Finding Top Call Center Talent While Social Distancing

How COVID-19 changes the SMB contact center hiring process—and how it doesn’t

Call center recruiting has changed in recent years. Whereas companies could, in the past, focus primarily on posting openings on popular job boards and expect to fill the seats, the increased competition for talent has led many contact centers to up their game.

Maximizing hiring impact was already challenging for many SMB contact centers, even before COVID-19. It’s okay if you had been planning to upgrade your processes and got derailed as you figured out how to manage your suddenly remote call center agents. We’ve all faced similar challenges!

The pandemic needn’t undermine your ambitions, however. In fact, it might free you to get creative in ways that help you stand out in this unique call center job market. For call center hiring during a pandemic, all you need is the right road map.

COVID-19 impacts on hiring call center agents

So far, the novel coronavirus has been a blessing and curse for call center recruiting. There are certainly more candidates looking for contact center jobs than there were a year ago, but there are new challenges as well.

Most call centers with in-person screening practices have had to revisit how they do things. What’s more, the need to accelerate hiring hasn’t gone away. The high unemployment rate means that applicants are likely to say “yes” to the first offer they receive. To land great talent, therefore, you must not only attract the best people and identify those with the right skills, you also need to get to the offer stage rapidly.

Here are some ideas to help make all of that happen.

#1 Present an appealing employer brand

Even though the job market is more employer-friendly these days, that doesn’t mean you can take a break on making a good first impression. It’s in your best interest if candidates really want to work for you. Plus, a prospect’s perception of the company during the hiring process will affect how they can build employee engagement in their first days and weeks on the job.

An attractive recruitment website and dynamic social media presence have become central to the recruiter’s toolkit. It’s a good idea to evaluate and curate your online presence, if you haven’t already done so.

How it changes with COVID-19

People love to work at companies that value them. If you’re taking specific steps to protect employee health and safety or offer some fun interaction for the call center’s remote workers who are isolated at home, consider sharing stories online. Doing so will give candidates greater confidence that you’re the type of employer they can trust in this environment.

#2 Apply new skills tests

Some call centers are using online psychographic testing and other virtual assessments, but don’t worry if you haven’t invested in these tools. You can still get a reliable idea of what each prospect brings to the table.

Consider which skills are most important for the particular role, such as problem-solving, written communications abilities, calm confidence, and so on. Then find ways to build in opportunities for candidates to demonstrate these capabilities.

For example, send an email with instructions for a task, such as leaving a voicemail with particular details. In just 60 seconds, you can check for professional phone demeanor but also see if the candidate can follow directions.

How it changes with COVID-19

Empathy may be the most important agent skill right now. Many customers are facing new pressures and are demanding more of the companies they interact with.

You may want to make special effort to gauge empathy as part of the agent hiring process. Maybe you could ask during an interview how the candidate’s life was affected by the pandemic. Then follow up with a question about how that experience would inform the way they serve a customer in a particular scenario.

#3 Interview smarter

Sometimes our interview techniques get a little stale. We ask the same questions of so many candidates, the responses just aren’t as informative anymore.

If you feel like interviews aren’t separating the wheat from the chaff, it might be time to mix it up. Try out some new questions that make candidates solve problems on the fly or explain complex information. Or involve some new people in screenings to gain a different perspective.

How it changes with COVID-19

In-person interviews are not an option for many organizations right now, and videoconferencing doesn’t always provide the same level of insight.

This is a challenge to be sure, but it also means there’s almost nothing to lose by experimenting. Maybe you should upend your interview format altogether, or even question whether live interviews can be eliminated.

There are platforms, for example, that allow candidates to record themselves answering standard interview questions. The recruitment team can then review the videos at their convenience. If you’ve been having difficulty fitting in interviews, this could be a way around the COVID-19 scheduling snafus.

#4 Respect the candidate’s time (and your own)

Some recruitment processes are just too long, and good people can get frustrated and discouraged along the way—or snatched up by a competitor. Examine the steps in your process and make sure every single one provides essential information for the hiring choice.

Focus particular attention anywhere you lose a large number of candidates. Were you unclear about expectations, did you fail to provide good instructions, or were you slow to update prospects that they were still in the running for the job? Find the leaks and plug them. 

How it changes with COVID-19

A virtual process for call center hiring during a pandemic typically demands more self-direction from candidates, who may need to do a voicemail audition, sign up online for an interview time, and log in to a testing portal. Offer tools, such as checklists, to let candidates know what they need to do, how long each step will take, and when they’ll hear back.

Conclusion

Call center hiring during the pandemic isn’t a complete departure from recruiting at any other time. Applying best practices for today’s connected world will help you communicate an authentic employer brand, get to know candidates’ skills and capabilities, and accelerate call center hiring decisions.

Getting great talent onboard is just the first step, however. If you’re successful in building excitement and buy-in during this stage, you’ll want to carry your hard-won contact center workforce engagement beyond the first day on the job.

Fortunately, we have some ideas to help you do that in our webinar, “How to Build an Employee Engagement Strategy that Lasts Through and Beyond Uncertain Times.” Check that out when you have a moment.

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