The best customer support folks are passionate, emotionally intelligent and process-oriented thinkers, but determining which candidates have command of these “soft skills” can be difficult. Investing in hiring the best people for the job will guarantee your customers are happy with the service they receive.
The Best Support Reps are Emotionally Intelligent
Emotionally intelligent people have a good understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others, allowing them to respond to tough situations with thought and care. They are also able to see a customer’s issue as not only an obstacle to overcome, but also as an opportunity to create a new, long-lasting relationship. Candidates who are emotionally intelligent tend to display personality traits like self-awareness, empathy and curiosity.
To identify emotional intelligence in job candidates, try using unconventional interview tactics. Take the interviewee out for coffee and watch how they interact with others; many times the way they treat strangers is a good indicator of how they would treat customers. Or take Google’s approach and include employees from all levels in the interview process. Google’s hiring managers find that by letting several current employees interview candidates, they get a more comprehensive sense of how candidates will interact with coworkers if hired.
In addition to these unconventional interview methods, ask questions that reveal how candidates view themselves and others, for example:
1. What skills or expertise do you feel you are still missing?
2. What was your most unpleasant work relationship and how did you resolve it?
3. How will this role help you achieve your larger goals?
A candidate’s response to these kinds of questions will illustrate their self-awareness and the level to which they empathize with others. By hearing candidates describe tough topics like their missing skills, challenges they’ve faced and their visions for the future, you will get an idea of how they might react in difficult customer situation and if they will approach it with empathy and understanding.
Look For Process-Oriented Thinkers
The best customer support reps are also dedicated problem solvers. Since the job involves analyzing a customer’s problem and presenting clear steps to a solution, it’s essential that reps are invested in thinking about the process, not just the end goal.
You can suss out process-oriented thinkers during the hiring process by asking questions that require an explanation, not just a response. Ask the prospect to explain one of your products as if you had no understanding of the industry— this will allow you to gauge their communication skills as well as their preparedness. I like to ask this type of question as part of the application so I can evaluate writing style as well.
Similarly, ask questions that prod into a prospect’s past experiences. This will give you an idea of how they can unpack information and provide appropriate context. In both cases, the answers they provide are less important than the way they give it to you. In handling customer inquiries, it’s essential that reps can translate a lot of information into a succinct response. Asking these broad questions will challenge candidates to deliver the answer clearly and identify the central points.
Find Passionate Candidates
Many companies today prioritize passion over technical experience. Companies like Jobvite have found that “passion fosters progress” and that employees who truly enjoy their jobs tend to be more persistent and harder workers. Customers can tell when employees are passionate about what they do, and that passion often gets customers excited about the company.
Focusing less on what the candidate has done in their personal and professional life, and more on why can help you see if a candidate is passionate. This will provide a glimpse into their motivations and drive, which is especially informative when determining whether a candidate with little support experience should be hired. Ask them about their larger aspirations and motivations, such as:
1. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What drives you?
2. If you were starting a company tomorrow, what would be its top three values?
3. Why did you decide to major in Psychology (or whatever they studied)?
Designing your interview process to identify candidates who are emotionally intelligent, process-oriented and passionate will help you hire the best people to be on the front lines of helping your customers. It may take some time but finding people to help your customers is an important part of building a company your customers will love.