Interview Questions to Ask Every Customer Service Candidate

Customer service recruiting is a whole lot different than staffing for other positions within a company. Hiring the wrong personnel to interact with your valued customers will turn people away, hurt your reputation and ultimately sabotage sales.

According to a report cited by Forbes, companies lose an estimated $75 billion each year as a result of poor customer service.

So how do you ensure the reps you hire have the talent and skills to help move your business forward? One solution is to pre-screen the candidates by asking the right interview questions.

The right customer service questions will help you identify whether or not an applicant has the drive, empathy, talent, and skills to succeed as a part of your team.

Judging these character traits is essential because methodologies and best practices can be taught, but the patience and compassion required to help and educate customers are much more challenging to learn on the job.

With that in mind, here’s a list of interview questions you could use to pick out the best talent.

1. What does customer service mean to you?

This question will help you evaluate a candidate’s level of knowledge, expectation, and understanding of common customer service practices and principles. When they articulate their concepts and vision of the customer service domain, you can get a good idea of their potential for success.

If their answer reveals that they consider customer service to be an art, that they enjoy finding solutions for customers, or that they are committed to exceeding expectations, you’re on the right track with this applicant.

For the right candidates, customer service is more than just a “friendly smile” – their answers will usually revolve around finding ways to address customers’ problems.

2. What was the most challenging customer case you’ve ever tackled?

Look for empathy and positivity when you ask this question to potential candidates.

Mediocre applicants will usually discuss how irrational the client was or how difficult it was for them to resolve the case.

The right candidate, on the other hand, won’t talk bad about the customer. Instead, they’ll emphasize that they did their best to come up with a solution that made both the company and the customer happy. Also, they’ll highlight the tone and problem-solving tactics they used to shape the customer’s experience.

It can be very time consuming and expensive to train employees to acquire soft skills like active listening if they don’t come equipped with them. Ideally, you want to recruit an individual who already knows how to handle irate customers.

3. What do you like about being part of a team?

The best customer service employees serve as team players. If an applicant says they prefer going at it alone, they’re probably not suitable for the position. Customer service reps should be charismatic and easy to get along with and they should enjoy associating with and learning from others.

We’ll mention one caveat here. Though a team mentality is critical, balance is important as well. There are some workers who only do well when leaning on others. It’s critical that a candidate is able to work independently when the rest of the team isn’t available. The sweet spot here is to find someone who can work effectively without constant supervision, but who enjoys working in a group.

The right rep will enhance the productivity of your customer service team, helping them coordinate with other teams to ensure service issues are resolved quickly.

For example, a customer service team can help the product team adapt to evolving customer preferences by incorporating feature-related requests into an existing product.

4. Why do you want to join our company?

This question will help you gauge whether or not a candidate has done research on your organization before coming in. You can start the interview with this question, or save it for the second round of interviews. Either approach works.

The answer will help you determine if the applicant is actually passionate about your customer service team. As a side benefit, it will allow you to see your firm through an external set of eyes. Think of it as a VIP seat to your firm’s reputation among potential candidates.

If the potential hire is full of praise, your firm likely has a good reputation in the industry. The other case may be that you need to work on improving the public image of your business to attract and retain top quality candidates.

5. How would you react to a situation where you can’t help the customer?

You can ask this question generally or, better yet, give them an example scenario. Even with loads of experience and training, customer service employees won’t be able to solve every customer’s problem. When you throw this question at a candidate, you can see if they are a creative problem solver and also get a glimpse into how they might handle a no-win situation.

The best customer service reps will know how to remain calm in this situation, will respond with honesty and confidence and will be resourceful about finding an alternate solution to help the customer.

Here’s an example of a promising answer:

“If I can’t find a solution to the customer’s problem, I’ll say, ‘Great question! Let me look into this for you,’ and take measures to find out who’ll be able to assist them better. I’ll reach out to my co-workers and other departments for help, and then connect the customer with a better fit.”

Other Ideas for Customer Service Recruiting?

While these five customer service interview questions should give you a fair idea of a candidate’s potential, you can always get professional help to ensure you’re hiring the best reps for your team. A customer service staffing agency like PrincePerelson & Associates will help you save time and money and provide you with top-tier applicants to consider.

Our years of hiring experience with companies have equipped us with the business understanding and contacts our clients need to find talented, qualified customer service personnel. We can help you with call center recruiting and help you fill a number of key customer service positions: help desk associate, customer service team lead, etc.


Interview Questions to Ask Every Customer Service Candidate



Recruiting the employees that have the right skills when it comes to customer service can be challenging. You must be able to assess their communication skills, interpersonal skills, and even values to ensure that they will perform well whenever they are already in the job. What questions will you throw to them to generate the response you need? Get it from this infographic.

5 Questions to Ask Customer Service Candidates [infographic]