core value have you connected with the most during your career? Why?
• Do you prefer Apple or Android? Why?

Spending some time playing whatever game they have chosen while making conversation with these types of questions, is the catalyst of our evaluation process. Is their tenacity, passion, and drive about their personal and professional lives translate to what we are looking for in an employee? If the consensus is yes, only then do we set up a sit-down interview with some of our other leaders within the customer service department.

The sit-down interview is when we finally look into their resume and technical aptitude. If we believe they have the ability to learn our platform we will give them the chance to join our team, however, instead of making this phase the quintessential part of the interview process, it is just the icing on the cake. This process has led to two main changes; the first, we turn away a lot more people than we hire compared to the past, and second, we have yet to lose anyone to attrition during the training phase since we have made the change.

In closing, remember that Albert Einstein has been credited with saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result” and that is exactly what we have allowed the interview process to become; absurdity. Take a step back and have the courage to do something different, I promise not only will your results be different, they will be rewarding.

Tom Cunningham, Jr
Tom Cunningham is the Director of SAAS Call Center Operations at PerfectServe, the premier provider of a unified communications platform that connects clinicians across the care continuum. He has over 22 years of experience working with brands such as Elavon, ADT, GM, and Western Dental. Tom is Call Center Sixma Certified and has been recognized by the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals In 2005 as a finalist for Workforce Manager of the Year. He is a strong believer in the Customer Experience and creating a call center culture that makes your brand the areas preferred employer


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