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What interview tips could you offer for a customer service position where heavy interaction with the customer is required?

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Face-to-face interviewing is the most time-consuming aspect of hiring. So using a process that results in face-to-face interviewing of only the few "best of the best" applicants makes good sense. Using a phone interview to determine basic employability factors with likely looking candidates is a big time saver; and whether the employee customer interactions will be in person or by phone, you can most objectively assess each individual’s communications skills by phone--especially if you listen carefully (i.e., no physical distractions). A few examples of basic employability questions are:

1. Tell me about yourself--current situation and why you are interested in leaving your current employer. Tell me why you are seeking a change. What are you looking for?
2. Tell me about your past job(s): type of company, size, revenue, your duties, etc. (Ask why s/he left each past position.)
3. Tell me about your interfaces with "customers."
a. Give an example of an outstanding outcome.
b. Give an example of a less-than-outstanding outcome.
4. Tell me about your experience/training in or exposure to (actual job responsibilities or requirements from the position. Specifications should be inserted here).

Another huge timesaver is doing skills and personality testing. Keep in mind that objective, quantifiable data handily trump the observational acumen of most interviewers. Inexpensive but comprehensive online tests are readily available (e.g., offers more than 800 tests; each takes about 20 minutes to complete, and results in detailed reports). If a great number of your hires need to have the same kinds or levels of skills, you might want to buy testing programs to run at your site.

Following are a few generic questions you might want to include when you meet in person with a potential finalist. Be sure to include questions focused on the actual qualifications required, and the skills and characteristics that will most likely result in the new hire’s success. Prepare a standard interview for each job for which you hire, and use the appropriate standardized interview with everyone. Keep copious notes. Make your determination as quickly as possible. Otherwise, days or weeks later, you may not be able to sort out which candidate most impressed you.

1. In what area would you say your strongest professional knowledge and expertise lie? Why do you feel this way?
2. What are your least positive traits or professional weaknesses?
3. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict?
4. Cite a realistic situation that could arise in the actual job and ask: "How would you solve this problem?"
5. What type(s) of thing(s) in the work place make(s) you angry? Why?
6. Tell me about your flexibility. Give me an example or two.
7. Give me an example or two of your resourcefulness.

I hope this is helpful to you in selecting the best customer-service professionals. Good luck!

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