Tips for Asking the Right Questions to Get the Right Support Staff

5 actionable tips on live chat training

Tabitha Naylor


Questions like, “What is your greatest weakness?” should have no place in the interviewer’s arsenal, because anyone who’s ever read an article about preparing for interviews will be ready for this one and what the interviewer learns from the answer will be useless.

For several years now, large companies with well-trained HR staff have used the competency-based interview to sort the wheat from the chaff. More recently, they have also adopted the strength-based interview. Here we will explain these two types of interview question and show how they can also be used by companies that don’t have a large HR complement.

Competency Based Questions

‘Tell me about a time when you defused a difficult customer service complaint.’

‘Give me an example of an occasion when you implemented a new customer support software suite.’

These are examples of competency-based questions. They are open questions -no “Yes/No” answer is possible – and what the interviewer is seeking to do is to get out into the open practical examples of when the interviewee did something that s/he will also be required to do in this new position. They give the interviewee the chance to demonstrate practical experience and knowledge in a field where these are desired.

The interviewer should be looking for substantial answers – not just, ‘The boss bought the HappyFox Help Desk program and I installed it,’ but, ‘We wanted a ticketing system that was as simple as possible to understand and use but gave us analytics at target and breach level and broke them down at staff level by average time to respond and number of replies needed to close out a ticket – so we chose HappyFox.’

Get an answer like that and you are well on the way to knowing that this candidate has the knowledge and experience to do the job you want to be done. But, of course, knowledge and experience are not the whole story – how will this person fit into your company’s way of doing things? For that, you need strength-based questions. And strength-based questions are even more valuable when you’re interviewing people with little or no work experience – new graduates, for example.

Strength-Based Questions

Strength-based questioning aims to find out not just whether the candidate has the necessary knowledge but also whether s/he will enjoy working for the company and, therefore, be likely to perform and to stay. Examples:

‘What sort of things are always left on your to-do list and not finished?’ Answers to that will tell you what the candidate doesn’t like doing – and you need to know that.

‘Describe a successful day you had recently.’ As the interviewee describes what it was that made the day successful, you – the interviewer – get a clear picture of the sort of thing that the client not only does well but derives satisfaction from.

‘If I asked somebody who knows you really well to tell me what you’re best at, what would they say?’ And, when you had the answer to that one, ask: ‘And if I asked the same person what you are so bad at that you should really be kept away from it, what would they say then?’

Interviewing is one of the most important things any manager does because the quality of the staff we hire will have a very direct bearing on the company’s success – yet so many people are casual about preparing to interview.

What sort of questions do you like to ask?

Once you’ve got your questions down, start looking into a solution like HappyFox Chat to help these new agents that you’re going to bring on provide exceptional customer support. Start your 14-day free trial!

Tabitha Naylor

Tabitha Jean Naylor is the Founder of Successful Startup 101, a digital magazine that provides answers to today’s most pertinent questions facing startup founders, and the Owner of Her intimate knowledge of how sales and marketing go hand-in-hand has resulted in a variety of successful campaigns for start-ups through publicly traded companies, including Adobe and Microsoft. Ms. Naylor holds a dual bachelor degree in Political Science and International Business from West Virginia University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

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