Ask the Workforce Wizard

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Question:

We are working on our plan for hiring for our Workforce Management team. Could you give us some insight into interview questions that will help us find candidates that would be well-suited for workforce management?

Answer:

There are many different areas to ask about when interviewing for potential workforce planners. And different questions may apply depending upon whether you are hiring someone off the call center floor that would be promoted to this position or someone from the outside with previous workforce management experience.

Here are a few ideas of questions for an in-house candidate:

  • What is your perception of what the Workforce Management team does? This will establish a base understanding of the entire operation or at least how much the applicant knows coming in.
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how is your own compliance to schedule and Quality Indicator scores? See how the applicant rates themselves versus the reports you can run on them if they are in-house hires.
  • Scenario: A friend needs a favor (adjust an exception to cover compliance, adjust available hours to get some time off since limits are full) and asks you to help them — how do you respond?
  • Commitment to quality is ensuring that the work is delivered and completed on time and accurately. Getting a job done correctly and under time constraints may require unusual determination. Please give me your best example of when you were able to remain effective in this type of situation. What were the results? Please be specific.

If the candidate has previous experience, these questions might be applicable:

  • Have you ever been responsible for scheduling staff? What were your methods? What did you find challenging about it? What did you find rewarding about it?
  • Have you worked on a project that required “buyin” from management? What kind of pre-work was required? Was a presentation required?
  • Scenario: Every Friday, a department of 48 agents experiences high call volume between 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The hours of operation are 7a.m. – 7 p.m. M- F. The shifts for the employees are: 15 agents with a 7-4 shift, 10 agents with an 8-5 shift, 5 with a 9-6 shift, 5 with a 10-7 shift, and 13 floating shifts. All lunches and breaks are the same every day. Provide a solution to this problem. Note: You can give any scenario that fits your departments. Also remember there are no right answers. Look at the method in which the applicant thinks this through. Are they methodical, and can they think outside the box?
  • A key responsibility of this position is preparing and maintaining a call center staffing model. Ask the candidate what experience they have with this process.
    • How many representatives were involved?
    • What are the components of this process?
    • How did you prioritize them?
    • Did you involve anyone else? (who? why?)
    • What were the results?
    • How often did you update the model?
  • Decision-making, or judgment, is using logic and facts to choose a course of action. We are faced with several decisions on a daily basis, from the mundane to the serious. Ask the candidate to tell you about a decision they made  concerning modifications to staffing that had the most positive impact at their last position.
    • How many reps were impacted?
    • Did the modifications work within the “normal guidelines” of the call center?
    • What type of analysis was used?
    • What were the results?
    • Did you receive any feedback from the managers or staff? If yes, what was it?
    • Was the process adopted by the call center? If yes, is it still being used?
  • Another key responsibility of this position is to forecast the demand for phone and non-phone coverage. Often, this has severe time constraints associated with it. Ask the candidate to describe their expertise in this area.
    • How long have you been forecasting?
    • What components did you weigh when making your forecast?
    • Did this include existing and potential business opportunities?
    • What steps did you take to communicate the results?
    • What was the outcome?
    • Did you receive any feedback?
    • How accurate was the forecast?

Besides the normal analytical skills type questions that should be asked, you can use a scenario question that helps get a feel for the individual’s capabilities around analyzing issues that may come from multiple areas. Ask them to describe a situation where they had to look at multiple pieces of data and determine which ones were having an effect on each other and what course of action (root cause analysis) would they use to determine what would be the best approach to improve the situation. It may take some time to develop a response, but it usually shows how a person is thinking about issues, whether one-dimensional or multi. A workforce manager has to be able to look at data and issues from a multi-level perspective to get a true picture of the impacts of numbers on each other.

The other area you might ask about is in the balancing of good customer service, with the need to keep labor expenses at a reasonable rate. Ask them, “What do you feel is a better situation — having more people than you need to answer calls, or not enough?” Look for an answer that shows they would try to balance that number so that there aren’t too many on either side. This tells you that they recognize the need to balance the workforce with appropriate staffing and also get the most from your labor expense.

Whether you are hiring a brand new workforce manager or someone with several years of experience, these questions should help you determine if a candidate has the necessary skills to be successful in our hectic, fast-paced world.

 

Have a tough question?

Send it to wizard@swpp.org and we’ll try to find an answer!