Tips & Techniques for Recruiting & Screening WFM Candidates

By Maggie Klenke

This article is an excerpt from the new SWPP book, “Hiring and Developing the Workforce Management Team.”

Once the job descriptions are completed and the HR team has begun the search for candidates for your WFM team openings, the next step is to ensure that the screening of the candidates will result in the best choice for the position. Ideally, the person will have all of the required Knowledge, Skills, and Attriutes (KSAs) and perhaps some additional desired traits. It is important to interview the candidates so that you can be assured of a good personality fit to blend with the existing team.

Recruiting

It can sometimes be challenging to find qualified candidates to fill an open WFM position. This may require some reorganization within the department to open a position that might be easier to fill instead of the one left open by the departure or promotion. For example, if a scheduler has left, it may be appropriate to move a qualified real-time analyst into that position and hire for the real-time role rather than looking for someone who can step directly into the scheduler position. In many cases, the move would be a promotion for the real-time analyst and this helps to reinforce the opportunities for development within the department.

When recruiting from outside of the company, the HR department will typically take the lead. However, a resource they might not consider is posting the job opening on the SWPP Job Posting Board, which is a benefit for SWPP members. This will put the opportunity in front of a large group of WFM professionals and can be particularly helpful when looking for an experienced or certified WFM professional.

Some centers like to develop a group of potential internal resources who can be considered for WFM roles when they are available. Using an “intern” program has been successful in many centers. Agents who think they might like a role in WFM are offered an intern period during which they work in the WFM department along with the regular team. This might be a couple of weeks or months depending on the flexibility of the operation. During this time, the intern gains a better understanding of what is required and the team can assess the ability of the person to fill the role and fit with the team. Once the intern period is completed, the agents return to their regular roles. This provides an added benefit of having a “WFM champion” on the floor. When an opening occurs and internal candidates are welcome to apply, those who have served as interns may be in the best position to be hired and the opening can be filled quickly. However, some interns discover that the role is not a good fit for them and will not apply for the opening. This can save the organization and individual from making a choice that will result in a mismatch.

Review of Applications

In some organizations, the HR team will do the review of applications/resumes and do the initial interview before sending only qualified candidates on to the WFM department for further consideration. This can be helpful if the HR team has a clear idea of what is needed and the job description is detailed and accurate.

In other centers, the WFM team leader (sometimes with the assistance of the Contact Center Manager) does the review of applications and most of the hiring process. Depending on the number and quality of candidates who apply, this can be a time-consuming process.

Screening of Candidates

The initial review should focus on the “must” criteria or requirements and eliminate from consideration any that do not meet those minimums. Once the list of candidates to be interviewed is compiled, the next step is to go through the process of screening these candidates to identify the best person for the job. This process can involve several steps including any or all of the following:

    • Behavioral-based interview. This type of interview does not ask the candidate how he might handle a situation, but rather focuses on asking the person to think of a time when he actually handled a challenge, explaining how he handled it and why. For example, a traditional interview question might ask “How would you handle a request for time off when the service level is well below the goal?” In a behavioral-based interview, the question might be reworded to say “Tell me about a specific time when you had to handle a request for time off when the service level was well below the goal. What were the specifics of the situation, what steps did you take to resolve it, and what was the outcome?” This can offer considerable insights into the way people think and how they interact with others. Just like using past history to predict workload for the center, past behaviors are good predictors of future performance. Look for candidates who display confidence in their answers and listen for quality rather than lengthy responses.
  • Knowledge test. It may be appropriate to ask the candidates to take the test that is required within 90 days of hire or a subset of it. While a low score at this point is not an elimination criterion, this serves two purposes. First, the hiring manager knows what the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses are and it also helps the candidate to understand what expectations will be in the first few months on the job. (The test may consist of the WFM Knowledge Assessment available on the SWPP website (www.swpp.org) or an internal test focused on the specifics of each job role.) As an alternative to a formal test, interview or written questions can be created. For example, “Explain the reason that a call center requires a high level of schedule adherence,” or “Tell me the steps you would take to create a forecast for a three-month shift bid.”
  • Side-by-side with the team. If possible, it is a good idea to ask a finalist candidate to sit with one or more of the current team to see the job in action. It gives the team members a chance to get to know the candidate in order to weigh in with their thoughts on the candidate’s qualifications and fit with the team. It also gives the candidate a good look at what the job really entails so there should be fewer surprises in the early weeks on the job.
  • Psychometric tests. Psychometric testing has been used with good success in selecting frontline agents who will be better able to sell or provide service. This type of test can also be applied to identify candidates who have the right kind of personality attributes to achieve success in the WFM roles. Working with the testing provider to design the process typically involves identifying some successful performers upon which to base the criteria. These tools can aid in selecting candidates who are well suited to the job and likely to find satisfaction in it.

Care must be taken to ensure the questions are legal and ethical. Working with the HR team can help to identify questions that should not be asked or wording that can be problematic. In general, avoid any requests that might reveal age, ethnicity, national origin, marital status, or religion. However, the rules are constantly evolving and updates from HR can be helpful in avoiding problems.

Hiring the Candidate

When it is time to make the job offer, it is important to sell the candidate on the benefits of working in your organization.
In addition, you will want to communicate what might be any drawbacks such as flexible scheduling requirements. Document the specifics of the job in the offer letter and be sure to include clear language on anything that might become an issue later in the person’s employment. It can prevent misunderstandings and help reduce or eliminate turnover several weeks or months into the job. The offer letter should include the rate of pay, starting date, work location, schedule hours for the initial period, performance expectations, and supervisor/manager assignment. If there are hiring requirements such as drug testing, background checks or other criteria, these should be spelled out. Where a probationary period is applied before the employee is considered finalized, it should be explained. Once the candidate has signed the offer letter, it is time to welcome the new member of the team.

Maggie Klenke is one of the founders of The Call Center School (now retired) and an active industry consultant, assisting contact center clients in development of strategic and tactical plans, technology applications, forecasting and scheduling optimization, service level analysis, and overall management issues. Maggie teaches seminars on a wide variety of call center topics and is a popular speaker at industry conferences in the US and abroad. She is an honors graduate of Loretto Heights College (now Regis University). She is also one of the first to receive the CIAC industry certification as a Call Center Management Consultant. She also serves as an examiner for the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence, a statewide program of the national Malcolm Baldrige awards. She may be contacted at Maggie.klenke@mindspring.com or 615-651-3324.
“Hiring and Developing the Workforce Management Team” is designed to assist in the recruiting, hiring, training, measuring, and management of a workforce management team that contributes to overall enterprise success and the effective management of the contact center. The book is available for $19.95 plus shipping and handling on the SWPP website at http://www.swpp.org/swpp-book/.