This is a story how we at Toggl are using automated skill-based testing to hire top customer support agents with little effort. Our Support Team Lead shares her thoughts on what skills an excellent customer success agent should have, and shares some useful tips on how to build workable tests with Hundred5.
I have to be honest – when I took the Toggl support agent test two and a half years ago I was more than sceptical. “They are not asking to see my well-polished CV? How can that be a real job?!” was my sentiment back then.
Fast forward to this day where one of my responsibilities as Support Team lead is finding and hiring new agents, I do have to admit that my views have changed drastically 😊.
Starting off with a Skills Test vs Asking for a CV
I guess it’s a matter of changing your attitude from ‘it’s the way it has always been done’ to what comes down to being the more practical approach. Think of this — when looking for a new team member, what do you think is more important: evaluating their skill of putting together a great CV, or evaluating their actual working skills?
The thought of having to go through a pile of resumes sends shivers down my spine. I much more prefer to skip that step and go straight into testing the applicant’s skills using Hundred5’s app to see if they actually have what it takes to become a cool-headed support ninja with fast fingers.
Setting up the test by carefully selecting the questions does take a fair amount of time, but you have to remember that you only need to set it up once and during this process you are already making sure to eliminate those who really don’t cut it. You don’t have to waste your time scanning through tests that haven’t passed the threshold you’ve selected — the system stacks them to a separate “pile” for you.
Pre-screening candidates using short skills tests means you can only concentrate on those who did well. That’s a luxury you wouldn’t have when having CVs as the first step in hiring process.
What to Ask from a Customer Support Agent Candidate?
To answer that question you first have to determine what kind of skills you are after. For example, I want to make sure that the potential support candidate can:
Connect the dots.
Meaning that even if they don’t know the answer (and we really don’t expect the candidates to know our product inside and out), they are able to find it in the predetermined timeframe. To evaluate this I usually add a few product or feature related questions with multiple choice answers and also provide the link to our Knowledge Base.
Use his or her reasoning and logic.
General logic questions or a bit more complex case examples are good filters here.
I find it to be one of the key qualities which draws the line between an OK and an excellent support agent. Unfortunately it tends to be the quality that you can’t train for — you either have it or you don’t.
Hence if you’ve hired a candidate with low levels of empathy, you’re in a pickle. So better to devote some time in the testing phase to find a truly empathetic person to join your team. Asking to reply for example to a case from an unsatisfied client will give you plenty of hints.
Have excellent writing skills in English.
To determine this, I’ve always included several questions which require a free form written answer. These answers do have to be evaluated manually, but they will give you valuable insight to person’s ability to write without mistakes and form to-the-point sentences.
You know those little things: capitalizing random letters, not using or using too much punctuation, epic sentences that never end – those are most likely habits that are not easy to get rid of… that’s better to avoid 😉.
Work under time pressure.
The test has to have a tight time limit, as I am on a lookout for people with fast fingers and a cool head; people who are able to give good quality answers even if the clock is ticking.
For a more detailed guide on how to hire a Customer Support Managers, check here.
And then there’s the aspect of finding the right puzzle piece that will fit your team from character perspective.
Great relationships within the team are essential for providing good quality service; hence when hiring a new member, that is always one of my biggest fears. You can easily spot bad writing skills or lack of empathy, but how do you spot the right characteristics that will not bring conflict, but will contribute to your team?
Having interviews with all the candidates in final stages is a good filter for that, as your gut will usually set off alarm bells if something doesn’t feel right.
In addition to that, setting up a test week where final candidates are able to interact with the team in real working conditions has proven to be a great help as well. But in the testing phase, adding one or two questions to reveal what a person values or is passionate about have been helpful to filter out the best fit.
A Few Words of Advice Before Taking a Customer Support Test with Hundred5
- Try to let your personality shine through, even when answering the most standard questions. Keep in mind that whoever is evaluating the tests, he or she has most probably seen the same type of answer several (hundred) times. If you manage to put in a twist, add something unexpected; throw in a joke if it’s appropriate, it will most probably put a smile on evaluator’s face and send your test to the top of the pile. I’ll give you an example from last support test. As we need to hire agents to a specific time zone, one of the questions was: Which country are you from? Instead of bluntly stating his homeland, one applicant managed to make me smile with this answer: “Bulgaria (a mystical land where great customer support people live)”. Kudos and greetings to Petar from Bulgaria 😉!
- Keep your eye on the clock. It would be a shame if your test was disqualified because you never got to the end, hence didn’t have a chance to collect enough points.
- Double-check your answers if there’s still time. And please-please-please — make sure that you’ve typed the company name you are applying for correctly. I have a hard time taking those applicants seriously who haven’t even bothered to check how to spell Toggl.
- You can only open the test once; so if you are adamant about getting this job, open up the test only when you can really focus on it.
After doing a few rounds of hiring, I’ve learned that using skills test as the first step in hiring process helps me to be more efficient and to keep an open mind about all the candidates.
I’ve learned that it is not essential to know a person’s previous career path, schools they have attended, or other personal details in the early stages of hiring. All of this information is inevitably in your face when checking CVs and, even if you don’t want to, can sometimes let your inner prejudices to play a role in shoving CVs to “yes” and “no” piles.
When checking Hundred5’s test results, I often don’t know the applicant’s gender, as first names in different countries are not very straightforward. And to be honest, I find that liberating. Thanks to choosing this method of hiring we’ve found awesome support ninjas from Australia, Europe, US, the Philippines; all with very different backgrounds and experience. We gave them a chance to show off their talent and compassion and they in turn took the leap of faith by taking the test.
If you have questions or suggestions on how to pick out the best customer support managers from hundreds of candidates, feel free to drop a comment below.