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Cold Feet in Call Centre Recruitment

  • Publish Date: Posted about 2 months ago
  • Author:by Sally Brearley

​At what point in the call centre hiring process are candidates MOST likely to get cold feet? Our survey says…

With the rise of digital technologies, the role of the call centre agent has evolved to encompass a wider range of responsibilities, including providing customer service, sales, and technical support. As a result, there is a growing demand for highly skilled and motivated individuals who can thrive in a fast-paced and demanding environment.

Despite the many opportunities available in the contact centre sector, companies across the UK are facing significant challenges in hiring and retaining qualified staff. A combination of factors, including the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased competition for talent, and changing employee expectations, has contributed to a shortage of skilled workers in the industry.

Another significant obstacle hiring managers and talent teams face consistently is candidates dropping out of the recruitment process. This can be due to a variety of factors but ultimately leaves sets the recruitment process back, impacts business costs, and requires further investment of time to replace the individual.

Which point in the process is most prone to drop outs?

I asked my network of senior call centre professionals for their input to find out when call centre, customer service, complaints, or collections candidates seem to be most likely to drop out of the hiring process.

  • Almost a staggering two-thirds (65%) said interview stage

  • Just under one-fifth (18%) witness this at the point of an offer being made

  • A further 18% observe this pattern of behaviour at the start date or within the first month of joining

Why are people dropping like flies at the interview stage?

Drop outs as early as the interview stage occur because call centres represent a high volume area where many candidates are required right at the start of the process to fill what are often multiple roles at any given time. This means that in this field, there does naturally tend to be a high level of attrition, especially when you consider how many more CVs need to be collated and interviews arranged. This results in firms having to put a lot of effort right out of the traps to achieve the desired hiring outcome.

In our experience, people pull out of interviews due to below par initial screenings at the job briefing stage by the recruiter or company directly.

To combat this, ensure your recruitment partners and internal talent teams are:

  • Properly selling the role, company, culture and structure to the candidate, as well as opportunities for career progression

  • Taking steps to alleviate any concerns candidates may have about the role in question

  • Exploring whether the candidate is close to an offer stage elsewhere and therefore more likely to pull out at the last minute

  • Helping the candidate to compare this opportunity against others they are considering in order to get a feel for which salary, commute, working hours, flexibility and holidays will work best for them

If all of these aspects are properly scrutinised, this will help to minimise the chances of an interview dropout.

When it comes to people dropping out post interview, factors might include that the candidate felt like they had a lacklustre interview experience or that the hiring manager was disengaged and disinterested in what they had to say. Failure to open up the lines of communication post-interview and provide productive feedback can also result in people feeling undervalued, which will act as a red flag right from the get go.

To prevent candidates from dropping out of the hiring process at this early stage, avoid:

  • Confusing job application forms

  • Long hiring processes

  • Poor interview experiences

  • A lack of structure in the process

  • Failure to provide feedback in a reasonable timeframe

It’s also a good idea to add an element of CV screening to ensure a candidate’s buy-in, loyalty and commitment to the job in hand. Make sure your business stands out from your competitors from the start. If a candidate has two very similar job offers on the table, they will accept the job where they felt the most comfortable and the most wanted throughout the hiring process.

It’s also worth noting that recent high dropout levels have come about off the back of the cost-of-living crisis.

Candidates are becoming increasingly reluctant to risk moving jobs during what feels like a financially perilous time, especially if there is little or no pay increase. This is having a knock on effect on the number of candidates applying for jobs, which is why it’s important that organisations double down and make the process as seamless as possible, while offering competitive salaries and good incentives to keep their interest levels piqued.

And why are people bowing out at the offer stage?

If you are seeing high drop out levels at the offer stage of your hiring process, this is usually because the candidate has multiple job applications on the go. In this case, they will choose your competitor's offer if:

  • The salary you're offering isn’t in line with the market rate

  • Your competitor offers a higher pay rate

  • Your competitor offers more flexibility or working from home options

Equally, if they are unable to picture themselves improving and developing professionally at a business, candidates will often very quickly look elsewhere for employment. Bearing that in mind, be sure to take the time to highlight any opportunities for learning, progression and training.

Again, because of the current economic downturn, we’re observing a higher level of drop-outs at the offer stage than usual. The feedback we’re getting is that candidates are feeling reluctant to move from a stable job into a new role with a probationary period, or are being counter-offered by their current employer.

In the longer term, companies need to look at standing out from other companies by offering hybrid working options, higher salaries or better benefits. If you can’t offer this, then you need to think about how you can attract different candidates with transferable skills, lower your expectations in the skill-sets they are looking for and take more time to train lower skilled candidates.

What’s the reason for people leaving on their intended start date or soon after?

The recruitment process doesn’t grind to a halt right after a candidate accepts a job and the reasons why people might decide to leave a new role in the very early days are fairly simple:

  • Lower level roles and those in their probationary period will have a shorter notice period, so if they have any doubts or alarm bells ringing in those early days it's easy for candidates to leave quickly

  • Candidates rarely apply for just one job at a time, and just because they've accepted one role doesn't mean they've rejected everything else. If they're not 100% confident about your offer or receive something better elsewhere, they will choose a different employment opportunity

If they do manage to stay the course for a few weeks and then decide to leave, likely factors include sensing that the company culture is poor or feeling that the onboarding framework and induction process is below par. In addition to this, people might feel that they aren’t being adequately trained and therefore feel ill prepared to handle certain types of call and customer scenarios.

It’s possible to minimise the risk of losing candidates at this point - and the associated recruiting costs - by making sure that they feel wanted and valued. Your employer brand is also your secret weapon as it can help to attract and retain the best people so make sure that you’re in a position to offer an exceptional place to work and allow people to develop along their career pathway.

In short, when a candidate is looking for a job, there will likely be other opportunities on the table for them as well as your own. It’s vital to keep the candidate happy and engaged from the interview and offer stages right through to the point at which they start and become a fully-fledged employee.

The whole process counts, which is why it needs to flow professionally. A good timeline makes it easy for the candidate to follow the process so that they feel like the company they’re applying to is organised and brimming with great opportunities. A slapdash approach will only encourage a great candidate to seek greener pastures.

It’s also important to be honest about the job the candidate is applying for as it can be difficult to sell the perfect job to a candidate, particularly when it’s a challenging role. Be positive about the great aspects of the position and be honest about the more difficult areas. Candidates will then be able to make an informed decision before accepting a job with you, hopefully reducing the amount of early leavers. Offering candidates the opportunity to job shadow, listen to calls or sit with a team member in the contact centre certainly helps bring a job to life. If a candidate can imagine themselves working there before accepting the position, this should hopefully increase staff retention.

Experiencing high drop out rates in your call centre, collections, complaints, or customer service hiring process? Get in touch with Sally, our Front-Line Talent expert, to discuss how she can help.

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