Tips for Attracting More (and Better!) Agents in a High-Employment Economy
By David Patchen, MainTrax
How to increase your talent pool while gaining valuable insights about applicants’ behavioral characteristics.
Talent acquisition professionals want to staff their contact centers with high-quality, well-skilled agents. But too often they need to lower their requirements just to get “butts in seats,” which leads to an under-performing contact center. Fortunately, we’ve seen effective ways to improve recruiting by incorporating assessment links into the first touchpoint. Not only does this expand the pool of candidates, but it also allows human resource professionals to immediately weed out people clearly unqualified without ever speaking with them.
Many contact centers operate in a constant state of hiring. Whether this is a result of high levels of agent attrition or company growth, it can put a significant strain on even the best functioning organizations. They are competing not only with other contact center providers but also with other industries that provide in-person customer care. The contact center industry already employs almost 3 million people in the U.S. by some estimates, and it’s growing exponentially. Attracting, selecting and retaining exceptional employees has become that more challenging in this high-employment economy.
Take some of the most competitive markets, for example. Phoenix, Dallas, Charlotte and Columbus contact centers see a merry-go-round of agents who bounce from one company to the next because they are in such high demand. As such, recruiters often need to increase wages to remain top bidders.
And timing is critical: By some estimates published by Empxtrack, the best candidates are off the market in less than 10 days. This is especially challenging since recruiting intervals commonly exceed 40 business days from the day applications are received to the date offers are accepted. Interviewing each candidate personally can slow you down. Not to mention the time wasted on no-shows and unqualified applicants.
Having helped contact centers with many of these same issues for years, we’ve developed several recruiting and hiring best practices. The following are MainTrax’s recommended methods for increasing your talent pool—and gaining valuable insights about applicants’ behavioral characteristics at the same time.
Publish Links to Agent Prehire Assessments on All Recruitment Channels
Your company’s careers page is the most obvious choice to place information about job openings, but it requires candidates to come to you. Recruiting on social media increases the probability that you’ll attract applicants who might not otherwise have sought a job with your company. Start with Facebook and LinkedIn. Also consider online job boards, email initiatives, events, trade publications, and internal recruitment efforts.
But don’t limit yourself to a call-to-action. Capitalize on each applicant’s interest right then and there by including links to virtual interviewing and automated pre-assessment tests. Don’t make them go through an extra step of calling you or directing them to a series of websites. Most people—especially those interested in becoming work-from-home agents—won’t mind if the first step isn’t a phone call. Research published by G2 has shown that 82% of job-seekers believe that the ideal recruitment interaction is a mix of innovative technology and personal, human interaction.
Furthermore, by providing a link to prehire assessments, interested parties can complete their tests at their convenience, which is especially important because, according to Empxtrack, 86% of the most qualified candidates are already employed and are not necessarily seeking a new job. In our experience, 45% of candidates complete their assessments after hours when there are fewer distractions and candidates can situate themselves in quiet environments. The results bear that out: In the case of an automated prehire solution that analyzes each candidates’ voice for positive behavioral predictive characteristics, after-hours applicants generated better results than those who completed their voice assessments during the workday (SEE FIGURE 1).
FIGURE 1: VOICE ASSESSMENT ANALYSIS REVEALS AFTER-HOURS APPLICANTS GENERATE BETTER RESULTS
- Consider assessments that are accessible via links that can be published on all recruitment channels.
- Utilize always-on technology that lets candidates complete interviews online at their convenience, often at times when recruiters aren’t working.
- Be sure assessments can be completed on all devices. Analysis has shown that an equal number of test-takers completed their assessments on computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
You Got Their Interest—Now Keep It
Many companies subject each job candidate to the same series of skills, personality, cognitive and behavioral assessments no matter what the job is. This is often driven by a company’s desire to homogenize their recruiting process. It means that many candidates are subjected to assessments that have little bearing on the job they are applying for.
The best agent prehire screening solutions allow you to customize each test. Not only will you be able to assess candidates’ skills that are most critical to each position before you interview them—whether it’s a technical, sales or care position—but candidates will get a better idea of what the job entails. Voice-recorded responses to scenario-based questions (such as, “What would you say to a customer who is tired of being transferred”) will give candidates a good example of the types of calls they will encounter—and their answers will help recruiters to understand how each candidate might handle the situation. With automated paralinguistic analysis of recorded responses, recruiters can also learn whether the candidate possesses the behavioral characteristics necessary to be successful without listening to the recording.
Many companies subject each job candidate to the same series of skills, personality, cognitive and behavioral assessments no matter what the job is.
The best solutions also allow you to customize the entire process, which is critical to keeping applicants engaged. Just like your brand, this is your opportunity to make a favorable first impression. Be sure to tailor your messaging so it appeals to the types of candidates you are interested in attracting. If you consider the motivations and values of emerging generations, you can make it easier on yourself to recruit them. According to G2:
- Gen Zers (1995+) are naturally more cautious when it comes to joining a company, and 70% of them are likely to prefer working independently.
- Millennials (1977-1995), on the other hand, want a better boss, a bigger vision and a brighter future.
Remember to highlight what it’s like to live in your community, which is just as important to younger generations as the job itself.
- Provide information about your company’s culture and environment that will resonate with the age groups you’re most likely to attract and attach a link to any videos you may have about your company and its products and services.
- Check whether any assessment package you’re considering offers customized tests. Consider the skills and behavioral characteristics your current superstars display, and customize those assessments to make them as relevant as possible.
- Have your assessment solutions provider determine which tests merit the greatest importance based on your current agents’ performance metrics. Have them analyze the initial set of scores generated to establish benchmarks.
- Include scenario-based questions to provide examples of the kinds of situations candidates may encounter on the job.
- Consider only assessment solutions that have been tested and validated for adverse impact and bias. Your HR department will thank you later.
Make the Prescreening Process a Positive Experience
Companies spend millions—perhaps billions—to establish the brand with consumers. But how much attention is spent asserting your brand with prospective employees? Job candidates form an immediate opinion about your company based on how it presents itself during candidate recruitment. If you’re not marketing your jobs to applicants in the same way that you’re marketing your products and services to prospective customers, you’re missing out on an important opportunity.
Consider how the recruiting process is viewed by a candidate. Keep in mind that a bad experience can tarnish your company’s reputation. On social media, negative reviews get passed on and spread like wildfire. We’ve seen it happen all too frequently: Candidates who are left with a sour feeling about the process—or who never receive a hiring decision—turn immediately around and post their comments all over social media.
The damage can be more profound than you might realize. According to Empxtrack and CareerBuilder:
- 64% of candidates share negative experiences while applying for a position.
- 27% actively discourage others from applying for jobs in the same organization.
- 55% of job seekers abandoned applications after reading negative reviews online.
- 42% of people who had a bad experience said they would never apply to that company again.
- Make sure it takes no more than 25 minutes for an applicant to complete your prehire assessments. Research published by Empxtrack has shown that 60% of job-seekers quit midway through the application process because the duration far exceeded their expectations.
- Set up automatic “thank you” replies to applicants who didn’t get past the “knockout” round of initial questions. While applicants may be disappointed that they are no longer being considered, they’ll appreciate not being ghosted.
- Ask your assessment solutions provider for survey data—and select those which received positive survey reviews by applicants.
Create a Database of Applicants Who Weren’t Selected
Just because applicants may not have made the cut the first time doesn’t mean they should be excluded from consideration the next time. Well-designed applicant tracking systems (ATS) can store valuable information that can be leveraged later on.
If you’re already using an ATS, consider integrating it with your pre-employment testing tools. If you’re not using an ATS or your assessments are the first touchpoint with applicants, a pre-employment testing tool with a standalone built-in ATS might be a good choice.
- Consider prehire assessment solutions that can both serve as an ATS on its own as well as ones that can be integrated with yours.
- Use your assessment solution’s ATS to automatically “nudge” candidates with reminders to complete their assessments. (We’ve seen completion rates increase by 30%.)
- Don’t immediately discard data about applicants who weren’t selected. Instead, archive them for future hiring needs.
Extra Effort Delivers Impressive Results
In this high-employment economy, contact center talent managers need to expand the number of recruiting channels they typically use and make every effort to make a favorable first impression. Time is of the essence, so tailor your message to the kind of agent you’re hoping to attract. Make it easy for interested parties to inquire about the position. Include links to customized online prehire assessments that put your company in the best possible light as well as help recruiters determine who should be interviewed. Follow these tips and you may soon generate impressive results like what others have experienced:
- 400% increase in the number of candidates processed.
- 200% great interviewee availability.
- 90% increase in interview completion rates.
- 40% reduction in interview no-shows.
- 95% of assessment takers being “very satisfied” with their overall experience according to surveys.
MainTrax is a leading provider of speech analytics professional services to end users and industry partners. Free of allegiance to any one solution or supplier, MainTrax has earned a reputation as an independent, unbiased resource for consulting expertise across a variety of products and providers.