A Day in the Life

A day in my life. Thoughts on leadership, management, startups, technology, software, concurrent development, etc... Basically the stuff I think about from 10am to 6pm.

2/14/2007

Talk to me

As is my wont I was looking through message boards and stumbled across a LinkedIn question about the strangest interview questions you've been asked or have asked. I didn't think my response was strange enough to post there but I thought I'd write it up here.

About 14 years ago I was interviewing candidates for a customer support position. I had already gone through the cover letters and resumes and eliminated folks who were either not technical enough or could not write well enough. At this point I thought that the most important skill for the candidates was how well they handled the phone. So when I called them for the prescreening interview, I asked them to just talk to me. Tell me how their weekend was, what they had for breakfast, I just didn't care. I told them I was just trying to get a feel for their phone skills and how well they communicated.

One candidate got frazzled and asked me what he was supposed to talk about, I reiterated that I didn't care I just wanted to get a feel for how he was on the phone. He got mad and hung up. This was for a job where he would have to spend a lot of time on the phone. His English was good and his technical skills on his resume looked sound, but obviously he was lacking in people skills.

The guy I ended up hiring had very broken English and a thick accent, but our customers loved him. He was very helpful, enthusiastic, and competent. When I had asked him to just talk he very excitedly talked to me, I don't even remember what it was about. But he made a positive impression and that was what I wanted my customers to come away with. (I'm going to call him Bing because my memory is bad and I can't remember his name.)

I suspect that Bing would have been overlooked by many people because of his speech. But I think people are more tuned into emotions and he had a happy, positive, helpful, and engaging personality. Any employee in a customer facing position becomes the voice or face of the company. When people thought of our company I wanted them to not only have their technical needs addressed but I wanted them to leave the encounter feeling good about it, about our products, and about our company. Bing was able to do all of that because he was able to communicate to the customer that he really cared about them and that he was there to help and support them. So his English wasn't so good...but he was a GREAT communicator.

So...what's my point? I don't have one today! I just wanted to share a random story. Have a good one.

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