Hire on attitude over technical aptitude

As I mentioned, in my last post we wanted to transform our IT team into a high performing, customer focused team that delivered world-class IT services. The best place to start this Service Improvement program was with the team that worked the closest with our customers – the Service Desk. However the funding we had available was limited, so we had to focus on the quick wins that would have a big impact.

The first initiative was to “Focus on people first”

Recruitment is expensive, time-consuming and takes a lot of effort. Therefore you want to get it right first time, every time.

When we are hiring for a position on our Service Desk we always hire on attitude over technical aptitude.

What I mean by that is that we place a higher value on a candidate’s ability to fit within our team’s culture and that of the business, over their technical ability. Technical skills are something that can be picked up (either on the job or via training), but good communication skills and a customer focus are a lot harder to learn and is something that doesn’t always come naturally to people.

How do we do this?

  • Lure the right people with an attractive job advertisement.
  • Ask the right questions in a job interview.

The Job Advertisement

This is the lure on the fisherman’s line – you want to attract the best fish possible in the candidate pool.

Always remember that you are selling the business in your job advertisement, and here are a few tips to do this.

Get job seekers excited in your introduction and tell them what type of organization they will be joining. Here is an example:

“At Lonely Planet we live to travel. Everything we do is designed to inspire and enable travelers to get out there and connect with the world beyond personal and geographical boundaries. Across all areas of Lonely Planet, we look for talented people who share our passion.”

Make sure you also summarise what the opportunity is (job title), where it is located and the selection criteria you’ll be assessing people on (technical and soft skills). Remember the job advertisement is not a job description; it’s a highlights package that should leave job seekers wanting to know more.

Ask the right questions

The most important questions for a customer facing position, particularly on a Service Desk, are the ones where you can find out what sort of attitude your candidate has.

Here are some of the questions that we’ve found useful whilst sourcing candidates to join the Lonely Planet Service Desk team.

Customer Service

What do you think is the most important aspect of a support role?

Give me an example of a time when you weren’t sure what a customer wanted? What did you do and what was the outcome?

Tell us about a time when you had a sensitive or difficult customer, what action did you take? What was the outcome?

Communication Skills

Technical information is often difficult for non-technical people to understand. What have you done in the past to ensure that what you are communicating is clear, logical and understood by a non-technical audience?

Initiative

Tell me about the last time you undertook a project/task that demanded a lot of initiative. What type of project/task was it? Why was initiative called for?  What was the outcome?

Teamwork & Relationship Building

How do you develop relationships with colleagues working directly with you or in other areas of the business?

Can you give us an example of a team environment you have worked in that you enjoyed? What was your role in the team? How many people were in the team and who was responsible for what tasks?

Getting the right people with the right attitude, cultural fit and who are looking to continually develop their career has been critical in the success of building a high performing Service Desk team. Your Service Desk should be the springboard to launching the careers of talented people. In my next post I’ll give you an insight into career development and spreading customer focus.

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