The basic call center interview questions and application process are pretty much the same or similar across the board. Some call center companies employ different strategies depending on the employees or agents they need. If it’s just your first time to be interviewed for a call center job (or for any other job for that matter), interview jitters are very normal.
I’ve gone through quite a few interviews myself – both as an interviewee and an interviewer. When I get interviewed, I still get nervous each time. But once the interview starts, I’d usually begin to relax and keep going. Most importantly, I always go back to the reasons I’m applying for a job which are to get hired by a good company and start earning money.
This article outlines the basic call center interview questions and application process based on my experiences and what I’ve known from colleagues, friends, and other people. Keep in mind that the order of what happens during the application varies from one company to another but the basics are always going to be the same.
Good to know: A lot of companies already employ phone interviews because it’s more convenient and faster. This also depends on their company procedures and guidelines. In some cases, you may experience either straight phone interviews, all face to face interviews, or a combination of phone and face to face. Also, this doesn’t mean that you will go through all the application stages listed here. It all depends on the company.
Table of Contents
1. Initial Phone Interview
Usually, this happens when you apply online, submit your resume during job fairs, or when an employee refers you to his or her company. There are two things that can happen here.
This is probably the easiest but I found that most applicants still get nervous when getting a call from a company. I’ve experienced doing recruitment calls for about one week when I didn’t have training classes to handle. The interviewer will just ask you if you are still interested in applying and if you say yes, he or she will ask super basic questions about yourself. Nothing that you can’t answer, really.
- Your complete name (for verification)
- Birthday (to determine your age)
- High school or college graduate (no need to worry because a lot of companies accept undergrads as long as you are not a minor and you’ve got skills)
- Work experience/s if you have any
After this simple interview and if you are initially qualified, the interviewer will then set up an appointment schedule for an examination or your next interviews. Again, these could be over the phone or face to face.
b) HR Interview
Some companies will proceed directly with the formal initial interview right after verifying your personal information such as the examples above. The HR interviewer will ask you if you have time to answer some questions, you know just in case you are inside the jeep battling the usual Cebu traffic. You can always politely request for a call back if you are in an uncomfortable situation. Because who wants to be interviewed like that?
During this interview, it’s possible that a communication coach or specialist will listen or sit in to assess your verbal communication skills such as grammar, pronunciation, and interaction. He or she will not interrupt your interview so do your best to focus on the interview.
Note: If you are a walk-in applicant, you may have to wait for the next application phase especially if there are a lot of other applicants. Some companies have one-day hiring process while others may ask you to come back for another exam or interview.
Here are the usual questions in no particular order.
Tell me about yourself. (No need to repeat what’s on your resume, explain your behavior towards work.)
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
What is customer satisfaction for you?
Why do you want to work for our company?
Why should we hire you?
Why do you want to work in a call center?
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
How do you handle stress and work pressure?
Are you willing to work night shifts?
Where/how do you see yourself five years from now?
How do you handle an irate or angry customer?
In your resume, you wrote that you’ve worked for (name of company), can you please tell me more about your tasks?
2. Aptitude Test
An aptitude test is a type of assessment designed to determine your abilities in performing industry-related tasks. Most likely a cognitive aptitude test will be used to assess your problem solving ability, critical thinking, learning ability, and attention to details. This can be done either online or pen and paper.
3. Personality Test
This is like a self-assessment or a personality job fit kind of test. It’s used to measure your behavioral traits and tendencies to see if you are fit for the culture of the company. Just answer the questions as honestly as you can.
There are also personality tests specific for customer service, technical support, or sales. So depending on the company, you may be asked to answer different tests to see where you fit best (especially if you don’t have work experiences).
4. Skills Test
A skills test is obviously to test basic skills you need to perform your tasks.
a) Basic Skills
Grammar, vocabulary, numerical, comprehension, and/or communication skills – these can measure your trainability, learning ability, and attention to details
b) Computer Literacy & Internet Knowledge
- Using internet browsers, applications, word processing programs
- Microsoft Word, Excel, or Powerpoint proficiency tests
- Typing test or data entry test – to measure speed and accuracy
c) Listening test
Listening is very important especially if you are working for a voice account (meaning you’re actually taking calls). You will encounter several telephone line and connection issues that will test your patience and ability to listen for keywords, as well as rephrase a statement or a question to understand exactly what the customer needs.
Based on my experience, you will be asked to listen to a call recording, then you’ll need to answer questions about the call. Don’t forget to request for an extra paper.
*Some of the call center skills test that I haven’t personally experienced are Versant and SVAR so I won’t write about these topics here. Versant is basically designed to measure the English-speaking ability of a non-native English speaker and is reported to have inadequacies and loopholes. However, it’s still widely-used in the Philippines. For tips on how to go about it, you may read this article.
SVAR, on the other hand, is Spoken English Assessment Tool that evaluates the pronunciation and English fluency of the applicant. For details about this, you may go through this article.
5. Role Play or Phone Simulation
A lot of companies employ role play or phone simulation to assess your call handling skills. Most likely, you will undergo an account-specific role play or phone sim. In my case, my phone sim was about travel so I supposed I’d be profiled for a travel account, but during the job offer, I was told that I was profiled for a financial/banking account.
You never really know especially companies with several accounts or clients. You can be transferred from one account to another if the need arises. On my end, I stayed with the banking account all my life even though I don’t exactly love numbers. I just grew with it and eventually liked it. I did remember being asked if I want to be in customer service or sales, and I chose customer service without a doubt because I’m never good with sales.
Since apparently you aren’t trained yet during the interview, the person who does the phone sim will likely focus on how you answer, and your common sense. In most instances, you will be given a guide to study for a few minutes and the phone sim will revolve around that guide, so that’s where you will base your answers.
6. Final Interview
Whew! That was a long read but if you’ve come this far, that means you really are serious about this so let’s get this going!
Final interview is the make or break scenario. If you pass this, then you’re good as hired. If not, two things are possible. One, you will be reprofiled or be interviewed for another account. This happens if your skills are not fit for the account you’re originally interviewed for. Example, you are initially profiled for a financial account but after the interview/s, they decided you will work best in a travel or telecom account.
If the first one isn’t possible then the second is the “thank you, you may re-apply after 6 months” part. But you want to get hired so keep reading! The final interview is possibly done by the hiring manager, training manager, operations manager, or any head of the account or program. Some of the questions from your initial interview will likely be asked again. Actually, the questions from initial and final may overlap.
The possibilities are endless though, because this time the questions will be more tailored to your work experiences (if you have any) and to the values of the account. You can expect situational or behavioral questions here. You will be assessed based on call center related competencies. It’s crucial that you answer with specific examples of when you have shown a certain competency.
To answer these questions, use the STAR FORMAT:
a) Situation – Describe the situation.
b) Task – Describe the task you had to complete.
b) Action – Describe the action or steps you took to complete the task.
c) Result – Share the results of your actions (like what happened, what have you achieved)
“Tell me about a time when you were able to help out a team member.”
“Describe a situation when you felt a team member was not contributing enough. What steps did you take?”
“Describe a situation when you had to deal with demands from an unreasonable customer.”
“Tell me about a time when you went the extra mile for a customer.”
“Describe a situation when you had to calm down a very angry customer.”
“Describe a complex problem you recently had to sort out for a customer.”
“Tell me about a stressful interaction you had with a team member/supervisor, how did you handle it?”
This is how I’d answer the first question:
“Tell me about a time when you were able to help out a team member.”
“I had a teammate who was having a hard time hitting her AHT (average call handling time) and she was upset because it seemed that she couldn’t do it anymore.Since I was hitting the target for AHT, I felt it would be best as her teammate to help her out in achieving her AHT target as well. I helped her with phone simulations during our breaks and after shift so she could practice effective ways to answer a customer efficiently. I also shared with her my best practice such as being direct to the point when speaking with the customer as well as listening to the customer’s concern properly to avoid repetition. With our daily practice, her AHT decreased day by day until she got more comfortable with her scripting.”
If you don’t have call center experience, use an example from when you were still in school. That’s what I did! The example I shared was when I had to create a special project with my classmates in college for our Crisis Communication class. Or if you came from a different industry, say you worked at Jollibee, you can use an experience with your workmates as an example, and make it work-related.
So as you see, I just followed the four-step structure I outlined above. Follow the structure in every behavioral or situational question and you’ll never go wrong. Of course, you have to share the positive results, and if the results are negative, explain it in such a way that you were able to turn the negative into a positive learning experience.
It’s important that you practice answering the questions at home. Practice with a partner if possible so that you’ll get used to it. Good luck and I wish you all the best! Don’t forget to check this out -> Practical Tips to Win Your Call Center Interview. 🙂