Call Center Initial Interview, what do they measure?

This was initially posted on by etogostocu; he needed help with initial interviews with the following questions:

Tell something about yourself that is not in your resume
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why choose us among others (“company name”)
Why do you want to leave your company?

He added, “honestly, bagsak ako lagi sa call center pag initial interview (although naga-apply ako para sa non-voice) sinasabi sakin ng interviewer, di daw ako pumasa sa assessment nila ng English chuchu, di daw modulated boses ko…bagito ako sa interview.”

This was my initial reply to him (posted on the same site):

You reminded me of myself 9 years ago.

From a recruiter’s POV:

The purpose of the initial interview is to assess your communication skills, including diction, intonation, pronunciation, grammar, comprehension, and confidence level. Good command of the English language is your “foot in the door.”

Even though you are applying in a non-voice environment, your grammar is being assessed. It gives the interviewer an idea of how you will write, especially if the account requires it.

Other factors come into play here, such as how you responded to the questions you posted above. Your failure will be determined by the content of your response, not by grammar, pronunciation, or other issues (or success).

With your permission, I’d like you to tell us how you answered the questions above; this will give us an idea and allow us to make a better suggestion for you. Don’t be afraid to make grammatical or spelling errors; this is ideal because it will enable us to provide constructive feedback.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t replied since.

Here is a more detailed reply:

Contrary to popular belief, an initial interview is not the first step in the application process. In most cases, it is the second (resume screening being the first). There are two types of interviews: face-to-face interviews, which are mainly done for walk-in applicants, and phone interviews, which are done by recruiters after receiving and screening resumes sent via email or a job-searching portal (Jobstreet, JobsDB, etc.).

An initial interview in a call center is used to assess your communication skills in grammar, pronunciation, accent, diction, spontaneity, and any other information requested by the client. It also gives the recruiter a sense of your overall attitude and behavior at work. If the recruiter notices timeline consistency or short tenures in your resume, they may dig deeper. This is why, as I mentioned in previous posts, good communication skills are your “foot in the door.”

A recruiter’s decision to pass or reject an applicant is heavily influenced by the client’s requirements. However, the majority of recruiters will base their decision on the following:

  1. Your all-around presence. If you come across as too strong or too weak, the recruiter will make a mental note of it, which will be validated during the interview. The best option is to be mindful of your demeanor when entering the interview room, being interviewed, and exiting. One piece of advice: be professional.
  2. Your accent and pronunciation. Recruiters are trained to pick up on even the smallest mispronunciation. Personally, I don’t look for someone who speaks like an American or has a twang (which turns me off, especially if it’s fake). I look for someone with a neutral accent and neutral/trainable pronunciation – in other words, someone without a strong provincial accent. I also keep an eye out for notable pronunciation blunders in TH, long e, short I, p/f, b/v, vowels, and so on (these are just examples, there are more).

What is the definition of “trainable”? He is an applicant who makes the occasional (but not frequent or consistent) error but is aware of it and self-corrects. If the applicant has a provincial accent, can we neutralize it by using language and accent training? If the answer is yes, then we deem the applicant “trainable”.

Most BPO and call center clients prefer a neutral accent so that their customers can understand them.

  1. Your grammar and diction. Some applicants believe that simply being able to speak is acceptable. It should suffice as long as you can express yourself, despite the grammar issues. They can, after all, express themselves. Here’s the truth. Whether you like it or not, proper grammar usage is an essential part of call center work.

I’ve seen and heard of cases where a call escalated or resulted in a negative satisfaction because of incorrect grammar, diction, or even intonation.

  1. Your level of comprehension. Comprehension is a significant problem in the call center industry, where most of the work is talking to customers. Suppose you don’t understand the true message behind the rant. In that case, you’ll never be able to provide an effective solution to a problem. Many customers beat around the bush. It is your responsibility to figure out what they are saying, re-state the issue, and obtain confirmation of understanding.

Here is an example of an applicant with poor comprehension issues:

Interviewer: You mentioned that you are still in school? What year are you in right now?
Applicant: Oh, I’m just here in the house.
Interviewer: No, I asked what year you’re in.
Applicant: Oh year? I’m 25 years old.
Interviewer: (writes down) not qualified.

  1. Content of your response. Many applicants tend to take the question at face value and provide an “as Is” response during an initial interview, perhaps due to nervousness or a lack of knowledge about what is being measured. As a result, the answers to the questions are incomplete, shallow, and thus unconvincing.

In a separate blog, I suggested that an applicant analyze the question, determine the bottom line, and conclude his response with a “value statement.”

Here’s an illustration:

“What makes you different from the other applicants outside?”

As a recent graduate, I believe my above-average GPA gives me an advantage over the other applicants. I studied every day so that the lessons would stick with me, and I actively participated in classroom discussions. I started several student programs, worked with school officials to improve the health and welfare of my classmates, and was the editor-in-chief of the college paper, among other things.

Here is a (very) bad example:

Interviewer: What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?
Applicant: “Tequila and Chinita girls????
Interviewer: (writes down) not qualified.

Remember this: While it is true that the purpose of the initial interview is to assess the applicant’s communication skills. It is also true that most of the questions provide them with an excellent opportunity to sell themselves. As a result, the “value statement” comes in handy here. Looking at the above (good) response, you can see that the interviewee did not provide a vague or general description of his advantage over the other applicants. He gave examples and clearly stated that he is “selling” himself as the perfect candidate for the job. As a recruiter, I do not want to forget this applicant so I will write down “The applicant is an achiever, with a sense of commitment, initiative, and involvement.”

Next: Is there a secret to passing an initial interview?

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