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Initial Interview (phone)

A phone interview is a second step in the recruitment process. Once you receive a call from an interviewer, this means that you resume has already passed the initial screening (aka paper screening), you partially meet the need for the job post, and what is left now is to get a glimpse your language skill.

Once you have submitted a résumé online (or left it at the office receptionist), it is best to assume that you will receive a phone call. Be ready.

An initial interview over the phone is short, mostly less than 5 minutes. For this reason an applicant is under extreme pressure to make a positive impression.

Questions may vary, but the most basic are:

  1. Tell me something about yourself?
  2. Why do you want to work in a call center?
  3. What is customer service to you?
  4. How do you understand the call center industry?
  5. Tell me about your work experience?

The recruiter may also ask you to read from a newspaper or a book, or he may ask you a random question geared towards testing ability to think quickly.

The secret to passing an initial interview is to prepare for it. That is, you need to research about the company you are applying for and have a general knowledge of the job you are applying for (this information is usually found on the job ad). This is due diligence, and is often necessary; you do not want to answer “I don’t know” or “I have no idea” when the recruiter asks  “What do you know about our company?”

Despite the required preparation,  do not sound as if you are reading from a script. When a recruiter detects  a rehearsed response, he will challenge you by asking an out of this world question (aka WTF question).

Remember what I mentioned at the beginning of this article: when you send a résumé online, it is best to assume you will receive a call from a recruiter, therefore, answer professionally . “Hi, this is Seven, may I know who’s calling?” sounds better than “Heloh, sino toh? Bakit ka tumatawag?

When the call comes in, DROP WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU ARE DOING. If you cannot hear the recruiter due to background noise on his or your side, say so, then call him back. You may not get a chance to talk to him again if you don’t.  As a general rule, get a commitment that either you or him will call back at very specific time. If you are unable to take his call (say, you are in the middle of an emergency), simply apologize and thank the recruiter,

When you are able to take the call:

  • find a quiet corner
  • clear your mind
  • LISTEN carefully
  • speak clearly
  • if the recruiter speaks too fast, politely ask him to slow down
  • if you did not understand what he said, ask a clarifying question and confirm understanding (“The line was garbled, you were asking me if… I correct?” In call center practice, this is called paraphrasing or re-stating the concern and is an effective tool when dealing with a hard to understand customer.
  • Speak in English from beginning to end. Observe proper grammar, pronunciation, diction, and intonation.
  • If a question is difficult and you are not ready, take a moment to think, use the re-state technique. The few seconds of re-stating gives you the much-needed time to think about the answer.
  • Always have a ready reading material (in English) nearby.
  • Never fake an accent. Gone are the days when call centers are looking for someone with an American accent (there is no such thing by the way), most call centers are looking for someone with a “neutral accent” (trainable).

Remember that in an initial interview, the aim is to SELL YOURSELF, therefore, all your responses should be crafted in such a way that it will allow you to exhibit your skills, talents, and experiences.

If you pass  the initial interview, the recruiter is going to invite you for further testing. DO NOT GIVE A FALSE COMMITMENT. You might be blacklisted.  If you are not available on his proposed schedule, negotiate for the next viable one. If you cannot make it, call or SMS the recruiter and ask to be rescheduled at least two to three hours before your appointment. Below is a suggested format:

Hi. This is Seven. I was interviewed by (name of recruiter) last (date of interview) for the (name of the post), I’m scheduled to take the test on (date and time), sadly, I cannot make it due to (reason). May I ask to be rescheduled?

The details provided above makes it easier for the recruiter to find your résumé and reschedule you. Professionalism dictates that if you have a change of heart or will no longer be available for testing, tell the recruiter to either put you in active file (if you still plan to apply in the future) or that you are no longer interested.

You will know if you have failed the initial interview, he will just use the generic line “Allow us 24 to 48 hours to evaluate application, and if you are qualified for the post, you will hear from us.” This is an automatic sign that you have failed the interview and should move on (Remember what I said before, if you passed, you will be invited for further testing.)

Always save the number of the recruiter.  If you are en route to the recruitment office and are lost, you can always call or SMS the recruiter for help/direction.

When the interview ends, pass or fail, do not forget to thank the recruiter for calling and interviewing you, this is being professional and matured. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions or clarifications (specifically about directions to the recruitment office), there is nothing wrong with being thorough.

Good luck on your application.

Comment below if you have any questions.

One Day Recruitment Process – what you need to know?

Think about this scenario: you just lost your job (or is about to), bills are piling up, your family member needs medicine or an HMO coverage ASAP, and money is thin. You scan the newspaper, visited an online job site and found a few companies who dangles the following on their ads:

  1. Salary
  2. Sign in Bonus
  3. Weekend Rest Day
  4. Day shift
  5. One Day recruitment Process

It sparks your interest, you prepare your résumé and start planning around what you read, that if it is a one day process, you’d be able to get a job in a day or two, worst case scenario, a week. So you set out to apply and as your wait for your interview, minutes turn to hours, and the next thing you know, your final interview is scheduled a week or  two later. ‘Anyare sa One Day Process? Nakaka-inis diba?

What is One Day Recruitment Process?

Two things:

  1. It is an efficiency program that allows the recruitment department to process candidates  in the shortest time possible.
  2. It is a marketing maneuver for attracting more applicants who are desperate to get a job ASAP.

As far as process is concerned, recruiters are required to follow the recruitment flow, that is:

  1. Paper or online screening.
  2. Initial interview (phone or face to face)
  3. Testing/Call Simulation
  4. Final Interview
  5. Job Offer

Some companies follow a time limit for each step. For example, a phone or face to face initial interview should not be longer than five minutes (some recruiters are so good they already made the decision to fail or pass you within 30 seconds). Testing should be anywhere between 30 to 50 minutes. Finally, the final interview should be within 20 to 30 minutes. This allows the company to stick to the “one day processing” guideline.

Why does the processing time change?

Although structured, the recruitment process is not a perfect science. It is affected by a lot of factors which could lengthen (or shorten) the processing time. What are some of these factors?

  • You are blacklisted (shortens the time)
  • One or two recruiters called in sick.
  • There is an overflow of applicants (more than what the recruiters can handle, especially during the peak season – After the release of the 13th month pay, after graduation, or after the release of a major newspaper ad, during a very popular job fair)
  • During the interview, the recruiter wanted to fail you but saw that you are trainable and may endorse you for another interview (so you need to wait, again).
  • The recruitment department holds an urgent meeting (this happens a lot).
  • You were scheduled for an interview, unfortunately, the interviewer from operations is out of the country/in a meeting/has a death in the family/insert reason here, so you need to be re-scheduled.
  • The account you are being evaluated or applying for has a far off start date, is not hiring, or is just pooling for candidates.
  • The waiting game is a part of the recruitment process.

As an applicant, there are several things we need to remember:

  1. Do not expect to be processed in one day. Remember, expectation leads to frustration. Frustration shows your impatience. Impatience is seen by recruiters.
  2. Bring food (sandwiches, juice, chips, and gum to freshen your breath). If you need to find a restaurant for a full meal, tell your recruiter. Keep your breaks short during the waiting time – you do want to be there when the recruiter finally calls your name.
  3. Do not plan to visit several companies in one day, unless you have a succession of failures (in which case you need to ask yourself why).
  4. Be patient every time, all the time. Always remember that you are being watched – by the CCTV, the recruiters, other applicants, and the receptionist (she is a spy, you know).
  5. If (and only if) you pass the initial interview, ask the recruiter what the next steps are and how long each step will be. Also, ask if there is a possibility that you will need to stay beyond 5PM (this way you can make plans for food, transportation, etc)
  6. Spend time chatting with other applicants who’ve already been through the process, this way, you can understand how easy (or hard) the rest of the steps are and you can mentally and psychologically prepare for them.

It’s true that the line “one day processing” can often be misleading. However, knowing how the process works and what factors should be considered will arm us with more than enough patience as we go through the recruitment process. Finally, I have always believed that we need to keep our expectations in check. My experience has taught me that just because someone is not meeting my expectation doesn’t mean he or she is doing a poor job.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to message me.


Is Call Center Work really stressful?

Hi Se7en. I am currently job hunting. Karamihan sa mga company na ina-applyan ko are call centers. What really scares me is the stress level. Totoo ba yon? I mean, stressful ba talaga? Pano ko iiwasan na ma stress? Also, sabi mo sa blog mo almost 13 years ka na sa industry, how did you survive that long? Akala ko kasi pang trabahong fresh grad lang ang call center.


Hi Marian. Thank you for your email. It’s true that I’ve been in this industry for 13 years (going 14). When I joined the call center industry years ago, I had the same opinion, in fact, sabi ko sa sarili ko “ito na lang ba ang kaya kong gawin?” This kind of unhealthy, immature, misdirected mentality led me to a negative attitude towards my work made me unhappy. Literally, I had to drag myself to work everyday.

When i turned 30, I realized that I had nothing – no career development, with little management and leadership skill and competency. I searched deeper and realized that the problem was not with the work or the company, it was my perception towards the work, the industry, and the fact that I perceived it as future-less. In order to change my situation, I needed to change my mindset. When I did, everything changed.

That’s when career  stepped in. I began to look into the long term. I started with looking at what I needed to improve on (leadership and management) and asked all my TLs to guide me (I still do that today). Bottom line, if you need to change the situation, you need to change how you think, else, you will get stuck in an endless stream of resignations and applications.

As for stress in the call center, it is true. In fact, as soon as you decide to sign a job offer, you need to embrace  the reality that there will be stress, whatever that account is. Failure to accept this reality means  you will be wallowing in it – dizzy, demotivated, and wanting to quit. Thing is, everywhere you go, there will be stress, sometimes, the stress where you went is actually far worse compared to the stress of where you came from. Sabi nga nila, from the frying pan, straight to the fire.  This is the reason why call center employees are paid higher – the more complicated the task, the higher the pay (sadly, volume (or the number of calls you take) is NOT a basis for a higher pay).

What do you do with stress? You don’t avoid it. You face it head on. Well, you face it head on with information and solution. This is how I behave towards stress: I am stressed because of a problem. There is a problem because either there is a gap in the process, there is lack of communication or understanding, or it is behavioral (people).  When facing the problem, remember the 80-20 rule (otherwise known as the Pareto Principle). In simple terms, it means that the source of 80% of your problems is caused by 20% of something – find out what that 20% is and solve it, then the rest of the problem will collapse.

Finally, you need to learn which battles to fight and which ones to ignore or let go. Lifehacker wrote a wonderful article about that here.

Hope this helps.


The Low Down on Background Checks

Hi Seven. My best friend told me about your blog and that you answer questions regarding the call center industry and that you’re always online to respond. May question ako: totoo po ba talaga ang background checks? I mean, do companies really spend time, money, and effort just to find out who you are?

TIA for the response.



Hi Lovely. Thank you for your email. I hope you don’t mind if I post my reply here instead. It’s true that I respond to questions, so long as I know the answer (hehe), and it is not true that I am always online, I sleep too. Haha.

Now to your question. Yes, background checks are a fact of life not just in the call center industry but in most companies in any industry. A background check is the company’s way of ensuring that you are who and what you say you are. Remember, the company is going to trust you with their resources, provide you training, etc, therefore, it is imperative that the information you provided on your resume is “true and correct.” It is also a process to deter criminals and job hoppers.

There are several ways of doing a background check.

1. Over the phone – the company calls the references you provided on your resume. Sometimes, they also contact the companies listed to ensure that you actually worked there.

2. Home visitation – often employed by multinational companies and BPOs or call centers with a financial account. They hire the services of a third party investigator to confirm your home address. During this visit, the investigator will also ask your neighbors about you (especially about your character).

3. Registered mail – this is used when they need to get information about your academic records.

4. Social Networking Sites – “You are what you post.” This is why some companies now include your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts when doing background investigation. You’d be surprised how your SNS accounts reveal so much about your personality, attitude, and behavior.

5. Your BIR and SSS company history – Not a lot of companies are doing this but some, especially those who are big on integrity would compare your BIR and SSS list of companies and your resume. Depending on how serious they are, they can pull you out of training or nesting and terminate your employment.  By law, this is illegal. Both the BIR and SSS are mandated not to reveal your work history even to your current employer.

Your character references play an important role in your job hunting effort. This is why some companies are very detailed about the type of reference they request for. An example would be 1 colleague, 1 friend, and 1 HR rep.

Your character reference must:

  • know you and your work ethic, attitude, and behavior and can give concrete examples of each aspect when needed.
  • be confident and authoritative.
  • know  they are your character reference.
  • must expect a call anytime.

Let me know if you need more information.





The Call Center Bond

Hi Seven.  Ano ba talaga ang bond? Bakit may ganon? Pano maiiwasan yon? Anong gagawin kung sinisingil ka? Makukulong ba ako? 

James R.


Hi James.

I got your email yesterday and since your questions are very interesting, I thought I would just turn my response into a post, this way, we can share the info with everyone.

What is a bond? 

A training bond is nothing more than a contract that says you will be paying a specific amount if you leave the company (whether by resignation or by absconding) within a specific period. For example, I worked for a company in Northgate and we had a training bond for six months. If I left before that, I will be liable to pay Php 20,000.

Why is there a bond?

…because a lot of people abscond. Attrition is a serious threat in a company’s investment. When a person gets hired, the company will spend for his/her on-boarding, training, etc. Therefore, to recover this cost, the company has to make sure the person stays so that his “working hours” can be converted into income for the company.

In the same token, when the company sends an employee abroad for training or education, he/she needs to sign a contract binding him to the company for several years (usually two).

How does a bond work?

As mentioned above, it is a contract. It is binding as soon as you sign it. If you leave before the end of your “bond”, you will be held liable for either the full or a pro-rated amount. In the example I used above the Php 20,000 is divided to six months, so if I decided to resign on the 4th month, I will be paying Php 6666.00 (Php 20,000/6 months = Php 3333.33).

If you didn’t attend the training at all, are you still liable? 

Technically, if you already signed the contract, you are.  However, the counter argument is  I didn’t even attend the first day of training, what company investment am I wasting? (except perhaps for the recruiter’s time and the piece of paper I signed). By the way, when you do not attend the first day of training, that correct term is NO SHOW, not AWOL.

In the above case, what should I do?

Call your recruiter before the first day of training and tell him/her you are backing out. That is responsible and professional. This way, the recruiter can give your slot to another candidate.

I already went on AWOL and now I am receiving letters.

Naturally. You are fully aware there is a bond, you went on AWOL, the collection letters will follow. It really depends on the company if they will take your absconding seriously and take you to court for breach of contract. Most companies will just let it go –  the cost of litigation is more expensive than just hiring another one. In my 15 years in the industry, I have never heard of any employee who went on AWOL and was dragged to court or was garnished – ever. What I have heard of are former employees who needed their clearance and COE from the company and had to make a settlement just to clear their name (or to get it over with).


Am I still liable if I get terminated?

Technically, you are not liable, especially if the cause for the termination is failure to meet the metrics. However, if the cause of failure is deliberate, that is, the company perceives that you were intentionally trying to fail just to leave and avoid the bond, you will be held liable. Of course, the company has the burden of proof.

What if I need to get my clearance from my former company where I went AWOL? 

You need to visit the company and settle the balance. Sometimes, you can even negotiate it. Bottom line, you signed the contract which gives you the obligation and if you want/need the clearance for your next employer, you need to settle the balance.

I don’t have any money, how can I pay for it?

Why you did you go on AWOL in the first place? As mentioned above, if you need the clearance, then you can  make a payment arrangement. After all, how can you settle a loan if you don’t have a job, right?


How can I avoid the bond?

Simple. Do NOT go to a company that’s known to have a bond. If you have no idea if there is a bond or not, use the internet to research information. After all, as an applicant, it is your obligation to conduct research and this is a part of your due diligence a responsible human being whose goal in life have a career instead of floating around. Also, please DO NOT ask a recruiter if there will be a bond or not – this is a bad question and whether you are qualified or not, you will fail. Why? For a recruiter, it is a clear sign that you have no plans of staying or developing a career.


Ultimately, the decision to go on AWOL from a company where you signed a bond will haunt you and cause you inconvenience but will you get incarcerated? I very much doubt it. Most of this companies would rather focus on running the business and will just ignore you (eventually). Then again, why court the disaster of being seriously hounded for a contract you agreed to in the first place? Be professional. If you can’t really stay in that company for whatever reason, stay for the duration of your contract, use the time to learn about skills and competencies you do not have, and as soon as the time is right, leave.

If you have any questions or clarifications on this article, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. If you have a story to tell, please don’t hold back.

Hope this helps.





10 Tips To Help You Survive the Call Center Industry

You’ve tried to land a job in the call center industry and finally, after so many attempts, you got in. Is it time to celebrate? No. You’re not out of the woods yet. As a first timer in the call center industry, the first six months up to the first year of your work is your break-in period. Some people are able to adjust easily, quite a few, however, fail to survive.

Now that you got in, the next item in the agenda is to survive. The question is how, right? Here are a few things I’ve gathered over the years.

1. Get away from complainers and people who give bad advice.

These are the tenured call center employees whose first reaction to everything is negative – from their work schedule, their pay, their scorecard, their team leader, the company, and overall, their job. They’re not hard to spot really. A classic sign of this is their attendance record. You can also check their habit and mannerisms when taking calls – do they bang the mouse a lot? Curse a lot when the customer cannot understand them?  Choose the people you hang out with carefully.

2. Talk to your Manager/Team Leader.

Never shy away from conversations with your manager, in fact, you should be the one to start it. Understand the kind of person your manager is, how he thinks, what irks him, what’s good and bad in his book, and ask him what his expectations are from his agents. More importantly, ASK YOUR MANAGER FOR GUIDANCE. Don’t wait for a coaching session to ask him this. Right now, ask him if he has a minute, then tell him this: “Sir, I am a first timer in the call center industry and I while love the work, there are a lot of things I need to learn. I want to succeed, to reach the level you’ve achieved and I can’t do it alone. I  would like to ask for your guidance.”

3. Learn everything that you need to learn.

This may sound too general, but there’s a gem to it. From the moment you enter the company, everything you need to do is to learn – about the product, process, systems, customer service, call handling, scorecard, the company culture, policies and procedures. Your learning doesn’t stop. The problem begins when you do “blind” learning – learning without direction or when you learn by necessity, meaning, you learn because you need to but you’re not really interested. Learning needs to have direction, a goal, and ultimately, it needs to level up. This means that once you have mastered your job and everything around it, you need to learn the next level. Ultimately, you will reach a point where you need to learn about leadership and management.

4. Be different.

Admit it or not, you are surrounded by people whose goal is just to get by (I login, then logout), just to get paid, or worst, you are probably surrounded by job hoppers – people who have been in this industry for so long and all they do is to find out which company offers a higher pay. This is where you can be different. What this industry needs are more game changers. People who are goal-oriented, whose direction is to achieve growth in their career via tenure. It’s so easy to leave the company and jump to the next – BE DIFFERENT. Do something more challenging – STAY. Not only does this benefit your learning and your career, it also provides –  I am a firm believer that if you work for the career, money and fulfillment follows.

5. Perception management.

Always remember this: right from the day you start-up to the day you resign or retire, you will be watched and listened to. What you say, what you do, how you resolve issues with people and work, your professionalism, your attitude and behavior, (your contribution or lack thereof) and how you speak will never escape the critical minds of your leaders. Your daily interaction with them will form part of how you manage  their perception of you. Speak like a complainer and you will be last in their priority, but speak like you are a part of the solution and they consult with you first. Consider these two examples: “Ano ba yan, kasalanan ba nating mga agent kung humahaba ang AHT, eh an bobobo ng mga customers?” and “Boss, I’ve noticed that the AHT is taking a hit, and as a member of the team, I am very concerned. Is there anything I can do to help?” The trick is simple: be a part in finding the solution, don’t be a part of the problem.

8. Motivate yourself

What makes you wake up in the morning, go through horrendous traffic, do the work day in and day out, then go home tired and sleepy? If you’re able to answer this straight with an inspiring reason, then you have a great motivation. If you paused for a long time or says “That’s a good question”, then you have a problem. Motivation is an important aspect of your work, without it, you will have no direction, desire, joy, satisfaction, and you will find yourself in an endless state of emptiness. Motivation is the wind that blows the sails of your ship and motivation gives you that extra energy to navigate the most difficult part of your career . It’s the one that tells you to keep going when everything or everyone is telling you to quit.

9. Take things personally.

And by this, I mean be accountable for the things that you do and are responsible for. When you take things personally, the first thing you do when there is a problem is to ask yourself “what have I done that may have contributed to this problem?” Then, you follow it up with “What can I do to improve myself to make sure this will not happen again?” Taking things personally allows you to grow, to improve your skills and competencies, and it gives you direction. When the caller is irate, take things personally – that is, “how can I help this customer resolve the issue? This way, not only will he be happy, I will shorten my AHT, handle the case with efficiency and effectiveness, and have a positive result on my CSAT.”

10. Don’t be a HONDA

A HONDA is the term they use for people who logs out ON THE DOT, they have no reason to linger because for them, work is a confinement, therefore, the top of the hour spells freedom. People with direction, with motivation, and with a dream for a career stays a little longer – to help a colleague who is having trouble with his stats, to chat with the bosses, to ask his/her Team Lead if there is anything he can do to help, to confide with his manager about issues, or simply, to relish another successful and productive day. He stays because he finds joy in the confines of his work.

Finally, here’s the real point of this article: agree with me or not, the word “survival” is used for or by people who are in a wrong place, situation or time, hence, the need for “survival tips”. If this is your case, you need to think deep about your situation.  Not being able to embrace your present reality spells trouble in the long-term. If you are new in the call center industry and you feel the need to survive, a change of perception is much-needed. If you have been in the call center industry for more than a year and are still trying to survive, my question is “why?”

Got any more tips? Don’t forget to leave a comment.




The Grass Is Always Greener Everywhere Except Where You Stand

Hi Se7en,

Im Jake, 25 yo, Management graduate and a licensed Professional Teacher (took units in Education). Been with the industry since 2009, joined multiple companies and i considered myself as a hopper but also a high performer. Not until with my current which I’m staying for almost 1.5 years now(which is a rare feat).hahaha Been out of your blog for almost a year and a half too and It’s my first time to visit your blog again. Im sorry. ;) Now, i need your expert advise as I’m planning to resign in this Industry 1st quarter of 2014 for good.

I have several questions in mind before handing my resignation letter to them. Is there life after working in BPO? What are the possible industries that you can recommend which can be a good place to start? Do i need to declare all those job experiences I’ve had which is irrelevant to the position I’m applying in? What is the best way to defend gaps in your employment?

I need a brand new start. A totally new start without me depending on BPO/ITO. I’ll wait for your response. Thank you and more power.



Hi Jake. I really appreciate the fact that you’re looking to ask questions and do research first before you file for a resignation – that is the way to go. Before I answer your questions, I’d like to ask, what was the reason why you stayed on this job for more than a year? How is your scorecard? What kind of account do you service? What is the reason why you said you need a fresh start? You also said you want one without depending on the BPO/ITO? I’m not sure what you mean there. Are you putting up a business?

I will wait for your response.


With regard to staying on this job, Are we talking about in general or with my current? Generally speaking, its because of the high compensation and other benefits. If its about with my current, i would say an accomplishment and a challenge for staying that long. By the way, thats the longest in my 4 years next is 8 months, 5mos and others just barely after 2mos then i went awol.

Scorecard: No problem. Agent of the month for months, no tardiness and absenteeism issues.

Account: customer service for B2B account. In house. We manufacture and support our own products.

The reason why i wanted a new start because of the ff: its get boring, routinary and no longer challenging. Sorry for the term. I dunno what right term to use. I dont mean to be rude. :) I feel like my professional development is getting stagnant. No upskills training. Promotion is slow. Though my managers keep saying “you have a bright future ahead of you.” In my head Until when i will wait for promotion?

About the BPO, what i meant was i dont want to depend on working in BPO/ITO industry alone. Looking for an industry that is different where im used to.



Hi Jake. Thank you for visiting my blog and for leaving a comment. When I saw your post, I immediately thought that it deserved a post in my blog. There are a few issues that I’d like to respond to, and in the process, answer your question and share information to the public as well (in the most visible way).

There are four things that I noticed from your post:

1. Your perception about tenure and promotion.

2. Your personal and career development is based on your company and your leaders.

3. It’s greener on the other side of the fence.

4. Your perception about what “challenge” is.

Let me explain:

1. People tend to think that just because they’ve been holding the same position for a long time, or simply because they are good at what they do (proven by their scorecard), or if they make a lot of sacrifices in order to do more, they deserve to be promoted.This mentality is wrong. Being good at what you do or exceeding your scorecard’s expectation does not make you a promotion-material, it simply confirms that you’re good at what you do, period.  Getting promoted is an entirely different ball game. You need to exhibit the qualities, skills, and competencies of a leader and a manager (if you’re asking yourself what these qualities, skills, and competencies are, it means you’re not yet ready to be promoted).

2. A lot of people think that their personal growth within the company and in their career is largely dependent on the company and it’s leaders. This, too, is wrong. A person who is interested to become a leader (and to get promoted) will not wait for the company to provide him the training or exposure. He researches, he watches videos on leaderships, he discovers the principles, skills, and competencies and then lives them. This makes him a viable candidate, as a result, the company notices that he exhibits the skills, thus, making them  perceive that he is ready for the next level.

3. Many people tend to think that they need to start over in order to achieve a career, when they do, they realize later that there is another pasture with a greener grass, so they find themselves hopping from one valley to another. This is wrong. The problem? The grass is ALWAYS greener everywhere except where you stand. What they achieve isn’t advancement, it’s called the ‘pabarya-barya mentality”. What they fail to realize is this: if you stay, you establish a career, then tenure, achievement, satisfaction, success, and money follows.

4. Finally, a lot of people think that since they have achieved a level of efficiency and effectiveness in a certain function, they have reached a dead-end, that there is no more to learn, what follows becomes a vicious cycle – instead of continuing to improve the skills and competencies they mastered, they leave to find another skill by starting from scratch, not realizing that they were in a perfect position to study a “higher” level of competency, ultimately leading to a leadership position. People who tends to think like this become hoppers for a long time until they realize it’s too late.

Jake, let me be honest with you. I am not entirely convinced that you lack the challenge in your career, the challenge is YOU, you just can’t see it. You are in a perfect spot to acquire the skills and competencies of a leader, you’re not seeing it because your focus is money, not to have a career. You do not need another job or another pasture in order to achieve your dream, you can use your current company/work to develop the necessary skills, live it, and get noticed. It takes time. Leadership is not something you can bake in 20 minutes or 2 years. If you fail to see this, then you are not ready. Leaving your job now doesn’t make you anything, it doesn’t bring you advancement, you simply just become a job hopper (as you have been for the past few years).  Remember this: career advancement isn’t just about getting promoted, it’s about increasing your value as an employee in order to become more viable, more marketable. You do this not only by climbing the corporate ladder but by increasing your knowledge about the company’s business ventures and letting the leaders see that you are a valuable asset because of your contributions.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.





When you are offered a job you don’t want…

I’ve received a lot of question related to them being evaluated for a post which is different from what they applied for. Case in point, James applied for a back office account but was evaluated and offered a job for an inbound customer service account. Another candidate, Amiel was applying for the email account but was endorsed to an outbound collections account. Why does this happen? What can you do to avoid it?

1. Remember that a recruiter is a match maker. He/she has several accounts he/she is evaluating you for and his/her priority is to put you in an account which he/she thinks best fits you based on the skills and competencies you have.

2. Remember to read about the company’s accounts/business units. You need to make the recruiter understand that you are applying for a VERY SPECIFIC position and that you should be evaluated for it. Make him/her aware that you know they have other accounts and that you are comfortable with the account/queue you are applying for. You need to say this in a friendly and professional way, that is, if you have the courage. Remember that  YOU ARE BEING EVALUATED, say this only if you are willing to waste time, money, effort, and opportunity and that your need for the job is not paramount. If you are the type who REALLY needs a job, then why be choosy?

3. Learn how to holistically evaluate a job offer. It’s not just about the basic salary, it’s about establishing a career so you can have the money you are aiming for. Keep an open mind when the recruiter tells you that you are qualified for a different queue and will be evaluated for such. When you pass and are being offered a job, take a look at the culture of the company, the opportunities for promotion or side-movement (growth is not just up you know), the job itself, the company mission and vision, the basic pay, the health and welfare package, employee engagement, etc. If you need a day to decide, tell the recruiter. Be professional enough to call the recruiter the following day to advise him/her of your decision.

There are several reasons why you are not being offered the job you are gunning for:

1. You are not qualified for it.

2. You are over-qualified.

3. Your asking is too high.

4. No more vacancy.

5. You are fit for another account.

Only accept a job that you think will be beneficial for you IN THE LONG RUN (not just because you need to get paid ASAP). When you take on a job, you goal is not just to get paid but to develop a career, to look at retirement, and if the job isn’t something you know too well you will not like, there is no point in accepting it. If you decide to accept a job because napipilitan ka at kailangan mo talaga, learn to love that job by removing the mindset that the job is temporary. It’s really all about mindset. It’s also about being able to discipline yourself to be loyal to the company you work for.


Hope this helps.


Termination, it starts and ends with you

????????????????????????????????????????A very close friend and colleague of mine got terminated recently. It was a compendium of bad decisions after another, and eventually, when the HR process was applied, it resulted to the inevitable termination. When this news reached me, he has already incurred unexcused absences, forged a med-cert, and when the notice of hearing was sent out, Murphy’s Law played its part (one of his family members was in the hospital) and he failed to attend the meeting. Right then and there, a panel of Team Leaders and the HR representative decided that it was time to let him go.

In truth, I am very concerned for this friend of mine, plainly because his wife just had a baby (their first), and being a father and a husband myself, I know how it feels when you have your first-born – every single penny counts, not to mention the medical insurance provided by the company. The other part that concerns me greatly is the fact that we have been in this company for two years, as such, we have earned the mastery of what we do for the business – a veritable source of that elusive ability to negotiate a better pay or post in the next company. With the termination on his record, he will be forced to either hide the company from his resume, or if he decides to come forward with it, he will have to find a reason convincing enough for any recruiter to let him into the next step of the process, let alone offer him a job.

When one gets termed, everything becomes complicated.

As what I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I’m not alien to termination. However, the difference between my case and the rest of the world was that I had documentation to justify my action. Therefore, come job hunting phase, I decided to tell the truth that my employment was severed on account of attendance issues.  The decision to tell the truth cost me several good companies, and when I finally got the job, it was the sweetest accomplishment.

Why did I tell the truth? A few things:

  • My skills and competencies are much too precious for me to hide.
  • I needed a better paying job and hiding the skills and competencies would mean I have to start from scratch (again).
  • I didn’t want the added stress of lying, and if found, getting terminated again.
  • I have the gift of gab, I’m known for talking my way out of difficult situations, not just because I have the skill for it, but because I can deliver.
  • My research has taught me how to create a positive spin on negative situations.

The job hunting part wasn’t easy. I got turned down several times and with these incidents piling, my bills were too, plus, I was receiving an immense pressure from my wife to land a job fast.  I was so tempted to rethink my strategy (of honesty), and on the very day that I decided to implement the lie, I decided that I will tell the truth one more time, and if I still fail, then I will tell a lie in the next company. Lo and behold, the recruiter and the hiring manager gave me a chance (and this isn’t one of those pipitsugin companies), and I was to start the following week.

A few things that I’ve learned in this experience and I’ve shared them with my colleague who got fired recently:

  1. Getting a job is harder than you think, therefore, if you already have one, be mindful of your attendance and overall performance. Notice that the company has several policies in place which are designed to “give you a chance” before you reach the termination phase. Depending on the company policy, you will be given coaching, then a verbal  warning, a written warning, suspension, then a hearing for the termination case. It takes several incidents for you to reach the last point, which means that it’s you who is at the helm here and your manager and the HR is merely completing the process which you started.
  2. Don’t ignore the HR process except when you’re trying to get fired (believe me, some people are stupid enough to aim for this). I’m talking about the Return to Work Order, the hearing, etc. The process is put in place to give you a chance to explain yourself and if the reason is grave enough to warrant a chance of retaining your job, then it’s a chance you don’t want to miss.
  3. When you foresee a situation which has the potential to affect your employment, immediately consult with your manager and the HR. Seek for opportunities which will allow you to lessen the impact – SL/VL/emergency leave or if there is a chance for you to go on an extended period of absence without losing your job, grab it. The objective is to keep your employment, at the same time addressing your personal issues at home. It is true that you need to separate personal with work issues, but some work-affecting issues (illness, family conflict, etc) must be known, at the least, by your manager. He or she needs to understand what is going on in your personal life so he will not judge you unfairly.
  4. Don’t fake illnesses, or the documents for it. Companies are now smart and diligent enough to check with hospitals, clinics, and they will verify if you actually used your HMO card.

Remember, getting terminated from your job isn’t something that your manager or your company would wish to happen to you. They trained you, they invested on you, and they are concerned about their attrition, hence, it is imperative that they give you several chances to change your bad behavior. Therefore, getting terminated from your job is actually a decision you are making, little by little, with your actions. Your manager’s function is to keep a record of and manage  your behavior at work. As soon as you cross the line, the process starts.  It starts and ends with you.

Top 10 Interview Question and How To Answer Them

If there is one thing I know about job interviews, it is this:  it is competency based. Interview questions are designed to determine if the candidate fits the posts by comparing his responses (along with his work experience) with the skills and comptencies required for a post.

Interview questions are not meant to be answered mindlessly, doing so would be a waste of opportunity, in fact, if you have read my previous blogs, I heavily encourage preparation (read: research), including finding out what the competencies required for the post are, attempting to determine what possible questions will be asked during the interview, AND preparing responses which the candidate must know and understand (but not memorize) and mix and match it based on the questions and scenarios asked during the interview.

What are the common interview questions and how best to answer them?

1. Tell me something about yourself.

This is not an invitation to talk about yourself  mindlessly. The question is geared towards measuring your work attitude and behavior, therefore, you MAY discus some personal items, however, you must have direction, that is, your goal should be to talk about your personal qualities reflecting honesty, integrity, professionalism, and even your philosophy as an employee or as a student.

2. Why do you want to work here?

This question requires research.  Prior to the interview, visit the company’s website, find out their history, type of business, their mission and vision, their accounts (if available), and their culture. Knowing about the company makes you sound impressive, that you did your homework, and that you are really interested to get the job.

3.  What do you know about the call center industry/agent’s work?

You are not an expert (yet), therefore, the recruiter/employer does not expect you to know everything, but having a basic knowledge of the industry or the work involved is an expectation, and naturally, failing to meet that expectation results to failure.

4. Why should I hire you?/Why should I not hire you?/What sets you apart from all the other candidates outside?

The objective of this question is to determine if you fit the job based on the skills and competencies required by the post. The second question is a trick because of the word “not” but the answer is still the same. Question is, how can you make sure that you answer this question satisfactorily?

1. Study the skills and competencies required for the post.

2. List down your own skills and competencies. Compare it with the requirements.

3. Think about the interview question. Prepare a response. The bottomline of your response should be that you have the competencies and skills required.

For fresh graduates, it is often challenging to answer this question, plainly because they have no work experience. I suggest the following:

1. Study the skills and competencies required.

2. Consider your experiences while you were still in school: organizations you joined, meetings you attended, awards you won, your advocacies, etc. List them down.

3. Compare your personal list with the skills and competencies required for the post. Then, create a response to the interview question with the goal of proving that you are fit for the job because even as a student, you already exhibited the required comptencies and skills.

The above preparation will allow you to respond to the question with full confidence and ease.

5. Why do you want to work in a call center/as a call center agent?

No matter how honest you are, DO NOT answer this question with “because of the compensation”. Remember that you are being evaluated, therefore, the objective is to “sell yourself” and to pass the interview. Talk about how close this job is to your skills, competencies, and experiences. If you don’t have the experience (being a fresh graduate or a newbie), talk about how close it is your work and  personal goals, beliefs, and that you see yourself being successful in this field. The objective is to let the interviewer know that YOU ARE PERFECT FOR THIS JOB.

6. Why did you resign from your previous company?

This question has a lot of answers, the only tricky part is if your reason for leaving is negative (disagreement with the boss, your forsaw termination, you went on AWOL, etc), no matter what the reason is, BE POSITIVE. Truth is, it does not matter if your stint was short or long (so long as it is not a string of short stints, giving the impression that you are a job hopper). Tell the recruiter about what you realized while employed with that job, and what you (positively) gained by leaving, and that you are ready to move on. One example of a good response is the employee has had a lot of achievements from the previous company that he is now ready to move on to a bigger, more dificult challenge and achieve more success.

7. What are you strenghts and weaknesses?

Responding to this questions poses a bit of a challenge. We Filipinos tend to shy away from boasting, on the other hand, we do not want our weaknesses to be exposed for fear that we will be judged unfairly.

Remember what you are applying for, if it is a call center post, focus on communication, customer service/focus, friendliness, eye for details, etc. As for the weakness, think of one of your strengths and let it come across as a weakness – my personal example here is “I tend to be too attached to my work that I am annoyed when I am not able to achieve my goals.”

8. What is your expected salary?

Remember that this is not the negotiation part yet. The secret here is to know the industry standard. You do not want to give too high an amount that will make the interviewer think that the company cannot afford you, you also do not want to give too low an amount which will give you no room for negotiation. Know the going rate for the post then blurt it out. Be confident when you say the amount, don’t be coy, don’t be too proud. Being confident about your expected salary means that you know yourself, your experience, and your self-worth, your skills and competencies.

9. Can you work on weekends? Shifting schedules? Do overtime work? Graveyard shifts?

The recruiter expects that you know the industry you are applying for, therefore, the BEST answer here is a VERY CONFIDENT YES. Do not sound doubtful. Rememeber, you are  the one job hunting. (If the work schedule is not acceptable to you, why did you submit your resume in the first place?)

10. How do you see yourself five or ten years from now?

It is tempting to answer this with “I see myself getting married, having kids, 2 cars, a house on a hill”, but this is not the response fit for this questions. Again, remember that you are being interviewed, therefore, the best response is to focus on the job you are applying for. The answer must be work-related, examples would be establishing an impressive performance as foundation for promotion, getting promoted, etc. The more specific the future plan/vision is, the better. This means that you have proper direction in your life and you have plans for your career and that you intend to be there for the long haul.

While it is true that being interviewed is nerve-wracking, it is also true that if you are well-prepared, you will be able to respond to questions with confidence and ease.  Again, read and understand the competencies required for the post you are applying for, Google interview questions and write down your sample answers, let someone look at it if you’re still not sure , know and understand the responses you prepared but don’t memorize them. Be prepared to mix and match your prepared responses based on the questions given by the recruiter.

If you have other questions that you found to be hard, or if you have suggested answers to interview questions above, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

I failed the (behavioral) final interview…why?

I lifted this from’s Call Center Forum, from Code_Red16.

Had an interview a week ago. But the interviewer’s question still bugging me. Here: (we’re like talking for half an hour already then she skipped to the final interview, so the behavioral questions started and since I’m a fresh grad, she couldn’t ask me something about my work experience. so for the 1st question she asked me *something like this* instead)

“Tell me a time in your college days when you had a mistake that resulted to a failure for the whole group.”

-I told her several things, like when we didn’t meet the deadline for a project because of me. When we were scolded because of me…pretty usual for her i guess, coz she rejected it all.
-I said that’s all i could think of and the question’s vague and tell her to give me an example. *in the politest way i can*
– Then she said she can’t ask further questions because I couldn’t answer. That means i failed and i can re-apply after a month.

I was like, WTH! What mistake should I have been fabricated for her to be satisfied?! Oh well, the hell i care! I’m still upset tho, knowing that i might encounter the same question again. Help!


My reply:

I’m not sure what preparations you made before the interview but your experience is a classic example of “an unprepared applicant.” Unfortunately, your response, even to me, was unacceptable and will result to an automatic failure.

Behavioral interviews are essential, meaning, recruiters use your past experience in determining what you have done, how you reacted, what were the steps taken, what was the effect, what were your thoughts, the thoughts of others about what happened, and if it was a negative turnout, what have you done to help the situation – saying you have no experience related to the situation means:

1. I have nothing to evaluate you against.
2. I need someone with a previous experience, not necessarily work-related, in order for me to proceed, and eventually tag the person as “trainable” or not (failed).

This is why I keep repeating (in my blog) that an applicant needs to prepare prior to the interview, especially for the behavioral part where the core competencies are effectively measured.

I have had trouble answering behavioral questions when it was first used for call center recruitment, so I hunkered down and took the questions seriously, studied the items measured and wrote answers for them. (Please visit my blog, I wrote an entry there and it can help you.)

Please search the internet for these behavioral questions and prepare responses for them – think of situations, tell the story….And remember the PAR format (someone already made a comment about it here). Remember, too, that you cannot skip a behavioral interview question, you have to answer it even if you have no such experience, again, use the PAR format if you don’t want your response to sound pointless.

Hope this helps.

How to evaluate a job offer


I’m a fresh graduate and a first time applicant in the call center industry and I’m trying to decide between the four job offers given to me. I was not allowed to bring the document home, but I was able to take note of the details. Thing is, I am very confused now. I am unable to decide which offer is best. It would help me a lot if you can give me a personal insight on what to consider when given a job offer. Thanks in advance.


Dear Jason,

Thank you for sending me an email and for visiting my blog.

Ahead of time, I will tell you that I am very detailed when it comes to making a decision about accepting a job offer. What takes time is the fact that I conduct research, compare the result with a specific set of limits/expectations, and if the result is satisfactory, I sign the offer.

For a newbie, you are very lucky having received four different offers, others barely get any. When I first applied in the call center industry 15 years ago, I had to deal with several failed attempts which prompted me to constantly hone my customer service, language skills, and professional maturity. More than a year ago, when the last company I was working for folded, I went into a relentless job hunting spree and the result was 10 different job offers laid before me, and just like you, I was very confused considering how close and juicy the offers were. Being a research-oriented person, the need to make the best choice drove me to discover the Ben Franklin decision-making technique (nosebleed).  It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s so simple that anyone can use it in his or her daily life, at work, or even in love. I urge you to click on the link and read the entire article about this wonderful decision-making strategy, especially beneficial when you are confronted with multiple choices whose benefit closely match each other.

Now to your question.

I mentioned that when I am given a choice, I set my own limits and these become the basis of my expectations. What are these limits, work-wise:

  • Salary – is it competitive? Is it better than my earlier salary? What about appraisals? When and how Often?
  • Health and Welfare – Who is the HMO provider? What is the feedback on this HMO? What is the Maximum Benefit Limit? Pre Existing Condition Limit/coverage? How many dependents are covered? When is it given (Start of employment? Six months later?)
  • Allowances and Night differential – Is the ND competitive?
  • Vacation/Sick/Emergency Leaves available – How many VLs/SLs? When are they available? How are they filed? What is the notice period before claiming a leave? Are there days we are not allowed to file for a VL?
  • Work schedule – What time is the shift? When are the rest days? Is it on a weekend? Is it a split RD?
  • Work load – What type of account? Concerns within the account? Account attrition? Number of calls taken per day? Will there be selling/up-selling? Is it a pioneer account? If not, what batch do I belong to?
  • Training – How long is the training? Schedule? Does it have a certification? What is the pass/fail rate for the certification?
  • Scorecard – What are the KPI’s?
  • Career Development – What kind? How is it implemented? How many has been promoted? To which positions?
  • Management and Leadership – What is the culture and style of the leaders?
  • Tenureship and attrition rate of the account (if info is available) – Will I belong to a new batch/team, or will it be to re-fill the empty posts? (an indication of high attrition?) Why did they resign?
  • Retention program? – is there any? (details are normally withheld by recruiters)
  • The image, stability, and culture of the company – Is it environment friendly? Always business-like? Pro-employee? Pro-management? Is the company viable? Stable? Did it change its name in the past? Declared insolvency? Is it a call center? A BPO? A captive site? A Fortune 500? A nobody?
  • The facilities and amenities – Do they have vending machines? Concessionaire? Smoking area? Gaming and internet kiosks? Sleeping quarters?
  • Security – Is my travel to and from the office safe?
  • Proximity to my residence – Will I be spending more than what I will earn? Is there free and safe parking? Do they provide parking and transit allowance?
  • Friends – Do I have any friends or relatives working there?

It may sound a lot, but all these items are equally important to me because they make or break my tenure and my career development in that company. More importantly,  I have graduated from just looking at the basic salary as the basis for my decision, after all,  there is more to work than just money. In my experience, I have made poor decisions simply by basing it on the salary offered and I end up resigning because I am not happy with the work, the company, etc.

With the four choices that you have, I strongly recommend you look beyond the peripheral benefits – look at your medium and long-term goals – if you give it your best, will you be happy six months later? A year? 20 years? Can you see yourself being promoted from within? Bottom-line, what will make you happy in the long run? What is or are your priorities in life? The answers to these questions will help you decide, again by using the Ben Franklin decision-making technique.

I wish you luck on this new chapter of your life, I’m sure you will find it fulfilling. Just remember, the choice you will make for the job offer is only the start of the journey, what you make of yourself in between will decide your success or failure.

Hope this helps.


Funny Lines from Applicants

When I was still a newbie recruiter, my boss asked me to collate responses from applicants, not to be laughed at, but to be used as a sample for a training material – something that belongs to: WHAT NOT TO SAY and HOW NOT TO SAY IT during an interview.

Btw, the reactions/comments insterted are not mine.

Here is what I collected:
1. I am a flexible and I am perseverance person (when asked to describe her personality)

2. I want to learn more English words. (when asked why he wanted to work in a call center). [Damn! Read the dictionary!]

3. Do you have any extra ordinary positions that I can take for granted (Roughly Translated: Meron po ba kayong ibang position na pwede ko’ng apply-an?)

4. “Ten” (When asked to count from 1 to 40 to measure her articulation)

5. “Kelan Po?” (When asked to count from 1 to 40 to measure her articulation)

6. “I would choose IRATE CALLERS, Sir.” (Answer to the question: If you will change the COLOR of the world, what would it be and why?)

7. “I want to entertain and satisfy customers” (hmmm….interesting concept…so…what are you wearing right now?)

8. “I want to expose myself to the customers.” (Answer to why he wants to work in a call center”) – Flasher ITO!

9. “Is there an opening for a call center?” (Oh so you want to become a call center now huh?)

10. “Hi. Good afternoon, my name is _____, and I’M a call center from the Philippines.” (solohin ba)

11. Chocolates, boys with tongue pierce.” (An applicants answer to the question: What are your weaknesses?”

12. “I think Grade 3 and 4 students are very childish!” (Answer to the question: What do you think is the most difficult part of teaching Grade 3 and 4 students?)

13. “Haller???!!!??? (knocks on the table) THE SALARY!” (Answer to Why do you want to work in a call center?)

14. “I’m a married person, I have 2 children, the same boy”

15. “It’s a colorful world.” (Describe the shirt you’re wearing.)

16. “It’s a boomed industry.” (So all agents are now dead, I guess)

17. “I like to explore other people” (ay sus…maniac ka ano?)

18. “I want to explore myself more.” (Answer to why do you want to work in a call center. bagay sila ni #17…)

19. “Hu u? How did you get my #? Text me back, huri. Send me load.” (Text from an applicant who failed to accept my call. The audacity of an applicant can sometimes appall you.)

20. “I was scheduled for an exam this morning….I wasn’t able to make it…because I WAS TONSILITIS.”

21. “Hi Maam, do you have an opening.” (Lokong to ah!)

22. “I want to adventure into the graveyard…” (Langya, mahiilig ka sa patay!)

23. “I would like to be a part of the graveyard…” (isa ka pa…thriller… thriller night)

24. “Gd pm sir, im realy Sri Wen u call me I cnt hears clearly coz d a raindrop of d rain is vry noisy. Rgrdng of *** u want 2 knw y u call me?” (A text message from an applicant)

25. “Do you accept walking applicants?” (No, we prefer flying ones)

26. Interviewer: So you’re an undergrad. What year are you in right now? Applicant: Oh I’m just here in the house. Interviewer: No, I asked you what year you’re in. Applicant: Year? I’m 25 years old! ( Nagkakaintindihan tayo pare….)

27. Applicant: Agency ba to? Interviewer: No sir, head hunting firm. Applicant (turning to friend, laughing): Egg-hunting daw pare! (He later apologized thinking that it was a prank call from a friend!)

28. “In the middle of my study at Adamson, my father fortunately passed away.” (FORTUNATELY? ??!!!)

29. “Hello, I just want to inquire about the application resume that I planted in the computer…” (Planted?)

30. “May inaantay ako na trabaho kaya gusto ko lang na may mapag LILIBINGAN.” (Answer to the question “Why do you prefer a part-time job?” Tagalog na yun ha! Mahilig talaga kayo sa patay!)

Call Center Initial Interview, what do they measure?

This was originally 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 remind me of myself 9 years ago.

From a recruiter’s POV:

The purpose of the initial interview is to measure your communication skills, that is, diction, intonation, pronunciation, grammar, your ability to comprehend, and the level of your confidence. A good English-speaking skill is your “foot in the door”.

Although you are applying in a non-voice environment, your grammar is being measured – it gives the interviewer an idea of how you will write – especially if the account requires you to.

There are other factors here, like how did you respond to the questions you posted above? The contents of your response, sans the issue of grammar, pronunciation, etc, will determine your failure (or success).

With your indulgence, I would like you tell us how you answered the questions above, this will give us an idea and give you a better suggestion. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, grammar or otherwise, this is the perfect time for that as it will allow all of us give you constructive input.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t replied since.

Here is a more detailed reply:

Contrary to what most applicants think, an initial interview is not the first part of the application process, generally, it is the second (resume screening being the first). There are two kinds – a face to face interview, mostly done for walk-in applicants; and a phone interview, done by recruiters after receiving and screening resumes sent via email or a job hunting portal (Jobstreet, JobsDB, etc).

In the call center setting, the goal of an initial interview is to get a measurement of your communication skills in terms of grammar, pronunciation, accent, diction, spontaneity, and some other details required by the client. Too, it gives the recruiter an idea of your overall attitude and behavior towards work. In some cases, after they have reviewed your resume, they will ask work history related questions, especially if the timeline is dubious, or several companies with short tenure. This is why I mentioned in the previous posts that a good comm. skill is your “foot in the door.”
The decision of a recruiter to pass or fail an applicant largely depends on the client requirement. However, generally, they majority of recruiters will base it on the following:

1. Your overall presence. If you come off too strong or too weak, the recruiter will take a mental note of his first impression of you – this will be validated during the interview. The best recourse is to watch your manners when you walk in the door, when you sit, when you speak, when you offer a handshake, or even when you leave after the interview. One tip: be professional.

2. Your accent and pronunciation. Recruiters are trained to detect even the slightest mispronunciation. In my experience, I do not look for someone who speaks like an American or for anyone who has a twang (that actually turns me off, especially if it’s fake). What I look for is somebody who has a neutral accent and neutral/trainable pronunciation – meaning, someone who does not have a strong provincial accent. I also watch out for notable pronunciation pitfalls in the areas of TH, long e, short I, p/f, b/v, vowels, etc. (these are just examples, there are more).

How do I define “trainable”? He is an applicant who makes the occasional (not frequent and definitely not consistent) mistake, but is aware of it so he self-corrects. His accent may have a provincial “hint”, but passable when endorsed to the accent neutralization training. A recruiter always thinks “if I give this person a chance, will he survive the language/accent neutralization training?”

A neutral accent is desired by most of the BPO and call center clients because they are easily understood by their customers.

3. You grammar and diction. Some applicants defend that being able to communicate is more than enough, meaning, so long as I can speak, it shouldn’t matter if my grammar is defective, “kasi nasasabi ko naman ang gusto kong sabihin” to quote an applicant who got upset after I failed her due to bad grammar and poor diction. This mindset is wrong. Correct grammar usage, whether you like it or not, is an integral part of a call center agent’s work, especially if you want to be easily and correctly  understood.

Being a veteran of the call center industry, I have seen and heard of several situations where a simple call became escalated or has resulted to a negative CSAT score (customer satisfaction) simply because the rep failed to say it right, chose the wrong word, or simply placed a wrong accent on the wrong syllable. This is why grammar and diction is very important, and recruiters are wary if an applicant displays grammatical errors and poor diction. An applicant who displays excellent pronunciation but has a bad grammar will always fail. However, some grammatical error may be tagged as “passable”, especially if the error does not impact the overall message being conveyed.

4. Your level of comprehension. In the call center industry, where most of the work done is talking to customers, here comprehension is a huge issue. One can never provide an effective solution to a problem if he or she fails to comprehend the real message behind the rant. A lot of customers beat around the bush and will oftentimes just give you the symptom/s instead of the real problems, it is up to the CSR to figure it out, re-state the issue, and get a confirmation from the customer if the issue is correctly understood.
Here is an example of an applicant with poor comprehension issue:
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.

5. Content of your response. A lot of applicants, perhaps because of nervousness or sheer lack of knowledge about what is being measured during an initial interview, tend to take the question at face value and provide an “as Is” response. The end result is an incomplete, shallow, and therefore unconvincing answers to questions asked.
In a separate blog, I mentioned that an applicant needs to analyze the question, find out what the bottom line is, and end his response with a “value statement”.
Here is a good example:
Question: What is your edge of the other applicants outside?
“Being a fresh graduate, I would say that my edge over the other applicants outside is my above average GPA. I studied everyday so the lessons would remain fresh in my mind and I actively participated in classroom discussion. Moreover, I pioneered several student programs, engaged in a dialogue with school officials to improve the health and welfare of my fellow students, and I was the editor-in-chief of the college paper…etc”

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 gauge a job hunter’s comm. skill, it is also true that majority of the questions offer him/her a perfect chance to sell him/herself. Therefore, this is where the “value statement” comes in handy. If you look at the above (good) response, the interviewee did not give a vague or a general description of his edge over the other applicants, he cited examples and he said it with confidence – he is “selling” himself and to the interviewer. His response can be interpreted as “the applicant is an achiever, has a sense of commitment, initiative, and involvement.”

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

What’s the best answer to “Enumerate three of your weaknesses.”

I’ve read forums started by people wanting to get a job in the call center and I have noticed one common reason for failure – applicants responding to questions blindly, mostly because they are either too nervous and have failed to prepare for the interview.  Case in point: Enumerate three of your weaknesses?” I recall a TVC where the applicant answered “Chocolates, tattoos, and boys.” I laughed at it but also contemplated on the fact that such a clueless response can break your slim chance of bagging the job.

Think before you respond is always the best route. Better yet, do your homework, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Research possible questions.
  2. Research ideal answers.
  3. Using the ideal answers you found as a model, write your answers.
  4. Don’t memorize. Simply understand.
  5. Rehearse with someone who can help.
  6. Ask for feedback on how to improve your responses.

Trivia: In my years of responding to questions, “Enumerate three of your weaknesses” is apparently the most difficult question to respond to. People who have visited my blog in the past always tend to look for this question first (the second one is going on AWOL). So, how do we respond to this question then?

Here is a sample:

“Last year, my manager gave me an assignment to become a cluster leader for our team. She observed three things: I was obsessive compulsive; two, I tend to become a perfectionist, and three, I was autocratic as a leader.

Being the cluster leader, it was my duty to send my cluster-mates our daily stats for tracking purposes. I spent time in perfecting the report to make sure that it served its purpose by coordinating with my managers and my colleagues to make the dashboard more effective, this is why my manager observed that I was both OC and a perfectionist. Regarding autocracy, being the man at the helm, it was also my duty to help my teammates recover from any negative impact to their scorecard. We would track and trend a specific metric with the goal of passing it and I would not give up on my teammate until he or she is able to succeed. Many of my teammates were immensely helped by this short program and my managers commended me for it”

If you noticed, the response of the applicant here is comprehensive, not only did he give the answer to the question, he also took advantage of the chance to “sell himself” by way of a personal experience.

I’ve always reminded applicants who ask for help to remember where they are and what they are doing – they are in a job interview and the goal is to get the job, therefore, each question is an opportunity to sell yourself by way of  “making kwento“.

Here are a few rules I follow when responding to this questions:

  1. Don’t avoid it by saying you have no weaknesses. That’s impossible and ridiculous.
  2. Do not turn a weakness into a strength, the recruiter knows that’s completely bull. Instead, turn a strength into weakness. This is usually very effective.
  3. Relate how you are working on improving yourself.
  4. Give that weakness a deadline.

Finally, please prepare a response to this question. Seriously. Remember that almost all call centers to go to will ask you this so there is no point going there hoping to “wing it”. As I’ve mentioned in the past, getting a job in the call center isn’t about hoping and praying that you can bag the job, it’s as a simple as you having the skill or not. If you don’t have the skill, why? What are you doing to improve yourself? If you do have the skill, how can you flaunt it as you respond to interview questions?


Hope this helps. Leave a comment if you have questions.

Interview Question: Why did you not pursue your course?

I am a frequent visitor and forum member of’s The Call Center Forum. One of the topics I am subscribed to is “Hardest questions/Tricky questions during Interview”, a thread started by Dhawnah (IRL, Donna Elarmo). Here is a question posted by JuilJuil.

“You graduated with a degree in a nursing. Why did you not pursue that course?”

When I was the recruitment manager for a call center in Libis, my boss asked me to hire 150 reps in a span of four weeks. In recruitment terms, this is close to impossible; however, because the requirement of the account was not stringent, my team and I successfully completed the headcount, with a spare 30 candidates as buffer in case of attrition.

When the training started, my boss knocked on my office door and casually asked “Why do we have 30% nursing graduates in our trainee population?” Because when the requirement was given, there were no specific orders NOT to hire nursing graduates or students, was my reply. His question hails from the bias that nurses/nursing students are unreliable when it comes to tenure. Knowing my boss, I had the idea that his premise was a hearsay, albeit in some major centers, hiring nurses and nursing students are an automatic NO, their data proved that the bias is true. I advised him that when the request was approved (by him), there was no specific request not to hire nursing graduates or student. He turned around defeated. We both learned from that conversation.

Truth is, this bias is universal and does not only apply to nursing graduates. However, the bias is fed by experience, and the experience is backed by data. Moreover, anyone who is having an industry shift deserves to be asked the question “Why did you not pursue that course/profession?”

Here is a sample response that really impressed me:

“It was my parent’s decision for me to take the said course, but if you were to ask me then, I would have taken either psychology or management. I knew at the back of my mind that by the time I graduated, the field will be saturated with nurses and finding a job will be a real challenge. I was right. I am happy that I finished a course but I am also afraid that reality has caught up with me and pursuing my course is not only a far-fetched option, it is no longer practical. My career shift is a result of two things: that the call center industry is the most viable, and two, that my belief in life is akin to customer service. I believe that this is the industry where I will best thrive, that is why I am applying as a call center agent and no longer as a nurse.”

When an interviewer asks this kind of question, he is not poised to automatically fail you simply because you graduated with a degree in nursing (or any course for that matter); he is probing your motivation for finding work. He is looking for any indication that you plan to leave when you see the next opportunity. Therefore, the focus of your response should be to surmount this bias.

Also, remember that a recruiter has a quota, if he sees that you are qualified for the job and that you won’t jump ship at the next port, he may be able to defend your case and offer you a job. Finally, an applicant MUST always do research, especially about the company’s background and the requirement for the job vacancies. Some accounts are very specific about their requirements, one obvious example is an IT company looking for a Level II or Level III TSR will, of course, not hire a nursing graduate.

Hope this helps.

My First Call Center Experience

Nine years ago, I had a real challenge finding a day job here in the Metro, the bottom-line of it, however, was I needed a job and it didn’t matter if it were a day or a night job. I thought that, being in the broadcast industry (who refused to go back); the closest work I could get was in the call center industry.

I was having second thoughts though. Apart from the impression that the work they do here is nothing short of blue-collar, my friend’s review of the call center work wasn’t too encouraging – that it was nothing more than a glorified telephone operator (I believe this impression still persists up to now, just ask my wife). I was in for a surprise.

My first three attempts at applying in three big centers all resulted to failure. The recruitment specialists who handed me the dreaded regret letter never bothered to explain why, and because I’m research oriented, I needed to find out for myself.

I didn’t know much about online application then, so it was the good old Manila Bulletin which showed me a vacancy in the Mandaluyong area (I was staying in a friend’s house in Kalentong so this was a convenient two short jeep rides). The ad was for an outbound call center agent.

The recruitment center was located in the former EasyCall building, and the people in that company never bothered to hide the shabbiness and lack of organization of their operation, yet still a lot of people were waiting outside, under the hot sun, in the hope of landing a job at the soonest possible time. The ad did not offer much detail, it was just an outbound sales agent post and the only requirement was the resume and an NBI clearance (getting one is another story), and because of my curiosity, I tried conversing with fellow applicants, they too we clueless about the work and the company.
When the recruitment office finally opened, the guard scowled at the applicants to form a line, and then he started to collect the resume. Being early and had the opportunity to befriend the guard, I was first in the line to be called for the initial interview.
The recruitment process was short. An initial interview, a short test composed of grammar, math, and an IQ test, and a final interview with an American (who I learned later was the major investor in this operation).
The initial interviewer was nervous, perhaps because it was her first time to do the job, or maybe because she read from my resume that I was a radio DJ, and felt conscious of her language skill, I don’t know. This was where I realized that was talking too fast, my first clue as to why I failed the interviews in the other centers.

After passing the initial interview and the tests, I was immediately endorsed to the American interviewer who asked me to read a script – apparently the actual one used on the floor, and he asked if we could do a simple mock call, I agreed. When the interviewer said “ring ring”, I laughed and felt stupid. He didn’t find it amusing so I started reading the script. He did not challenge me with an objection; he simply ended the interview and advised that I will be starting the day after tomorrow, which will allow me to get enough rest. The shift will start at 9:00PM.
When I arrived at the site for my first shift, I found myself suffocating from cigarette smoke – I wasn’t a smoker. I was led by the guard to a room full of freshly hired applicants from the previous day. All 49 of us were given another copy of the script, and the training started. Two hours later, we were led to another room with computers, headsets, and telephones, we were all going live.

I felt the pang of nervousness envelope my entire body. I felt like I needed a smoke, but there was no time for that. We were asked to wear the headsets, shown how the dialer works, asked to test the amplifier, and a test call came in, they were testing the data pop. When everyone was done, we were told to take a 15 minute break then we will go live.

That was the most stressful 15 minutes of my life; in fact, it resulted to my first taste of a cigarette. I didn’t smoke but because of the pressure I felt, I felt the need to. I did not have the proper training, I did not have any experience in selling, my longest conversation with a foreigner was 15 minutes and this was during an interview just the other day, my exposure to Avaya, the CRM, and a call center headset was very minimal, and I was being asked go sell something I thought was a complete BS. My first puff of smoke made me feel nauseated. I gagged and coughed, but it helped ease the tension.

And so it begins, my first job as an outbound sales agent selling timeshare for a resort in New Mexico. Anyone who worked in that center can never forget the shabby look and feel of the place. I vividly remember the floor being damp with occasional puddles as if it were hosed down in the morning (which meant electrocution for anyone who steps on the puddle and on an exposed wire at the same time), with thin plywood dividers and pipes running along the length of the entire operations floor and the ceiling. Literally, a boiler room call center (I learned later that this was the building’s parking area for executives).

The center uses an auto-dialer with a two-second avail time. In one day, you can make as much as 250 calls if everyone’s voice mail was on. There were no bio-breaks, no system auxes – only the straight two fifteen-minute coffee break and a 30 minute lunch, and if you are late and your sales performance was not at par, you will not be allowed to log back in; only the top sellers were allowed that privilege.

When you are on the phone with an interested customer, mostly retirees who had the extra money, you need to build as much rapport as you can, putting the customer in a yes mode while preparing for the major pitch. When that moment is on, you get the customer’s agreement to the sale, you raise your hand to call the attention of the American “closer”, he comes over and you introduce him to the customer, continues with the rapport you built, answers a few questions, and, if lucky, he takes note of the credit card information, ends the call and shouts “Sale!”. This word always resulted in an uproar all over the floor, only because you a get spiffs – a solid Php500.00 for every sale you make. And for some reason, the lesbians in the team were always getting no less than Php 3,000 a night, this is why I always wanted to sit beside one, to listen to their pitch and learn their secret to selling, that is, they have a relentless spirit and they knew which buttons to push when talking to an elderly.

Not everyone was lucky though. Good seller or not, spend a week without a sale, no matter that the reason was, and you get fired. There were no permanent employees, no permanent friends. There were no walking papers too; the Americans just ask you not report the following week. You don’ get to say goodbye to your new-found friends too; there was never a time for that because your next priority was to find a job.

There were no benefits, no SSS, PAGIBIG, or tax deductions. If you were offered Php11, 500 (the going rate at that time), you will get it on a weekly or sometimes daily basis, in a small brown envelope. Attendance was checked by the American team leader and so it was essential that we befriended him, there was always the risk of not getting paid if he doesn’t see you or if you do not call his attention. This was a boiler room call center, there were no card-swiping or finger print access to doors or Avaya logins linked to your attendance, If you were absent for whatever reason, there was no way you can inform your team leader (he never gave out his phone number), just don’t bother coming back, only sellers with proven track record gets that benefit. I survived this job for six months.

Why did I take that job? Because I needed it. I failed in my first three attempts at SVI, Sykes, and VXI so I needed to get the experience to understand the work of a call center agent, to validate if it indeed was a no-brainer, and to find out why I kept failing.
Just like lesbians I worked with, my spirit knows no relent. If I did not understand something, I will research it until I am satisfied. The answer to the mystery of my three strikes came in like an epiphany, slowly but surely, I began to understand the reason why I failed. I began to work on some reforms as a result of my self-study, and applied at a few centers just to test my theories. I got five job offers in a span of one week.

I found the work environment to be too stressful. I decided that the six months of immersion in an outbound environment was more than enough for me. Next stop, inbound customer service account.