Being a hiring manager for a call center is not an easy job.

According to the Quality Assurance & Training Connection, the average call center has a turnover rate of 30-45%. Many new hires quit before training is even over.

For managers at a call center, that means there is constant turnover and that hiring is a revolving door. And that’s a lot of pressure and stress on an employee.

Working with call centers as part of my role at ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software company that supports documentation in call centers — I’ve seen the toll this takes on call center leaders. It is a task they feel they can never check off a list.

What I’ve realized is sometimes it is easy to overlook important details when hiring your call center reps. So, I’ve created a list of five tips to help you decide during an interview whether an applicant is the right fit for your call center.

These tips will help you decide what are important qualities and skills in your agents as well as what questions to ask in interviews.

Jonathan DeVore

By: Jonathan DeVore on November 27th, 2021

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5 Tips for Hiring the Right Call Center Agents (+ Interview Question Examples)


1. Include behavioral interview questions

Include behavioral questions in your interview that help you decipher whether an employee would be a good fit and if they could have success in your contact center.

In a job interview process, you are trying to figure out if the applicant either (1) has the skills to do the job or (2) has the ability to learn how to do the job.

Your questions should both examine what exists on an applicant’s resume and then dig deeper into how an applicant might respond to specific situations they’ll encounter on the job.

Having insightful questions helps you look beyond the resume and discover an applicant’s work behavior and characteristics.

20 call center interview question examples

Luckily, you don’t need to recreate the wheel every time you interview a call center agent. Create a list of questions you want to ask in an interview. During the interview, you can ask follow-up questions according to your applicant’s answers.

Here are 20 interview question examples (with a few follow-up question examples) to help you start your interview question list:

  1. How have you handled customer questions you didn’t know the answer to?
  2. Give me an example of a time when you were on a call with an angry customer, what did you do to diffuse the situation?
  3. What are some of your traits that will help you be a great call center employee?
  4. Why did you leave your last job?
  5. What resources did your previous call center provide to help you handle calls?
  6. When was the last time you had to learn something new?
    • What helped you learn it?
    • What were roadblocks to you learning it?
  7. Give me an example of constructive feedback you’ve received from a supervisor or a manager?
    • What did you do to address it?
  8. Give me an example of positive feedback you’ve received from a supervisor or a manager?
    • What contributed to that?
  9. Describe a success you had at your previous job
    • What contributed to your success?
  10. Describe a situation where you felt flustered.
    • How did you regain composure?
  11. Describe a situation where you felt confident.
  12. Describe a situation where you felt frustrated.
    • How did you get through it?
  13. Describe a situation where you felt really engaged.
  14. Describe a situation where you felt really drained.
  15. Describe a situation where you felt really energized.
  16. What types of tech experience do you have?
    • If they don’t have any, how could they get some experience/knowledge?
  17. What do they know about your industry?
  18. What experience do they have in a call center?
  19. What would they do if they ran into something and didn’t know the answer?
  20. Tell me about a situation where you used your critical thinking to understand or solve a problem.

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2. Give them exercises during the interview process

Provide exercises or mini-assessments to see what soft and hard skills your applicant has. This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out section of an interview. It can just be seeing how they handle different scenarios.

If you have good call flows documented that your current reps are using to handle calls, see if you can get approval to have these interviewees try them out.

It’s important to see whether this rep struggles with following directions/instructions. If a potential rep can’t follow your call flows, that might be a flag that they aren’t good at following instructions.

Going into interviews, it’s important to recognize the nature of your call center. You want to hire agents who have the skills to handle the different situations they’ll encounter at your company. This way, you set them up for success.

If your calls are quite technical, hire reps who have at least a foundational knowledge of the content or they demonstrate that they are fast learners.

If you get a lot of disgruntled customers, make sure you hire reps who are good at handling conflict and not taking things too personally.

🔍 Related: How to write your first call flow if your call center doesn't have documented procedures

3. Determine whether they can adapt to the work environment

If you do not have a physical office for the rep to be in, make sure they have a situation at home that will work.

What would their home office look like? Do they have a private room to work, or would they have constant traffic in the background?

If they are interviewing from their kitchen table and people are walking around in the background, that might be a flag that they don’t have a dedicated space to work from.

That could lead to problems later on if there’s a lot of noise or distractions keeping the rep from taking a call or giving your callers a good experience.

Most importantly, they need to have a private space where they can maintain compliance, especially when taking credit card information and accessing customers’ private information.

4. Identify 3 key skills

When I was in college, one of my professors told me that the purpose of school wasn’t to memorize a bunch of formulas or facts. It was to develop three important skills that will help me throughout my life:

1. Thinking skills: Critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving

2. Oral and written communication skills

3. Collaboration skills

These skills are very difficult for your trainers to teach your reps. If you can determine whether candidates already possess these skills, that will clue you in on whether they will be a good fit for your call center.

Using the example questions above, you should be able to have interviewees share experiences that would indicate whether they have these qualities.

🔍 Related: 8 Tips to Reduce Your Call Center Turnover Rate

5. Identify gaps and be honest whether you can fill them

Every candidate will need training and polishing to be competent at your call center protocols and processes. The question is, do you have the right resources to help them out?

These resources could be anything from a learning management system (LMS) to a knowledge base or other continuous learning options.

You may have great resources to help reps learn the technical aspects of the products they will support, but if your systems are really complex and you don’t have resources to sufficiently teach reps the basics of navigating through those systems (e.g. they don’t know what an internet browser is or how to copy and paste), then that will be a problem.

That might mean you need to look for tech-savvy people who are comfortable with computers and applications, perhaps students right out of college. You may need to exclude several candidates.

Or you may have a smaller shop and you lack good resources for helping reps with their soft skills. You may need to identify reps that are already gifted at diffusing a situation or handling an angry customer.

Remember: You can’t fill in your new hires’ knowledge and skills gaps if you don’t have the resources (i.e. tools, technology, or trainers) that can help them. You can only make their weaknesses a strength if the applicant’s weakness is a strength of your company.

Need resources to help fill in the gaps for your agents?

When you hire the right call center agents for your company, it makes it easier for everyone to succeed on the job. The goal is to hire the right people so that they can accurately perform the necessary tasks and your new hires want to stay with the company.

When you are onboarding new reps, having a knowledge base they can reference adds to the new agent’s success. A knowledge base is a cloud-based system that stores your company’s knowledge and resources in one place.

ScreenSteps is a knowledge base software that creates a one-stop shop for call centers to easily create interactive call flows, checklists, and other documents that help agents complete tasks while in the workflow.

With ScreenSteps, agents don’t even need to put callers on hold to find answers to their questions.

Think a knowledge base could help you support your call center agents? Learn everything you need to know about knowledge bases — including what they are and who needs them — in the article below.

Ultimate Guide to Knowledge Base Software Guide

About Jonathan DeVore

Customer Success