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How to hire a call center agent

Apr 01, 2022

No surprise to employers: finding great talent remains a considerable challenge in the U.S. as we move from winter into spring.

How huge? CNBC in March 2022 reported that while the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in February, with job gains far stronger than expected, it’s still difficult for businesses—especially those with fewer than 50 employees—to find and hire talent.

More than half (52 percent) of small business owners said it was harder to find qualified candidates than it was a year ago.

This difficulty is manifesting itself in common ways in the contact center sector:

Customers are saying service is poor.

  • Ninety-one percent of consumers in a 2021 survey said they had experienced poor customer service within the last six months.
  • Seventy percent said it was harder to reach a live agent than it was at the pandemic’s beginning.
  • Fifty-six percent said the most common type of poor customer service was a long wait time.

There is some good news: the CNBC story quoted an economist who said that we could be “optimistic about this year” because employment is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels. If the economy continues to grow, we could see “labor market health” reach levels are seen before the pandemic “this summer.”

One definitely can hope!

In the meantime, here are some strategies to help you hire great contact center agents NOW.

Create your “ideal candidate” profile.

Take a look at your very successful agents to determine what personalities, work backgrounds, and soft and tech skills best fit your center’s culture.

How do their key personality traits drive their behavior? How do they handle pressure and stress? How willing are they to tackle learning new skills?

Consider also creating an attribute list of those agents who didn’t perform well to know what not to look for.

  • Focus on your job ads.

Have you seen the Domino’s Pizza ad highlighting a young owner of two locations? In the commercial, she explains that she started part-time at age 17, and now, at age 27, she owns two restaurants.

If that isn’t a recruitment great ad, we don’t know what is!

Here’s why: It shows a potential extraordinary future!

Of course, you can’t offer job candidates future ownership of a call center. Still, you certainly can provide something that shows forward/positive career/professional/financial potential if someone becomes your employee.

As you create the ad, you’ll list the requirements, skills needed, and more.

But what’s in it for the job candidate? What will they get out of working for you?

Do you offer great attendance bonuses? A relatively large raise after X number of weeks or months? Do you offer tuition reimbursement? Do you offer the chance to move into management or a supervisory role even if someone doesn’t have a college degree?

Also, don’t be afraid to be creative with your job ads: if you have someone who now manages your call center who started as an agent – or if you have several – consider showcasing this, particularly if you intentionally promote from within.

Consider providing a link in each job ad/description to a video that showcases employees who—like the Domino’s owner—have improved their lives tremendously as a result of working for you.

  • Be VERY clear regarding responsibilities, expectations, and pay rates in your postings.

Doing so will help weed out those who wouldn’t make your cut before you ever have to look at their resume, let alone interview them.

As for declaring pay rates, this is becoming more common, and it’s a great idea: candidates see from the get-go what you can offer and – and this is critical – if it’s attractive enough for them.

  • Consider hosting a “career day.”

This will help candidates—particularly those who have never worked for a contact center before—see what the work is like.

This can work even if you have a fully remote agent workforce: new-to-the-career candidates can get a sense of what it’s like as they watch and listen to a current agent answer customer questions and issues.

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