Preparing for a call center agent job interview: What skills are required?

Donna Fluss lists the skills managers are looking for during an interview for a call center agent position.

I am looking for a job as a call center agent, and I'd like to prepare for the interview process. What type of questions will be asked, and what skills will the interviewer be looking for? Any advice you can share would be appreciated.

The call center is a dynamic and fast-paced department. It's a highly-structured operating environment where constant change is the norm. Having said that, a typical call center agent candidate profile includes the following skill set requirements:

  • Excellent oral and written communication and interpersonal skills
  • Professional and courteous demeanor
  • Ability to multi-task in a fast-paced, high-volume environment
  • Excellent problem-resolution skills
  • Strong systems skills
  • Ability to learn, retain and apply large amounts of product, procedure, policy and system information
  • Ability to meet established productivity, effectiveness, training, sales (if applicable) and quality goals
  • Ability to work in a highly-structured environment – take scheduled lunches and breaks
  • Ability to accept and incorporate constructive feedback to improve performance
  • Flexibility in responding to change or business needs
  • Ability to accommodate non-traditional work schedules
  • Patience
  • Willingness to help peers
  • Excellent attendance and punctuality
  • Good team player
  • Self-starter

    While it's not a requirement, it's also an asset for a candidate to like people and enjoy helping them.

    The interview process will be focused on evaluating how closely and to what extent you, or any job applicant, meet the skill set of the candidate profile. How this is accomplished can vary greatly among organizations.

    Some organizations use a competency-based assessment tool as part of the hiring process to evaluate call center agent candidates. These online tools assess skills as well as personality traits that are critical to being a successful, happy and satisfied call center agent. Simulation tools – online applications that simulate the actual customer service environment – are another way that organizations can assess your ability to perform as a call center agent. Still others may use behavior-based interview questions. These questions are designed to elicit specific examples from candidate's previous job(s) where they successfully handled situations that they are likely to encounter as a call center agent. For example, a behavior-based question might be, "Please tell me about a specific time when you had to deal with a difficult or unreasonable request from a customer."

    For additional information about starting a job as a call center agent, I suggest that you read an article by my consultancy, DMG Consulting, entitled, Common Mistakes that First-Time Call Center Agents Make.

This was first published in May 2008

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