If candidates do decide to continue, Puckett says, what follows is a three-month, proprietary training program to address both technical skills and customer service training, says Puckett. The training focuses on honing candidates technical knowledge as well as their interpersonal and problem-solving skills, and helps develop critical thinking, too.
"We want a person who's fully satisfied by helping others, and who also has a deep problem-solving bent," he says. "Some of the training courses are focused on learning the software suites they'll be supporting for customers, but it's also about understanding what they don't know, where they can turn to find answers, and how to apply critical thinking skills to solve customers' problems," he says.
Puckett adds that the dropout rate is fairly low for candidates who go through the program, and while the average training period is three months, that can be modified depending on each candidate's needs and aptitude.
"The standard amount of time is three months, but sometimes it can take a bit longer, or can be accelerated," Puckett says. "If we feel a person will be amazing but might need a little more support, we put in the time to get them there. We know that investing in our people is the best thing we can do for our business, because that's what's going to give the best results for our customers," he says.
Hiring for the Customer Experience is Key
While this type of intensive, up-front hiring and screening process can work for almost any industry, it's especially important for firms that are mostly customer-facing, says Maren Donovan, CEO of Zirtual, which provides staffing of virtual assistants worldwide.
"The 'normal' hiring process is broken, the way we see it," Donovan says. "We see and hear so often that companies don't want to spend the money to do this kind of screening and training upfront, but that's counterproductive. If you're constantly hiring the 'wrong' people who leave in just a few months, or who aren't the right fit, you'll end up spending more in the long run than if you'd just done it 'right' to begin with," Donovan says.
Calling a Candidate's Bluff
"So often, candidates can bluff their way through these traditional interview processes; companies only figure out after a couple months that the person isn't good at their job or is a poor cultural fit," Donovan says. An intensive, rigorous screening and hiring process can help reduce the number of bad hires and decrease turnover rate, she says.
Zirtual's hiring process is focused on determining how well potential employees will perform their day-to-day responsibilities, so the process starts by asking them to leave a 60-second voicemail outlining how they'd benefit the company and clients, why they want to work with Zirtual and why they'd be a perfect fit, says Donovan.
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