This post was originally posted in August 2017…it is still relevant today!
By Kristen Hayer
In Customer Success it is a candidate’s market right now. Companies are adding and expanding success teams, and the pool of experienced CSMs is still relatively small. In order to recruit top talent, you need a stellar recruiting practice. Unfortunately, after spending time and money collecting amazing candidates, many leaders make major mistakes in the interview process. Here are three types of interviews that can turn off great candidates.
The Disorganized Interview
The candidate shows up a little early, but then sits in the lobby for 25 minutes waiting for their interviewer to show up. When they finally do, they clearly haven’t prepared good questions. The conversation is awkward, and the candidate leaves completely unsure of how the interview went and where they stand.
If your interview process is disorganized, your candidate will assume that your whole company is disorganized. You might get away with it once or twice, but high-performing, career-driven professionals will pass you up.
The Unresponsive Interview
The candidate shows up on time, you have a great conversation, and they get along with the team. They feel like the interview went really well. That is, until you fail to get back in touch with them, leaving them wondering what is going on for weeks at a time.
Even if someone isn’t a fit for the role, they can still refer other people to your organization. On the flip side, they can also badmouth your company out in the job market. You risk losing solid candidates and gaining a bad reputation.
The Fun Culture Interview
The candidate is asked a few job-related questions during the phone interview, and then is invited in to make sure they are a culture fit. There are group interviews, a day of shadowing people at the office, and beers with the team. The candidate leaves wondering if they are being interviewed for a job or a fraternity.
Culture fit is important, but it isn’t the only thing candidates are looking for. By focusing interviews primarily on culture fit you run the risk of hiring the wrong people (someone who is a good culture fit can still be bad at the job) and turning off more serious, career-focused candidates.
So, what should you do to prevent interviews like these?
Create a written model of your ideal CSM. Consider factors like industry experience, education, leadership, and communication skills. If you have a larger CS team, think about your top performers as you build your model. Then develop strong open-ended interview questions that uncover whether your candidates have the traits you’re looking for. Think about the answers you expect to hear. Finally, choose interviewers with experience, and prep them by assigning them questions to ask all of the candidates.
Show Up and Listen
Be on time to your interviews, or if there is an emergency and you can’t be there, take the time to apologize and reschedule. Treat candidates like you hope they will treat your customers. Ask the questions you came up with ahead of time, and take notes on the answers. The candidate took their time to come in and meet with you, so give them your full attention. Active listening will also help you to come up with additional questions as needed to explore the candidate’s experience.
Once you’ve had a chance to regroup with everyone who was involved in the interview process, it’s time to make some decisions. First, if they are a no-go candidate let them know right away. Send them a thank you note, but be clear that the role isn’t a fit. It isn't fair to string candidates along. If you do decide to continue the process, get the next steps sorted out right away (ideally, within a day or two). Finally, if you decide to make an offer, get that to your candidate quickly so you don’t lose them to another company.
Candidates will assume that you treat your customers the same way you treat job-seekers. Make your interviews a great experience, and you’ll be more likely to attract and hire top customer success talent.
Do you need help creating a model of your ideal CSM? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that will work with you to build a custom hiring kit, including a role model, job description and interview questions. Visit our website for more information about our services – TheSuccessLeague.io
Kristen Hayer - Kristen believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Her areas of expertise include developing success goals and metrics, designing the optimal customer journey, selecting technology, training teams, and building playbooks. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. Over the past 20 years she has been a success, sales, and marketing executive, primarily working with growth-stage tech companies. Kristen has her BA from Seattle Pacific University and her MBA from the University of Washington.