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Looking for Hires in All the Wrong Places?

(This article originally appeared in the Australian Teleservices (ATA) August newsletter…)

I have heard many a contact centre recruiter bemoan the “lack of quality applicants” for the roles they need to fill. Certainly it is true – excellence is always a rare commodity and finding best fit candidates who will stay in the job and perform to deliver positive return on your recruiting and training investment is always a challenge.

But at the same time, I personally have witnessed numerous real life business examples where the prevailing wisdom on what makesa quality candidate was off the mark. And we were able to prove it.

So what was it that prevailing wisdom said was most important? Prior related work experience. And sure, it seems reasonable that the best contact centre candidates would be those who had previously worked in a contact centre.

Based on this reasoning, recruiters would scan resumes for that experience and discard all those that lacked it.

But a funny thing happened when we started screening candidates based not on prior work experience but rather on an assessment of the key personality and critical reasoning competencies that research showed were most important to be a successful contact centre rep – things like Customer Focus, Problem Solving and Sales Focus.

In every case where a company switched from resume review to talent measurement assessments, recruiters reported back that they were now looking at people they would have never previously considered – and hiring them! And the crop of assessment hires outperformed the “prior work experience” hires across a wide range of measures – in ratings by managers, in taking less time before they started hitting their targets, even in their sales conversion rates.

The recruiters in question were surprised, though we were not. Numerous studies, including a seminal 20-year study conducted by the Harvard Business Review with over 360,000 participants all produced the same conclusion: Individuals with no experience in a position are as equally likely to succeed as individuals with 2 or more years experience in a similar position.

The conclusion is clear. When judging candidates, you can’t rely on what they have done. You’ll get a far more accurate insight on their ability to succeed in the role by assessing their skills, behaviours and motivations to determine what they can do. This is especially important as the ascent of social media is changing the job description for contact centre team members and requiring them to do new things such as interact with customers on Facebook, Twitter and the web – things that probably wouldn’t have been required in a past contact centre position.

And, if a candidate’s lack of prior contact centre still makes you nervous, consider that you can confirm their ability to perform by having them complete a simulation of the specific job you want them to perform.

So stop focusing on the CV/work experience past and start using talent measurement assessments and job simulations to hire for the future. You will likely find that not only is there not a lack of quality candidates, but also start finding and hiring better quality candidates.

About the Author:

John Austin is an Organisational Psychologist & CEO of Talegent, Inc., a Sydney-based provider of talent measurement for pre-employment screening and employee development and an ATA sponsoring member. Previously he launched Talent Technologies which was acquired by Previsor, and held senior management roles for SHL.

You can find out more about Talegent’s solutions for contact centre recruiting at:

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