increase call center new hire retention with realistic job preview
Illustration By Dan Hetteix

In their eagerness to attract the best talent, companies often oversell the job during the recruiting process, which only increases early defections. Providing a clear, honest preview of the position will help to weed out those who are likely to leave—before making a significant investment in the candidate’s training.

Many contact center leaders say that including time on the phones as part of the screening process helps to provide candidates with a better understanding of the job. Candidates who make it past the screening and initial interviews get to spend time jacked in with a senior agent listening to the agent handle calls.

While listening to calls for an hour or two will provide candidates with more insight about the types of transactions they will be handling, will it give them an accurate idea of what it’s like to handle those types of calls, one after the other, for a full shift?

To set clear expectations for what the job will entail, job previews should demonstrate every part of the job that could disappoint a new employee, such as being inside in artificial light all day, dealing with difficult people and doing the same job redundantly, says Dick Finnegan, CEO of C-Suite Analytics and author of The Stay Interview: A Manager’s Guide to Keeping the Best and Brightest.

“Job candidates should be exposed to all those things before they are hired,” he says. How? Have the manager walk the candidate through the contact center while calling the candidate’s attention to specific details in the work environment—for instance, asking the candidate to focus on the noise in the center for several minutes, or observe an agent going quickly from one call to another without a break.

“This type of realistic preview will help candidates to understand whether they’re cut out for the type of work they’ll be doing as well as the environment in which it takes place,” Finnegan says. “It typically results in several candidates opting out of the application process.”

Contact center and customer service trainer Mike Aoki of Reflective Keynotes says that it’s important to prepare candidates and new-hires for the types of calls they will be handling. “When I train agents on how to handle irate callers, I am continually amazed at how many of them seem shocked that most of their calls are from complaining customers,” he says. “Prepare your new-hires for this by asking the class, ‘How many of you have ever called a company because you felt happy about their service?’ Only a few hands will go up. Ask, ‘How many of you have ever called a company because something went wrong?’ Normally, every hand will go up. Then say, ‘That’s why people call. They have a problem and need your help.’ Another way to add perspective is to say something along the lines of, ‘Only 10% of our customers ever call in, but they make up 100% of the calls you take.’ Give them that perspective so they know what to expect.”

Practical Tips for Call CentersPractical pointer: Turn to your core agents and top performers to develop a realistic job preview, advises contact center recruiting veteran Eric Berg of AllStaff Call Center Recruiting. “Request a candid assessment of the job, including work environment, opportunities for advancement, incentives and daily tasks. What surprises did they encounter in their first week? Does your way of sharing performance statistics motivate some agents but discourage other? Use their input to refine and redevelop your job descriptions realistically and eliminate unpleasant surprises for new-hires.”