Interview Questions: How to Hire a Good Customer Service Rep

Opinion-based interview questions do little but give candidates the opportunity to respond with “perfect” answers. Easy to decode and prepare for, interviewees can talk about teamwork, initiative and communication all day — without actually possessing any of the said skills. When it comes to customer service representatives, a company can’t risk hiring someone who lacks necessary traits to head the conflict resolution center.

So, what can a company do? When reviewing candidates, hiring managers should look for resumes that illustrate ability through experience and accomplishment. Here are five vital questions to ask, and what customer service qualities they entail.

  • Question: Give an example of identifying with someone else’s difficulties at work. What, if anything, did you do to help them?
  • Demonstrates: Empathy

Empathy is the root of effective-interpersonal communication and customer service. Customers seek to be understood, have misfortune acknowledged and problems resolved. A good candidate understands these needs and has desire to help. Listen for genuine compassion and evidence of initiative in helping others without the expectation of reward.

  • Question: Who have you spoken to thus far in the interview process and what did you talk about?
  • Demonstrates: Ability to retain knowledge

When resolving a problem through customer service, customers can often grow frustrated if they feel they’re being tossed around and have to repeat problems. It should be a warning sign if a candidate can’t recall the name of the HR manager she communicated with whiling setting up the interview or doesn’t remember what she and the HR representative spoke about before. The ability to retain knowledge and remember details is an essential trait of a good customer representative.

  • Question: Describe a situation when you had to exercise a significant amount of self-control. What was the outcome?
  • Demonstrates: Self-control

Tired, angry and otherwise upset customers can lose control and yell or blame customer representatives for the problem at stake. Representatives need to be able to practice composure, have self-control and demonstrate professionalism. Listen for examples of assertiveness and emotional stability. Follow up with a question prompting the candidate to tell about a time he knew he was right, but still had to follow procedure. This should help you evaluate the candidate’s ability to follow and possibly lead.

  • Question: How many times in a day does a clock’s hands overlap?
  • Demonstrates: Problem solving

This odd ball question is meant to catch the candidate off guard, allowing to experience first hand how he or she responds to problem-solving scenarios. Often in customer service, representatives are asked questions they initially don’t know how to answer. Someone with the right skill set and temperament for customer service should be able to calmly and quickly find answers — or be willing to admit they aren’t sure and ask someone who does.

  • Question: Describe a situation when you were given honorable recognition. What made it stand out?
  • Demonstrates: Knowledge of what a customer seeks

Someone who’s had experience with both good and bad customer service could articulate what made each situation positive or negative. The knowledge of what makes quality customer service — a positive demeanor, the ability to empathize without patronizing, quick and meaningful resolutions — is helpful when trying to put those concepts into practice. Continue the conversation by prompting the candidate to share an experience of when she gave excellent customer service and how the customer responded.

About the Author
Sara Bowman is a Jill of all trades who started out in medical administration, shifted to retail management, teaches power yoga and writes for several online and print publications.

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