4 Steps to Better Call Center Recruiting Process

The Right Stuff

In their new book, “Calculating Success: How the New Workplace Analytics Will Revitalize Your Organization“, Carl Hoffmann, Eric Lesser, and Tim Ringo lay out the steps Delta Airlines went through to get more from their recruiting process – utilizing these four steps can significantly improve the recruiting process for your organization as well. Be it hiring call center agents or airline pilots, knowing exactly who you want to hire and how to identify these individuals is the key to an effective recruiting process.

Specifically, Delta wanted to hire pilots with “the right stuff” to handle the stresses of being a commercial airline pilot. To do this, they went through this four step process:

  1. Explicitly define the behavior and attitudes that makes an excellent Delta Airlines pilot.
  2. Understand what knowledge, skills, abilities and personality traits underline those behaviors and attitudes.
  3. Determine the best ways to measure the underlying attributes; that is, how to capture the best measures from background characteristics and experience, interviews and selection tests.
  4. Define an effective, cost-efficient hiring process that selects candidates with “the right-stuff”.

To better understand these steps, let’s go through each one from a call center perspective.

Defining “The Right Stuff”

For a call center, the first step would be to define what makes a good agent for their particular purposes. In working with our clients, we start with our Call Center Diagnostic – an assessment of of our client’s center to understand exactly what it is that the center is aiming to accomplish.

While this assessment can potentially be completed internally if all of the stakeholders agree to a free and open discussion, there is often a disconnect between what the recruiters, teams leads, and managers think are the right characteristics. Having a third party facilitate this process can help significantly, reducing the likelihood that internal politics and bias might distract from the discussion.

From this starting point, you can then move on to understanding what underlying traits make up these characteristics.

Identify the Traits

So, you can define your ideal agent, but what traits underline the characteristics your came up with earlier?

Let’s looks at some examples. If your center sells internet services, what does the ideal agent look like? Characteristics like being sales minded, driven, dependable, adaptable and with high integrity might define your ideal agent. What if instead you run a customer service center handling life insurance claims. For this position, the characteristics might shift to being empathetic, caring, patient and with a high desire to please.

In the example of the sales agent, here are some potential underlining traits of the identified characteristics:

  • Sales Minded – Specific traits that you look for in sales minded individuals might include being driven financially, tolerant of rejection, and excited by the challenge of the sale.
  • Dependable – Specific traits that underline dependability include the ability to be where they promise on time, showing that they can follow through on commitments, etc.
  • High Integrity – Agents with high integrity would be less likely to try to mislead or trick potential customers. Traits to look for include demonstration of ethical behavior when confronted with choices that place self-interest over the interest of others.

Measure the Attributes

With the specific traits determined, how can you best analyze potential candidates? We believe using a combination of personality, skill set, behavioral and performance interviews can give you a much clearer picture into your candidates that a simple resume review or interview. The key to this though is recognizing all parts of the process need to be considered as giving guidance and not as a “knock-out” process.

There are many providers of pre-hire assessment testing solutions on the market. The reality is, most do the same basic thing, and much like owning a tooth brush, it is how you use it that is important. We typically start by looking at the available tests and determining if there is a pre-existing solution to test for our needed attribute or deciding if we have to design our own. From there, we have the current agent population take the assessment tests we will be giving to potential candidates to set a baseline. Creating the baseline gives you a starting point against which to compare candidates.

It is even more critical to tie performance back to your measurements. Are high-scoring candidates actually performing better when they become agents? Does it turn out that some of the attributes your identified are not actually all that critical? Creating a statistical linkage between pre-hire assessments and agent performance is complicated but well worth it if done properly.

Create the Process

With these steps complete, the easy work is done…now you have to implement a process that actually accomplishes your goals in a cost-efficient manner!

Do you outsource some or all of the process or handle it in house? How do you track performance and tie that performance back to your process? What is your Cost Per Hire and can your reduce your costs with changes in the process without sacrificing quality? Answering these questions and many others are critical in designing your process.


Although hiring call center agents might not be as risky as hiring pilots, putting in place an effective recruiting process to identify candidates with the “right stuff” is critical for the overall success of your operations. If too many of your agents are “crashing and burning”, it might be time to reevaluate your hiring process and institute a more analytical approach.

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