To get the right kind of people for your company's service department, you have to know (1) what you're looking for and (2) how to look for it.
The following eight tips will help you with your recruitment effort:
Treat every vacancy like an open role in a play. Define the service role for which you are auditioning people in terms of the part the new cast member must play and how that person has to relate to the other members in the cast.
Identify the skills needed for the role. Once the interview begins, it's too late to start thinking about what you want to learn. Based on the job description and your knowledge of the role you are hiring for, what traits or personal attributes do you want the new staff member to possess? Friendliness? Competence? Empathy? Creativity? Confidence?
Screen test your applicants. Try role-playing difficult customer situations with applicants or posing "what-would-you-do-if" questions based on the kinds of situations likely to occur on the job.
Use multiple selection methods. Remember test anxiety in school? Job applicants get it, too. Instead of sifting all applicants through one coarse screen, use a succession of fine ones to help you differentiate amont them. Using a variety of methods also helps counter an overreliance on intuition or gut feel in the hiring process.
Consider nontraditional sources. The traditional entry-level workforce is shrinking. But the proportion of Americans over the age of 50 is mushrooming. Shrewd organizations are taking advantage of this seismic demographic shift by hiring more retired workers for service roles.
Recruit actively. Good people may not always find you--often you have to find them. Where have your best people been coming from? Are there others back there equally ready and willing to do the job for you? When you encounter service workers who make a strong impression, don't be shy about handing them your business card and suggesting they get in touch the next time they're ready to change.
Hire people like the job, not like you. It's very human to overlay your own personal beliefs, values, likes and dislikes on the selection process, but it's seldom in the best interest of the customer to do so. Beware of the "cloning" effect, or the tendency to hire people who think, act or look like you or share the same background as you.
Review history with your head; review attitude with your heart. Customer service is a performing art. You size a person up in a job interview or at a social gathering by what your instinct tells you about that person.
Excerpted, by permission of the publisher, from Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service (Third Edition). Copyright 2013, Chip R. Bell and Performance Research Associates. Published by AMACOM.