How to Recruit the Right Call Centre Agent


With a renewed focus on customer satisfaction and attrition rates on the rise, there has never been a more important time to recruit the right agents.

But how do we find people that have got the ‘right stuff’? One of our readers, Customer Service Director – Kevin Stillwell provides a few pointers.

Remaining calm under pressure

For me, the key attributes in a call centre agent are: the ability to remain calm under pressure and confident, clear communications skills.

Competency-based interviewing

The candidates may well be comfortable talking about their previous experience in an interview situation but it’s also important to test the agent’s key competencies and skills in a live role-play scenario, making the interview process interactive and realistic to the environment that they would be working in. At interview stage, any previous experience the agent draws on should also be backed up with real-life examples of how they handled an issue or challenge – this can help highlight any potential weaknesses to look for at the role-play scenario stage.

The key skills to look for

At Webloyalty we test the following skills:

  • General conversational ability and call control
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Ability to communicate clearly and confidently
  • Ability to follow an enquiry through from the initial call to any follow-up correspondence
  • Attention to detail
  • Grammar and spelling

Recruit in numbers

Having just gone through a number of recruitment drives for our call centre in Sevenoaks, I would always advise to recruit in numbers if possible and never hire one agent at a time. Hire in small groups – around five is the best number – this allows the new agents to go through the training and induction process together where they will benefit from learning from one another.

This method also gives them a bond with other new joiners so they feel more confident to ‘go live’ on the call centre floor at the same time. It’s important to note that the training needs to be fun, interactive and engaging for the agents – a group environment where they can ask ‘silly’ questions and feel comfortable doing so works well.

Honesty is the best policy

At interview stage be clear on exactly what will be expected of the agent in the role and be as open as you can about your company culture and policies – if they find anything out further down the track that they feel uncomfortable with, then retaining the agent will be difficult and the recruitment process may need to start again.

Invest in the induction stage

The average staff turnover for call-centres is around 9 per cent, but there are a number of ways in which staff retention can be improved. For example, I would always ensure that time and money is invested at the training/induction stage to embed the agent in to the company culture and ensure they are fully prepared for their first live appearance on the call centre floor – the less surprises they have at the beginning, the more they are likely to stay committed to the company. Around five days of training would be my recommendation.

Make your external recruitment consultants part of your extended team

When using an external recruitment company I believe it’s important to choose one that can become a long-term partner; one that knows you and your business inside out and understands what makes the perfect candidate for your call centre.

Every call centre faces different challenges – so there is not necessarily a formula for the ‘ideal agent’ as every business is unique. An external recruitment consultant needs to be an extension of your team – not a short-term fix. Invest time in briefing them properly from the outset regarding your needs and this will save you a lot of time and wasted interviews in the long term.

Don’t have the budget?

If you don’t have the budget to hire a recruitment consultant, then PR activity with local press can help drive applications through your door. In the current environment any news about jobs being created, rather than lost, is a welcome news story to local business journalists.

Try some different channels

In addition, try using new channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (if your company has a profile) to post job opportunities and encourage a word-of-mouth recruitment drive.

Kevin Stillwell

Kevin Stillwell

Kevin Stillwell is Customer Service Director of Webloyalty Europe

Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 17th Mar 2010 - Last modified: 28th Oct 2020
Read more about - Call Centre Life, , , , ,

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  • As a call centre manager one of my biggest frustrations was agent level recruitment and the knock on effect of getting it wrong on absence, attrition & both the employee and customer experience.

    I believe the recruitment process has two objectives, one is to establish capability and one is to establish suitability.

    Kevin is spot on when recommending competency based interviews and these can nowadays be complimented using skills testing and online assessments (that are available to call centres for free) to gain an insight into the candidates capabilities.

    As for the budget – recruitment no longer needs to be an expensive process.

    [Part of post deleted – no advertising]

    Rob Wilkinson 18 Mar at 13:14
  • I would agree with all the comments above, especially the importance of making recruitment partners extension of the team.

    [Part of post deleted – no advertising]

    Adam Butler 18 Mar at 14:51
  • Watch out guys in the above posts – this is not a forum to start advertising your services. Part of the comments have been deleted.

    Jonty Pearce 19 Mar at 12:08
  • I like this list of traits, characteristics and quality. My old company I worked at relocated it’s call centre from India back to the UK and this was pretty much in the person specification. A certain amount of companies are now following suit and having a close relationship with an external recruiter is a good way of keeping on top of the quality and pool of applicants.

    Marie Warren 13 Jan at 12:56