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Four Effective Agent Hiring Strategies

Hiring and retaining high-performing agents is a concern for just about every customer care organization, even those with low turnover. The growth of the omnichannel contact center is increasing the competition for talented employees putting further strain on overtaxed recruiting teams.

Employers are continually challenged with hiring applicants with the right skills to deliver an exceptional customer experience and who are likely to return the investment on their recruitment and training.  Yet, today’s job applicants have more employment choices, have higher expectations for job satisfaction, and demand more from their employers.

Delivering an exceptional customer experience lays in the hands your agents. Improving the hiring process increases the overall performance of your operation, helps ensure your customers receive the service they expect, and reduces the cost of providing that service. Here are four strategies you can use today to achieve those goals.


Make it snappy! Research conducted by Texas Christian University and the University of Arizona and published in Personnel Psychology concludes that the timing of a job offer has a direct impact on acceptance, performance, and employee turnover. Job applicants are more likely to accept job offers that are made quickly and that timely decision tends to have a positive effect on the prospective employee’s performance once on the job. Conversely, the longer the process drags out, the more likely it is that the applicant will form a negative impact of the company which subsequently spills over to the employee’s long-term performance.

Given that competition for qualified agent labor can be fierce, getting to a decision quickly means that your company also has the best chance to snag the best talent – the early bird gets the worm. You should eliminate any superfluous process steps in order to come to the hiring decision quickly. And, once you make it, communicate it to the applicant immediately!

Let them know! Do candidates view your hiring process to be a “black hole” – a place where applications go in, but hiring decisions don’t come out? According to a 2013 national survey by CareerBuilder, over 75% of applicants never hear a thing from a hiring company. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. Yet, eighty-two percent of these applicants expect SOME kind of response, even if it’s a perfunctory “thanks, but no thanks.”

Carefully examine your hiring practices to ensure they reflect your company’s values and portray a positive image of your brand. The sheer number of applicants probably makes it impossible for your hiring team to respond to each candidate personally. However even just an automated, cursory e-mail to each applicant explaining your final selection decision can go a long way.

Get everyone involved. You may have a team of recruiters evaluating candidates and making a final hiring decision based solely on the requirements set forth in the employment requisition. And this may happen with little, if any, additional involvement from the hiring manager. Not calibrating with this key stakeholder results in poor-quality and/or short-tenured hires, which adversely impacts operational performance.

Record applicant interviews and share the most promising candidates with key colleagues to ensure correct hiring decisions are made. It also helps calibrate the recruiting team – in much the same way as your quality assurance teams are calibrated – so that each candidate is evaluated consistently.

Use your crystal ball. Companies spend a lot of time and money – the generally accepted industry average is $6,500 – hiring each new agent. This is time and money wasted if the new hire doesn’t work out. So, how do you know which applicants will perform well before you hire them? Absent perfect foresight, big data and predictive analytics can help identify those with the greatest potential and minimize the risk of a bad hire.

Predictive analytics compares the tenure and performance of successful agents with data collected about them during the hiring phase of their employment. You probably collect much of this information already. This comparison yields a data-driven model that serves as a template for evaluating subsequent applicants. Those that fit the model will generally perform well against the key metrics of the organization and should be moved to the top of this list for hiring consideration.

Streamlining your hiring process means that you have the right agents in the right place at the right time doing the right things to deliver an exceptional customer experience. In next week’s installment, we’ll examine how to effectively onboard and facilitate ongoing employee engagement.