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How to handle common interview questions for a call centre job

An interview for a call centre job is an exercise in risk assessment.  The interviewer's mission – as always – is to find the candidate who would be the best bet if they were hired.
 
As a candidate, then, it's your mission to quell their fears by showing them that your employment is a relatively low-risk venture.  Here are a few typical questions that you might face in interviews for call centre jobs, and some suggestions for what your answers might cover.
 
Q: How would you deal with an angry call from a customer?
 
This type of question is a means for your interviewer to assess your ability to remain calm and objective under stress. And it’s a chance for you to demonstrate your patience and resilience.  If you have prior experience in successfully handling angry complaints, this is the perfect time to tell your story.
 
Talk your interviewer through the steps you would take (or did take) to defuse and resolve the conflict, which might include:  
  • calmly receiving the angry complaint
  • if the customer is being abusive, explaining that you're happy to listen if they adopt a more reasonable tone
  • apologising, and listening attentively to their problem
  • suggesting a way to either solve their problem or compensate them, within company policy
  • and asking them to confirm that this solution or compensation will satisfy them.
Q: What is good customer service?
 
This open-ended question is usually a way for the interviewer to both determine if you understand the purpose of the role and see if you would be a good fit for the company's culture and ethos.
 
A model answer might make reference to:
  • a thorough knowledge of and experience with the company's products or services
  • treating customers in a friendly and helpful fashion
  • understanding customers' situations and needs
  • and courteously, quickly and efficiently guiding customers towards the best choices for them.
 
Q: Have you ever had a conflict with your line manager or supervisor?
 
While it may seem that this is a question of compliance and subordination, it's often an assessment of your ability to work as part of a team and effectively handle interpersonal issues in the workplace.
 
So a simple ‘No’ won't do very much for you.  You could go further with an explanation, and even a past example of a potential conflict that was avoided, such as:
  • your unflappable personality and strong work ethic help you get along easily with others, and that you don't let personal issues affect what's best for the business
  • and you once had a disagreement over the best course of action to solve a problem, but you both talked it out and agreed on the right way to handle the situation.
 
Q: How do you see yourself handling a fast-paced, high-pressure environment?
 
It's no secret that call centres can be high-pressure and fast-paced, and your interviewer is probably looking for proof of your organisational skills and resilience in stressful situations.
 
It might be helpful to mention:
  • past jobs in high-pressure environments, in which you thrived
  • your tendency to prioritise your tasks, completing them on time and to a high standard
  • and how often you found yourself with a little time to spare, making you well-prepared for unpredictable changes to your workload.
 
Of course, you can't be prepared for every question that might come your way during a call centre job interview.  But by examining your skills and past experiences, and being ready to make reference to them in your answers to relevant questions, you can make a positive impression on your interviewer. And improve your chances of securing the job.
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