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Recruiting telephone staff – feature

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This article was contributed by Colette Johnson, Training Director at Learning Curve.


Very often, your customers will make instant judgements about your company based on one short conversation with one individual. It is vital that all Telephone Users are giving a professional and positive image of the organisation.

Recruitment mistakes can be very costly and time consuming – many managers fall into the trap of simply choosing the best applicant out of the current batch of C.V’s. Whilst this may fulfill a short term need, the long term effects of Bad Recruitment Decisions (BRD’s) can be devastating for the team, department, company and customers.


How do we attract the right people?

One of the most common complaints these days is that employers cannot find Telemarketers, Telephone Salespeople or good Customer Care staff.

Many employers have unrealistic expectations of Telemarketing. At best it can be motivating, exciting, rewarding and financially beneficial. At worst it can be boring and monotonous.

In order to attract the right people we need to make the job, environment and rewards attractive! Here are some points to consider before starting the recruitment process:

- If you have been unsuccessful in recruiting for a certain position, consider changing the job role. Could it be filled by 2 part timers instead of 1 full timer? Many experienced and skilled parents look for part time working hours that fit in with family life.

- How are you rewarding the Telemarketer? Think about recognition and reward, bonus structure plus incentive schemes wherever possible and realistic targets provide the Telemarketer with a challenge

- Explore possibilities for teamwork. It can be lonely sitting in an office with nobody else to interact with.

- Do you have a good database? It is frustrating for a Telemarketer to work with an inaccurate database

- How do you deal with administration? Leave the selling to the salespeople and give everything else to an administrator.

- Can you make the job varied and interesting? Can Telemarketers visit customers from time to time, or attend exhibitions?

- Are you offering induction training and on-going training? Investment = personal value

- Is there any opportunity for progression should they should wish to do so?


Testing telephone skills

If your customers make contact with you (or you with them) over the telephone, telephone skills are initially the most important consideration when recruiting. It is amazing how many companies ask for written applications from people who are applying for a telephone role.

The most effective way of testing telephone skills is to conduct Telephone Interviews .

If you are recruiting Telephone Salespeople, it stands to reason that if an individual can ‘sell’ themselves convincingly over the telephone to a prospective employer, they may also have the right attitude and skills to sell your products.


Conducting telephone interviews

Telephone interviews last 5 to 10 minutes, during which time a decision is made as to whether the applicant should go through to the next recruitment stage i.e. formal interview. You have several options for dealing with unsuccessful applicants:

- Send unsuccessful applicants a letter of rejection.

- Tell applicants at the outset that you will only be letting them know if they have been successful, i.e. if they don't hear from you, they were unsuccessful.

- Tell them at the end of the call that they have been unsuccessful.


Questions to ask during the telephone interview

Here are some suggestions for telephone interviews:
Firstly, check that the applicant has time to answer a few questions. Apart from the practical details; name, address etc, you may find the following questions useful:
- Current position
- Salary expectations
- Days / hours available for work
- How long have you been in your current job?
- Why are you looking to leave?
- What attracts you to this position?
- What relevant experience do you have?
- What are your strengths?
- What would you say you need to improve on?
- Do you have any questions?

Interview arranged Day: Time:

Interviewers comments:

Telephone interview rating (marks out of 10)


Guidelines for successful telephone interviewing

What we are trying to assess in the informal telephone interview is the applicant’s conversational style.

We are judging the applicant on their voice tone, manner, ability to handle and clarify questions, ‘think on their feet’, their listening skills and overall manner. The chances are that if we like them, so will our customers.

It may seem harsh to reject an applicant on the basis of a short telephone conversation but remember that your customers form an impression of your business very quickly and this is often based on a telephone call to one individual. You need people who are able to project the right image very quickly.


Other ways to test suitability
Apart from formal interview questions, you may wish to set the applicant a task such as gathering information about your competitors and presenting it back during the interview. (Give them approximately one week to complete this, prior to interview)

Numeracy and literacy tests can also be used to assess suitability for specific jobs, as can typing / keyboard skills tests

You may wish to ask the applicant to take part in a role play, to assess their sales skills but do make sure you put them at ease and make them feel as comfortable as possible. Role play is known to instill fear into the hearts of grown men! It needs to be properly thought out and well structured for it to work well in interview situations.

Finally, here’s a thought for those companies who successfully recruit Telephone Salespeople, Customer Care staff and Telemarketers… but only to find that they leave soon afterwards.

As part of the interview process, take the applicant into the department and let them sit and listen to some ‘live’ calls. No matter what you tell them in the interview about what the job will be like, this is reality. Let them spend about 30 minutes chatting to the people doing the job , then ask them afterwards for their feedback. It may be necessary to brief the team beforehand just to make sure they are their usual positive selves!

At this early stage you may get people dropping out of the process because they’ve discovered that the job wasn’t what they had envisaged. Far better for this to happen now than when you have already employed them. You will also be ensuring that the people accepting the position are fully aware of the type of calls they will be required to handle and therefore in the best position to start the job with a positive and receptive attitude.

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