How to Hire Better Call Center Agents


Share on LinkedIn

While most everyone can use a telephone – not everyone is cut out to work in a Call Center environment. Finding ways to hire better quality Call Center Agents is consistently placed as a priority by senior management. The majority of the costs associated with operating a Contact Center are labor costs — and hiring the wrong Call Center Agent is a significant drain on your profitability, the budget, customer satisfaction levels, sales results, and on overall Agent Team morale.

Employers have more media options than ever before with which to publicize their Call Center jobs: Newspaper/Online Job Boards/Craigslist/Social Media/Video Recruiting, etc. In today’s economy, these new media tend to generate a near instant ‘tsunami’ of Resumes & Job Candidates. The majority of these Candidate Responses occur within the 1st 48 Hours after a Job is posted.

Even during these times of high unemployment – a Job Candidate who is a strong fit for a Call Center Agent position is only on the job market for an average of five business days – and will receive an average of 2 Call Center Job Offers. Call Center employers need a fast, cost-effective, and highly-predictive process in order to weed out the Job Candidates who will burn out fast because they aren’t qualified – or suited for the work – and identify the people with the Skills, Personality/Job-Fit, Motivation, and Work Ethic to be Top Call Center employees.

Here are 5 fast, easy, and very cost-effective ‘Best Practice’ Steps you can take in order to recruit more Top Performing Call Center Agents:

STEP 1: Stop asking for Resumes up-front – and instead start conducting ‘Voice Auditions’ with your Job Candidates. Regardless of what’s written in someone’s Resume – you need to ensure that a Candidate has the right ‘Telephone Personality’ for your specific Call Center job. It’s very important that you hire Agents with a pleasant, clear speaking voice (power, pitch, pace and pause). Overwhelmingly – consumers want their calls handled and issues resolved by Agents who communicate professionally – Agents who are easily understood – and who don’t sound like a ‘script reader’. It’s only after a Job Candidate passes their ‘Voice Audition’ that you should invite them to submit a Resume.

STEP 2: Administer Skills Testing to your Job Candidates. You need to ensure that a Candidate can demonstrate a minimum acceptable level of proficiency in specific areas such as: Names, Spelling, Comprehension, Typing Speed & Accuracy, Grammar, Audio Transcription, and Data Entry Skills. Please keep in mind that while it is a Best Practice Step to screen Candidates using Typing Tests, Audio Transcription Tests, Windows Literacy Tests, etc. – a Skills Test Pass Rate only increases the likelihood of predicting the long-term effectiveness of a Job Candidate for a Call Center Agent position to 53% – and that’s just a bit better than flipping a coin!

STEP 3: Administer a Personality/Job-Fit Assessment to your Job Candidates. Personality/Job-Fit Assessments are best at forecasting the future success of a Job Candidate for a Call Center Agent position. Candidates for Call Center jobs need to have a unique constellation of Traits – and amounts of those Traits – in order to successfully complete the Job Requirements. A Call Center Agent’s long-term success depends much more upon Temperament/Personality/Job-Fit Factors than on Product Knowledge, Past Experience or Skill Set. Personality/Job-Fit Assessments allow you to select new Call Center Agents who will fit your employment needs better – and stay on the job longer – leading to an Agent Workgroup that has more experience and is more productive.

STEP 4: Conduct a structured face-to-face interview with your Job Candidates. This style of interview has great value when evaluating Candidates for Call Center jobs because it allows you to identify a Candidates’ past behaviors – and use them as good indicators of future performance & behavior. You should ask very specific questions designed to determine how a Candidate behaved and thought during certain situations.

An example of a structured interview question would be:

“Tell me about a time when you went far beyond what could normally be expected in order to satisfy a customer?”

The target behavior you are looking to uncover is Customer Focus. Can this Candidate demonstrate that they can go “above & beyond the call of duty” to ensure that customer requests are handled effectively and with a customer service orientation?

STEP 5: Have your Job Candidates experience a realistic Job Preview/’Job Shadow’ depicting day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and the environment of your Call Center. The goal of a Call Center Job Preview is to sell the Candidate “in or out” of the job. It’s far better for someone to say “No Thanks … This isn’t for me” at the Job Preview Stage then just after you’ve finished investing in training them! You need to paint a realistic picture of the Company, the Call Center environment, the work hours, management style, and performance expectations. This can be done as easily as having Candidates sit in the Call Center on a ‘Job Shadow’ for a period of time – in order to form their own opinion before accepting or declining the job offer (NOTE: Check your local labor laws to see if Candidate time spent sitting in your Call Center on a ‘Job Shadow’ qualifies as “paid time”).

There are also software-based Call Center Simulators that are available to give a Candidate the ability to experience a simulation of Call Center work; such as referencing and cross-referencing data and dealing with a variety of callers and customer service scenarios. When used as part of a pre-employment screening process, software-based Call Center Simulators are generally not subject to local labor law interpretation as “paid time”, but you should consult your attorney regarding local laws.

During the Call Center Job Preview/’Job Shadow’, the Candidate should also be encouraged to communicate with Supervisors/Team Leaders and potential coworkers. Done correctly, this step will help you attract people who genuinely want to work in your Call Center.

References – Security Clearances – Drug Testing: While these are important steps from a ‘Due Diligence’ standpoint – adding Reference Checking to your Hiring Process only increases the likelihood of predicting long-term effectiveness in a Job Candidate for a Customer Service (CSR) Call Center Agent position to 26%. And we all know that it’s getting harder to perform meaningful & insightful Reference Checks. You should also consult your attorney regarding your local Labor Laws to see if Security Clearances and/or Drug Testing for your Call Center jobs are considered ‘Consistent With Business Necessity’.

David Filwood
TeleSoft Systems
David Filwood is the founder and principal consultant of TeleSoft Systems, a call center improvement consultancy in Vancouver, B.C., that helps contact centers find, hire and train better employees. TeleSoft Systems is also the publisher of Service Personnel Appraisal Software (SPAS), a Suite of call center agent pre-employment screening tools.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here