When Ritz Carlton looks to hire a new employee they interview for how the person interacts with others. They figure they can teach most of the technical skills needed to do the job tasks and that it is easier to teach those skills than it is to teach someone to be nice. When Southwest Airlines is hiring a new employee, they observe how the applicants treat the other applicants in the waiting room before the interview. The intent is to determine the natural personality of the applicant when they don’t think anyone is watching them. A highly skilled pilot once applied, but he spoke so condescendingly to the receptionist prior to his interview, he did not get the job. So, the first tip, is to put the applicant at enough ease and comfort level that you can see their typical day- to-day personality.
The second tip is to ask your best performers questions surrounding customer service situations. Document how they respond. Ask these same questions to your applicants and see how closely their answer matches that of your best performers. For example, you might ask your best performer, “when a customer is yelling at you for something you did not cause, what is the first thing you want to do?” Your best performer may say, “I will want to stay calm and show the customer I am listening to them because many times the reason they are yelling is because they are so frustrated that no one has appeared to be listening to their side of the issue.” If the applicant responds with the answer, “I would want to call my supervisor immediately and get the person off my back,” that is a very different way to handle the situation and in fact, may get the customer even more angry. However, if the applicant responded in a more similar manner as your best performer, then that is going to be the better person to hire.
The third tip is to discuss your organization Service Standards with the applicant in the interview process. This lets them know immediately how important customer service is in the culture of your organization. Describe each of the standards and relate each one to the specific job the applicant is being hired for. They will quickly know whether this is the kind of culture they want to work in or not. And, if they deselect themselves, that’s great, because that’s not the kind of person you wanted to hire anyway.