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10 Questions You'll Get in a Customer Service Job Interview and How to Answer


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America's economy is heating up, and that means many companies are starting to hire new employees. One of the fastest growing areas is customer service, with jobs ranging from restaurant waiters and bank tellers to retail clothing sales associates and telephone call center workers.

The trend is welcome news to the country's unemployed, but there are strings attached. Applicants will see heavy competition for most jobs because companies can pick their new staffers from a large number of highly qualified people.

To take advantage of the opportunity, job seekers need to polish their resumes, iron their shirts, and have a great interview.

Hiring managers tend to ask the same handful of interview questions with every applicant. That means they often hear the same predictable replies. To rise above the crowd, a job seeker can practice giving memorable answers. The best responses draw on an applicant's personal experience to tell a unique story.

At the women's clothing retailer The Limited, company president Linda Heasley enjoys asking interview questions that reveal an applicant's judgment.

"I like an example of a challenging situation in a business environment where they took a controversial position. As I said, it doesn't matter to me what they decided to do, but I like to see how they handled it," Heasley told the New York Times.

The same advice applies for office-based service jobs. At a recent job fair in Florida, PRC was hiring people for its phone bank service, which provides in-bound customer service support for Fortune 500 corporations.

More than one hundred people applied for the jobs during the first hour of the event. So to get noticed, one applicant took advantage of the interview to show off his foreign language skills. That was a smart move, one expert said. "You only get one time to make a first impression and that's really key," Dale Green of Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance told television station My Fox Tampa Bay.

No one can predict exactly what will happen in a job interview. But applicants can increase their chances of giving an impressive answer by studying the patterns that recruiters have followed for years. Master these 10 classic interview questions, and a person will be ready for almost anything.

The hypothetical question. "What would you do if..." Many applicants founder on this query because they match the ambiguous question with a vague response. A better approach is to ask follow-up questions to gain better clarity before answering.

The career question. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" The most successful job seekers have thought about this issue at home, and prepared a specific job title or level they would like to achieve.

The job history question. "Why did you leave your last job?" Many people hurt their chances by appearing evasive on this question, or even worse, blaming their former employer. Both responses are a red flag for recruiters, so experts advise applicants to be brief and honest.

The open question. "Why should we hire you?" Expect this one, and practice an answer beforehand. Job seekers often give forgettable answers, claiming to be a hard worker or a fast learner. Instead, the best applicant identifies what the employer needs from this position, then tells them how he or she can supply it.

The reverse question. "What questions can I answer for you?" There are a hundred right answers to this, and only one wrong one - nothing. This is a golden opportunity to show enthusiasm for the job. Candidates can ask what types of projects they will be involved in, or what the next step is in the hiring process.

The pressure question. "How do you handle negative feedback from angry clients?" Applicants should show they can stay professional under pressure, strive to neutralize a negative situation and not take criticism too personally.

The rejection question. "What would you do if you had to turn down a request from a valued client?" Companies want to hear that a worker can find ways to keep a customer's business, perhaps by offering an alternative service or product.

The initiative question. "Can you tell me about a time when you did something extra to benefit a customer?" A memorable answer includes details from a specific incident to demonstrate that a job candidate is willing to put forth extra effort.

The reputation question. "What do co-workers say about you?" Be specific. Giving the name and title of past colleagues lends credibility to the answer and shows that the applicant is a team player.

The test question. "What do you know about this company?" This is where job hunters can show off all the preparation they've done for the interview.

Last Updated: 25/08/2010 - 4:26 PM

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