Failed in 11 call center interviews…help!


Head in Hands

Dear Seven,

I’ve been reading your posts from Pinoyexchange.com and I have to admit, you seem knowledgeable on the aspect of getting into the call center industry. Well, here goes. I just arrived from the province some two weeks ago and in that short period, I have been to 11 different call centers, and so far, I haven’t passed any. Out of 11, 6 “big” call centers failed me in the initial interview, and 5 companies dumped me during the final interview. I can’t seem to understand why I’m failing. The bad part about is I don’t get any feedback from the recruiters – they always seem to be so in a hurry to hand over the regret letter. It’s depressing me because I’m running out of options, money, and time. Any advice? Btw, I read in your blog that you are a Bicolano too. I am from  Tabaco, Albay.

Alex

Dear Alex,

Your desire to continue despite 11 rejections is genuinely admirable, I would have given up on the 5th attempt, but you just kept going.

First, you need to understand that the initial interview in a call center is nothing more than a measurement of your communication skills. Therefore, your failure is an indication that you need to check your comms.

Before joining the call center industry, I was a radio jock for 5 and a half years. Because my English-speaking ability is self-taught, I have to admit that I needed formal training; this is why my first three attempts in the call center industry were a complete failure. I had consistent problems with

  • pronunciation: Th (soft and hard), p/F, b/V
  • wrong accent on the wrong syllable
  • diction
  • Filipinoism (transliteration)
  • Grammar

Tip: Call center recruiters train in listening for consistent problems in grammar, diction, pronunciation, accent, and intonation.

In the blog entitled Learning English The Hard Way, I shared that it took me six months to fix how I spoke (not so much with how I write, so please bear with the grammar problems here). I wanted to become a DJ, so I took it upon myself to learn English properly. Therefore, it was not difficult for me to determine what I needed to improve on. I wasn’t ready for the big call centers, but since I needed a job, I took on an outbound sales account in a small, humid boiler room call center in Mandaluyong. Aside from earning, I needed an opportunity to hone my speaking skills, this time, with proper direction. My American Team Leader noticed my strong desire to learn, so he coached me on the many aspects of American pronunciation, told me repeatedly to “listen to myself,” and fined me for every transliteration I committed. It was fun. Too, he invested time and effort in teaching me about the concepts of “customer service” in the call center setting.

Now, let’s talk about customer service. Many accounts in the call center industry are tedious. You can ask anyone who has handled a telco, financial, or tech support account. They will not hesitate to tell you that the only way they survived is to understand customer service (theory or practice) thoroughly. I suspect that you may have ventured into the call centers whose accounts require a heavy background in customer service, hence, the failure.

Please understand that recruiters are matchmakers. Their company, client, or account has a specific demand for what type CSR can best serve them and only those who match the said profile will get the job offer. For this reason, my constant advocacy is to always prepare for an interview. You need to read and understand the job requirement, research the company, find out their business and customer base, prepare answers to interview questions, and let someone knowledgeable evaluate your responses for you.

This preparation is also accurate for the final interview; you fail because you are unprepared for the questions. Therefore, the secret to winning this battle is to jot down possible questions and prepare responses for them. List down possible questions; this way, you will not be surprised when they come out, and you have a ready answer for it. It’s never really about memorizing the answers; it’s about understanding them and mixing and matching them depending on the question asked.

Here are  a few tips when you are preparing your responses to these interview questions:

  1. Every open-ended question is an opportunity to sell your skills and competencies, so do not fall short of mentioning them.
  2. Flaunt accomplishments that are related to the post you are applying for.
  3. Help the recruiter see that your experiences match the job requirements; if this is not the case, then exhibit the skills and competencies you have learned that can be useful for the said post.

The Final Interview is where everything becomes tricky. Recruiters use what they call “Targeted Selection,” it is an interview method that determines your past behaviors, and the fundamental precept here is what you are in the past is what you will be in the future. Most of the questions are open-ended and would start with something like “Tell me about the time when…” or “Can you tell me about an experience when you…” My suggestion here is to Google these types of questions and prepare an answer for each of them.

Again, remember two things: recruiters are matchmakers; they are trying to determine if you have the skills and competencies required by the post. Therefore, if you say, “I’m sorry I have no experience in that aspect,” in a Behavioral Interview, you tell the recruiter that you are not qualified for the posts and deserve to receive the reg. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

I hope this helps. Btw, I am from Daraga, Albay.

Se7en

Top 10 Interview Question and How To Answer Them


If there is one thing I have learned about job interviews, it is that they are competency-based. They develop interview questions to assess if an applicant is a good fit for the job by comparing his responses (together with his work experience) to the skills and competencies required for the position.

If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that I strongly encourage preparation (read: research), which includes determining what competencies are required for the post, attempting to decide what questions given during the interview, AND preparing responses that the candidate must know and understand (but not memorize) and mixing and matching is based on the questions asked.

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

  1. Tell me something about yourself.

This is not an invitation to talk about yourself aimlessly; instead, the question assesses your work attitude and behavior. You MAY talk about some personal matters. However, it would be beneficial if you had some direction; that is, your goal should be to discuss your distinctive qualities as an employee or student, such as honesty, integrity, professionalism, and even your philosophy.

  1. Why do you want to work here?

This is a question that needs thorough research. Before the interview, study the company’s history, business type, mission and vision, accounts (if accessible), and culture on their website. Knowing about the company makes you appear interested, as though you did your homework and are eager to acquire the job.

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

You are not a professional (yet). As a result, the recruiter/employer does not expect you to know everything, but a basic understanding of the business or the task involved is required. Naturally, failing to achieve that expectation fails.

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

This question determines a good fit for the job based on the abilities and competencies listed in the job description. The second question is deceptive due to the word “not,” yet the answer remains the same. The question is, how can you ensure that you can provide a satisfactory answer to this question?

  1. Research the required skills and competencies for the position.
  2. Make a list of your skills and competencies. Compare it to the requirements.
  3. Study the interview question. Make a planned answer. The bottom line of your response should be that you possess the necessary competencies and skills.

Because they lack work experience, it is often difficult for recent graduates to provide a straightforward answer to this issue. I propose the following:

  1. Research the necessary abilities and competencies.
  2. Think about your experiences while you were still in school: organizations you joined, meetings you attended, honors you received, advocacies you held, and so on. Prepare a list.
  3. Compare your list to the job’s required abilities and competencies.

Then, write a response to the interview question to demonstrate that you are qualified for the position because, even as a student, you showed the necessary abilities and skills.

The preparation described above will enable you to respond to the question with total confidence and ease.

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

DO NOT answer this question with “because of the compensation,” no matter how honest you are. Remember, your goal is to “sell yourself” and pass the interview. Discuss how well this position matches your skills, competencies, and experiences. If you lack experience (as a recent graduate or newcomer), discuss how close it is to your professional and personal goals and beliefs and how you envision yourself succeeding in this field. The goal is to convince the interviewer that YOU ARE PERFECT FOR THIS JOB.

  1. Why did you resign from your previous company?

This question has multiple answers, and the only tricky part is if your reason for leaving is negative (disagreement with the boss, predicting termination, going on AWOL, etc.), regardless of the reason, BE POSITIVE. The truth is that it doesn’t matter if your stint was short or lengthy (as long as it wasn’t a series of short-term employment that gave the appearance that you were a job hopper). Tell the recruiter what you realized while working at that position, what you (positively) acquired by quitting, and that you are ready to move on. One example of good response is the employee’s previous firm achievements. He is now prepared to take on a more substantial, more challenging assignment and achieve more accomplishments.

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Responding to these questions is a bit difficult. We Filipinos try to avoid boasting; on the other hand, we don’t want our flaws exposed for fear of being judged unfairly.

Remember what position you are applying for; if it is a call center position, emphasize communication, customer service/focus, friendliness, attention to detail, and so on. As for the weakness, choose one of your strengths and make it appear as a problem – for example, “I am so devoted to my work that I become frustrated when I don’t meet my objectives.”

  1. What is your expected salary?

Remember, this isn’t the bargaining stage yet. The key here is to understand the industry standard. You don’t want to give too much, which will make the interviewer think the company can’t afford you, but you also don’t want to give too little, which will leave you with no space for bargaining. Find out what the going rate is for the position, then say it. When you say the amount, be confident; don’t be shy, and don’t be too proud. Being enthusiastic about your predicted wage indicates that you are aware of yourself, your experience, as well as your self-worth, talents, and competencies.

  1. 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. Remember, 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?)

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

It is tempting to respond, “I envision myself getting married, having kids, two cars, and a house on a hill,” but this is not the appropriate response for this question. You’re in an interview; concentrate on the job you want. The answer must be work-related; for example, developing an exceptional performance basis for promotion, being promoted, and so on. The more explicit the plan/vision, the better; this indicates that you have the right direction in your life, plans for your profession, and aim to stay for the long haul.

While being interviewed can be nerve-racking, if you are well-prepared, you will react to questions with confidence and ease. Again, read and comprehend the competencies required for the position for which you are seeking. Google interview questions and write down your sample replies; if you’re still hesitant, have someone look at it; know and comprehend the responses you prepared but don’t memorize them. Prepare to mix and match your prepared answers depending on the recruiter’s questions.

Would you mind leaving a comment if you have any other questions that you found challenging or have any suggestions for responses to the interview questions listed above?

How to evaluate a job offer


Seven,

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.

Jason

Dear Jason,

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

I’ll tell you up front that I’m quite meticulous when it comes to deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. I spend a significant amount of time conducting research and comparing the results to a precise set of boundaries and expectations. If the outcome is satisfactory, I will accept the offer.

You are fortunate to have received four separate offers as a beginner; others receive none. When I originally applied to work in the call center industry 15 years ago, I had multiple failed efforts. This encouraged me to continually improve my customer service, language skills, and professional maturity. When the last company I worked for went bankrupt more than a year ago, I embarked on a job-hunting spree. As a result, I was presented with ten different job offers. I was perplexed, too, given how close and juicy the offers were. As a researcher, the desire to make the greatest decision led me to find the Ben Franklin decision-making technique. I strongly advise you to follow the link and read the complete essay.

Now to your question.

I mentioned that when I am given a choice, I set my own limits, which 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 the weekend? Is it a split RD?
  • Workload – 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 have 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 typically 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 appear to be a lot, but each of these criteria is equally important because they will make or break my tenure and career advancement in that company. More importantly, I’ve moved on from making my decision solely on the basic salary; after all, there’s more to job than just money. In my experience, I’ve made poor decisions based only on the money offered. I end up resigning because I am unhappy with the work, the company, and so on.

I strongly advise you to look beyond the perks and consider your medium and long-term goals. Consider whether you will be happy in this company if you give it your all. Can you picture yourself rising through the ranks? What are your life’s priorities? Again, using the Ben Franklin decision-making approach, the answers to these questions will help you decide.

I wish you the best of luck in this new chapter of your life; I’m confident you’ll enjoy it. Remember that the decision you make about the job offer is simply the beginning of your journey; what you do with yourself in the meantime will determine your success or failure.

Hope this helps.

Seven