My Call Center Story: Chapter 1 – The Application

“Manila or Cebu”, asked the HR personnel. I said, “Cebu.”

I was giving out resumes to company hiring managers during a job fair held by our university. Along with some friends and colleagues, we took turns to be called for a short interview. I was due to graduate by April 22, 2009 after four years in college, and even before graduating, I wanted to have a real full-time job right away.

I remember giving my resumes to only three companies. Two were call centers, and one was a retail company. Company A asked for my hobbies and interests. Company B asked where I wanted to relocate, and yes, I said Cebu. I answered without hesitation. When I heard Manila, all I could ever think of was traffic and pollution. Cebu is nearer. I have a cousin who’s based there, and a few people I knew whom I assumed also knew me. Company C just told me they would call me.

A few weeks later, I received a call from Company A inviting me for an exam and interview. When I looked at the application form, it asked, “Are you willing to work on holidays? Are you willing to work at night? Are you willing to work on weekends?” And I answered NO to all. I only knew a few things about call centers. Okay, I just thought we’re supposed to take calls from angry Americans. Boy was I so innocent.

After taking the exams, I was told they’d just call me. A few weeks passed, then I received a call. But it was from Company B this time. My other friend got a call back from Company A, so I supposed I wasn’t accepted. I wasn’t particularly sad. I kinda knew why, although I was never told the reason. Who would want to hire someone who’s not willing to work on holidays, weekends, and at night?! For a call center? Now you know what I mean.

So I went to Company B’s exam and interview at downtown. I studied at University of the Philippines (Mindanao) and it’s located in the far side of Mintal, Davao City. It’s like an hour away from downtown. I went alone. Along with nine other applicants, I was led to the exam room.

First was the listening test. I can clearly remember that the HR personnel said, “There are two calls. The first call is choppy so you have to listen carefully. The second call is clear.” When the test started, it was actually the other way around. The second call was the one with a choppy line. Good thing I was able to take notes of all the numbers which true enough, were asked on the test questionnaire.

Second, typing test. Before the instructions were given, one applicant started the typing test. The HR personnel got annoyed, and asked the applicant to step out. She wasn’t allowed to continue with the entire test anymore. Lesson learned: always wait for instructions and go signal.

I was quite confident with my typing speed so I didn’t really worry so much. BUT! But, in the middle of the timed typing test, my phone rang! And I panicked but I answered it! I totally forgot the test was timed. Someone called from GMA network. Being a Communication Arts student and a Rotaract member, our organization was always tapped to assist with Kapuso Fans Day every Araw ng Dabaw celebration.

I hurriedly whispered to the lady on the phone that “I’m doing something” so she said she’d just call back. I realized again that I was doing a timed typing test! So I had to type like a madman so I could finish and pass. It didn’t help that the room was overly cold! I wasn’t prepared for that indoor winter sonata.

Even though there was no instruction to turn off our phones or switch them to silent, I really thought that was it. I’d fail. But there was still another exam. It was the usual grammar, comprehension, and English test. If there’s one thing I know I can do well, it’s an English test. I wasn’t expecting so much but at least, I was able to answer.

After all the exams were done, the HR personnel started calling names which I wasn’t a part of. He led them down the stairs. When he came back, he said that the three of us who were left would advance to the interview stage! I was so happy!!!

It was getting late in the afternoon, but I waited for the first two applicants to finish the interviews. I was the last. I was led to a small room with one computer and a hand phone with a headset. It was sooooo cold. I was shaking! I was told to wait because someone would call me. I was given about 15 minutes to study a travel website.

I remember navigating the website, studying it as much as I could with the limited time that was given. I was still shaking from the cold. But I managed. Once my time was up, I was told to greet the caller “Thanks for calling. My name is Rea. How can I help you today?” So I did, my voice confident, or trying to be.

The caller was a lady. She asked several questions like what flights are available, what time, how much would it cost her, and all other stuff about traveling. All the details she asked could just be found on the website so I really just needed to look carefully. After a few minutes, she said thanks and goodbye.

I didn’t know how to properly close that call. So I just said “Okay, you’re welcome. Thank you!” or something like that. Ladies and gentlemen, I had just endured my first ever legit phone simulation. Wow! That was something.

After that, I was told that the lady would call again. She was the one who interviewed me too. I can’t remember the exact questions anymore. But I do remember her asking situational questions or what I’d do in different situations. I also remember talking about my thesis and my Crisis Communication subject.

She also asked me the following questions:

Why did you choose Cebu?
“Because I have friends there.” (I really didn’t have, but I knew some people including my first cousin.)

Are you willing to work on shifts?
“Yes.” (I’ve learned from Company A.)

How long do you see yourself working in the company?
“At least two years.” (I wasn’t really sure I would last two years at all. I was thinking two months. But I said two years.)

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I really forgot my answer but it has something to do with moving up or getting promoted.

If you get hired, how soon can you start?
“I wish to attend my graduation rites on April 22, 2009. So maybe anytime after that.” (This happened March 2009 and about a month before graduation.)

That time, I didn’t know how long the interview lasted. Good thing, the HR personnel adjusted the AC after I told him it was so cold. I was able to complete the interview without freezing. A few minutes after the interview, he told me “You’re actually hired. Congratulations!” Out of the nine applicants that day, I was the only one who got hired. Another applicant, a nursing student, could have been hired too but he couldn’t start working in a month.

I wasn’t sure that time how to react! I knew I was giddy. Yehey! So I smiled shyly and said, “Aww, thank you!” Then he told me that he would call me in a few weeks for my job offer.

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