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Class Hiring Tips for Recruiters

by Mar 28, 2014, 12:36 am ET

Companies with call centers or large customer service centers need to hire high volumes of employees on a continual, routine basis. This type of hiring presents unique challenges and requires dedicated, results-focused recruiters to keep a steady pipeline of candidates flowing through the system. If you are responsible for class hiring, here is a primer and some tips on how to succeed.

What is class hiring? Class hiring is where companies hire multiples of the same position to start on the same date, typically to participate in a training class. As a recruiter, your goal is to continually fill each new class with fresh hires.

What are the biggest challenges in class hiring? Generally, attracting candidates to customer-service-center jobs is relatively easy because the positions require minimal experience and no college degree. However, in these positions, the turnover can be quite high — as high as 50 percent annually. Often, it’s because these positions are generally low-paying and people are often not committed to a career working in a customer service center long-term. While attracting candidates may not be difficult, keeping selected candidates interested in a position can be very challenging because candidates are hired several weeks to several months before the start date of their class.  Often, candidates may lose interest in the role, or even find other employment while waiting for their start date. Make sure that new hires know when the start date is, that they are comfortable waiting for that date to arrive, and that they stop interviewing for other positions in the interim.

When should you start recruiting? Start recruiting as soon as you know a class start date; hopefully, at a minimum, 60-90 days out. While you want the class filled early, you also need to keep the candidates “warm” and interested or you may lose them midway through the process. Class hiring is a continual process; as one class is filled, recruitment for the next one begins. On average you need to talk to at least 100 candidates on the phone to obtain 80 people to interview which will result in 20 hires. This implies that you must process a large volume of applications to hit your target class size. Additionally, you’ll want to overfill each class by 20 percent to account for dropouts, no shows, and those who do not pass background checks.

Where do you find candidates? The best source of candidates in class hiring is through employee referrals, as these people already understand what the job involves and the culture in which they work. Ask current employees to refer people to you. Also, ask applicants on the phone for referrals. If they are interested in a job with you, it’s very likely people in their personal network may be, too. (Remind applicants that there are multiple positions open, so if they do refer a friend, they will not be losing their potential job to someone else.) Another solid source of candidates is previous applicants in your applicant tracking system — if people applied previously, they may still be interested even if they weren’t hired in the past. Online resources, job boards, newspaper/radio ads, job fairs, and community centers are also great places to post jobs.

What are the selling points for customer service center work? An often-overlooked selling point for customer service center work is career advancement opportunities. The training offered is a solid base for early-career individuals and over time senior customer representative positions or eventually managerial roles can be available. Customer service centers also typically offer non-traditional shifts like evenings or weekends, which can be attractive to employees with families or college schedules. Also, because customer service centers can be one of the largest employers in many rural areas, the opportunity for benefits and the pay differentials for shift work can also be important selling factors.

How do you screen candidates? A typical recruitment process for class hiring includes an application, a phone screen, an assessment or test, an interview, and finally a hiring decision. One of the most useful tools recruiters have is the introductory phone screen, where they can assess the candidate’s current customer service and communication abilities and their personality on the phone. However, personality is only one skill required for success in a customer service center role. One of the reasons we see customer service centers experience higher turnover rates than normal is because the recruiters do not take the time to get to know the candidate on the phone where they can ascertain whether or not the person is truly interested in customer service work or just looking for a paycheck. While this level of scrutiny may take a bit more time up front, in the end it helps to improve retention and overall employee satisfaction.

Successfully recruiting for class hiring requires a focus on generating a large numbers of candidates, but with an emphasis on hiring the highest-quality candidates. The more you can prescreen candidates and assess candidates’ customer service abilities, the more qualified candidates you will interview, hire, and retain. It takes a recruiter with a passion for excellence and a focus on people and not just numbers to make class hiring successful.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Donna. I’m not sure why any for-profit company would have an American-based call center, when you can get excellent results in the Philippines (http://www.callcenterdirectory.net/call-center/Philippines/directory-2-page-1.html),or if you really don’t want the folks to have non-American accents, in Mexico from American deportees/expats(http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/transcript Act2: Phone Home Over the last decade, American companies like Best Buy, Dish Network, Time Warner have been outsourcing their call center jobs to Mexico. And at first, these call centers just handled Spanish language calls from the United States. But then everybody realized, oh, they’ve got lots of really good English speakers there. And that became a big part of what those call centers now do.)

    -kh