Hiring Associates with Customer Experience in Mind

Customer experience is not a “job responsibility” that’s limited to one person or even one department. It’s important to get every associate—from the frontlines to non-customer-facing positions—on board with your brand’s standards for customer experience. In fact, research by Deloitte found that customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable compared to companies that aren’t focused on the customer.

Achieving this starts with the hiring process. Whether you’re hiring for a hostess, sales associate, team lead or even a management position, here’s how to ensure you’re bringing the right people into your organization.

Job Description

Not everyone is suited to work for a customer-centric company—and not everyone wants to. It’s important to convey your brand message right away starting with your job description. Be clear and detailed about the soft skills and personality traits you’re looking for in an associate. This helps ensure that only candidates who believe they possess these qualities apply for the position.

Resume and Cover Letter

The resume and cover letter often serve as your first impression of a job candidate. These documents can tell you a lot more than just work history and educational background. They’re also good telling signs on how the candidate personalizes an experience and how invested they are in your brand.

Is the resume generic and “one-size-fits-all,” or is it tailored to your specific job ad? Is the cover letter addressed to you by name or “to whom it may concern?” If a candidate doesn’t take the time to personalize their job application or get to know who the hiring manager is, then it’s likely they won’t do the same for your customers.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Too many employers will focus on work experience and technical skills, rather than the soft skills that are critical to creating exceptional customer experiences. Does the candidate have seven years’ experience? What is the candidate’s education level? How well does the candidate know how to use certain software programs? While these qualifications may make for an adept associate, they’ll won’t do much to improve your customer experience if they aren’t complemented with the right soft skills. “Without [soft skills],” Skillsoft Senior Vice President Heide Albelli says, “people’s technical skills aren’t running on all cylinders.”

Look for the soft skills that contribute to the customer experience. Micah Solomon, author of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets to Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization, says a great acronym to remember is WETCO, which stands for:

  • Warmth: Basic human kindness. Is the candidate cold and standoff-ish? Or is the candidate kind and caring like a friend or family member?
  • Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling. Is the candidate personable? Does the candidate like to help others?
  • Teamwork: The ability to work together, rather than alone. Can the candidate communicate their thoughts to others and easily adapt to new ideas?
  • Conscientiousness: Detail oriented from start to finish. Does the candidate take pride in their work? How does the candidate react when the going gets tough?
  • Optimism: The ability to bounce back and remain positive. Does the candidate have a positive attitude? Is the candidate resilient?

These soft skills can demonstrate a customer-centric mindset but can be hard to evaluate on a resume alone. You’ll likely need a phone screening or in-person interview to be able to evaluate these skills.


Interviews are a great way to evaluate how a candidate handles stressful situations and thinks on their feet. When you call for a phone screening, does the candidate remember that they applied to work with you? Do they seem distracted by their surroundings? Someone who is personable and makes an effort to make you feel important is likely to act the same toward your customers.

During the interview, ask behavioral interview questions that test the candidate’s emotional intelligence, such as, “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the scope of your job description?” or “How have you handled a situation in which you were unable to help a customer or fellow associate?”

At the end of the interview, be sure to ask the candidate if they have any questions for you. If they don’t, it not only sends the message that they’re not interested in learning more about you and the company, but also that they also won’t be interested in getting to know your customers.


Don’t forget to reach out to the candidate’s references who can provide further insight into the candidate’s customer mindset. This can be a great opportunity for you to get a third party’s perspective on the candidate’s soft skills as well.

A simple way to do this is by having the references rate your candidate based on the soft skills you’re looking for (think WETCO). If a reference gives the candidate a low rating on one of the soft skills, be sure to ask for a clarification and any additional insight they can provide.

Evaluate Customer Experience

A candidate who checks out in terms of resume, cover letter, soft skills, and references and aces the interview process is likely someone you’ll want on your team. But evaluating an associate for customer experience doesn’t stop after the job offer. It’s important to conduct ongoing training and analysis to ensure your associates are ensure and improve the quality of your customer experiences.

At IntelliShop, our mystery shopping solutions are designed to evaluate the customer experience throughout the entire customer journey from marketing to customer service to the sale and beyond. We can help you understand why some associates are more effective than others, why your customers choose you or a competitor, and so much more. We’ll then present our findings to you in a detailed, actionable InSite™ report to create a real and effective plan to help your business go from good to great.

Contact IntelliShop today to see how we can help you improve customer experience at all levels of your organization.

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