Do you have any questions for us?
You’re staring across a conference room table. On the other side, two hiring managers—people who hold the keys to your dream job—are anxiously waiting for your response.
Yet suddenly, they unleash that question, and you freeze. You feel yourself being tested. After all, shouldn’t you have questions for them? What if there are strange parts of the job you don’t know about?
And if you were really the clear-headed professional you present on your resume, wouldn’t you know immediately what to ask them? What questions to ask?
Prepare instead. Fortunately, you don’t have to look far. Here, you’ll find some of the best questions that you can ask in a customer service job interview. You’ll also find questions from both perspectives: what you should ask as a prospective employee, and what employers should expect to hear when they conduct a job interview.
You might skip to the questions most relevant to your situation, but we encourage you to check out both. It will give you insights into what the other side of the table is thinking.
Hopefully, when you’ve done your preparation to this degree, you won’t freeze up when the time comes.
- For Hiring Managers
- Typical Job Interview Questions (Which You Can Tailor to Customer Service)
- Customer Service-Oriented Questions
- For Candidates: What To Ask
- How to Maximize Your Time On a Job Interview
For Hiring Managers
As a hiring manager, your role in the interview is like a private investigator. You want to look for specific traits and answers, but you don’t always want to go for those answers head-on.
Remember that not every question is about the surface-level information. It’s all about giving a candidate the opportunity to demonstrate a particular skill or highlight some part of their experience.
It does help to have a few sample questions to prepare, of course. But as we go through those, we’ll offer our unique take on what you should be looking for when you ask these questions.
Don’t just ask questions and see which candidate “strikes” you with a funny anecdote or a sly smile. Make it your goal to seek out specific traits that make them well-suited for the job. With every question, try to see if the candidate takes your cue and explains one of those traits to you, or if they demonstrate something else entirely.
Still feel stuck? You can grab some more general job interview questions from the following links:
- LinkedIn’s “Common Questions” Guide—see the menu on the left-hand side
- “There are only three types of interview questions” by Penelope Trunk—a guide for interviewees, but worth reading as a hiring manager as well
- Monster.com’s Top Job Interview Questions
Typical Job Interview Questions (Which You Can Tailor to Customer Service)
Can you think of a problem that needed solving at a previous position that you were able to solve? What was your process for doing that?
On the surface, it will seem like you’re looking for an example of previous experience. And many job candidates will answer it that way. But what you should look for is a clearly defined system the candidate has in place. They should be able to take you through that process. Rather than saying, “Well, I just tried my best and eventually we got it solved,” you should look for specifics.
Does the candidate appear to have any personal systems they put in place that help them approach customer service systematically? If so, this indicates a lot of competence and forethought that goes into their approach.
For applicants: think about a specific example—keyword, specific—before you go into the interview. Since this is about your experience, we can’t tell you which one to use, but always ask yourself: what is this story saying about me?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is another surface-level question that works on two levels. On one hand, it’s important to know where a job candidate’s ambitions are. If they don’t care about customer service and see themselves teaching wakeboarding on a California beach five years from now, that’s exactly the kind of information you will need to know.
But you also need to know if they have passion for customer service. For example, if they give a completely different answer than “customer service,” but they still talk about helping people, that’s a passion that can still overlap with your job. Look for answers that demonstrate that they care about people, and not just about themselves and their five-year plans.
For applicants: Think less about your own life and more about your professional goals. Try to be specific when possible, but don’t say “I’d like to make XYZ money.” Instead, get specific about your role in customer service, or your goals for career advancement.
Are there any failures you can remember? What would you do differently about those in the future?
For starters, it’s important that a candidate understand that failures will happen. It’s part of being human. The most important thing you’re searching for is a candidate’s ability to take criticism and learn from previous mistakes.
Ideally, the candidate will give you more insight than “well, I learned not to do that again.” But that’s certainly a valid response, depending on the context. Look for candidates who at least have a healthy attitude toward adapting their processes in the face of failure.
For applicants: Choose a real failure; not necessarily an embarrassing catastrophe, but a failure that made you stronger in the end. It’s better to be memorable here than to give a watered-down answer, as long as you can demonstrate a willingness to change.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What you’re looking for here aren’t necessarily the strengths and weaknesses themselves, although those can be informative. If a potential candidate tells you that they have an anger problem as a weakness—well, take their word for it, and maybe move on to the next candidate.
But what you’re really testing for her is self-evaluation, and a willingness to expand and grow.
Many people say that an ideal answer for the “weaknesses” question is to turn it into a positive. “I work too hard,” for example, isn’t really a weakness from the employer’s perspective.
On the other hand, if a candidate were to tell you that they have great technical skills, but that it took them a while to learn how to function in a team environment at their last job, that tells you something.
Not only does it tell you that they saw a weakness and embraced change, but that they were willing to share that vulnerability with you. It says all sorts of good things about them.
After all, every human being on this planet does have weaknesses. It’s how people approach improvement within the context of the job environment that you should be most concerned with.
For applicants: Choose a real weakness, but give specifics about how you resolved it to show your ability to evolve.
Customer Service-Oriented Questions
What does customer service mean to you?
A vague, open-ended question. What kind of value can you possibly get out of it? Well, for starters, you’ll get a sense of what kind of confidence the candidate might have. If they know for certain what customer service means to them, then it means they’ve already given it a lot of thought. If they don’t, it’s possible they haven’t.
What you want to look for are values that align with your own customer service priorities. Do they sound like they’ll mesh with the way your company approaches customer issues?
For applicants: Don’t be generic here. Talk about a specific story in which customer service impacted your life. Did a company do something great for you once?
What is your favorite method of communicating with customers?
With this question, you should try to suss out whether this candidate is a good fit for your specific role. For example, if they talk a lot about their strong written communication skills, then putting them on the telephone might not be a good idea.
This is a specific question, and you’ll be looking for specific answers that can change depending on the type of role you have. At the very least, you can learn a little bit about their preferences to see where they might be a fit, if the job interview is more open-ended.
For applicants: Be honest about your preferences, but indicate a willingness to learn if the job is about something else.
What does good customer service mean to you?
This is another one that sounds vague and open-ended. What you’re looking for here, however, is someone who understands the role customer service plays in the growth of a company.
Do they understand how every customer interaction matters, or do they simply talk about vague notions about solving customers’ problems? There’s nothing wrong with the latter. However, the former can say a lot about their understanding of customer service in a leadership context.
For applicants: Talk about an individual story, or mention your philosophy. What is the key principle guiding your customer service? If you don’t have a specific answer, they may wonder how seriously you take it.
For Candidates: What To Ask
One of the most impressive things a candidate can do to be remembered is to turn the proverbial tables on their hiring managers.
This doesn’t mean you should ask them “gotcha” questions. You should ask thoughtful questions that convey your seriousness about this job.
After all, this is an opportunity to learn about what you’ll be doing. About where you might be working for years of your life. It wouldn’t make much sense if you weren’t the slightest bit curious about the company.
- AskReddit: What are good questions to ask potential employers during an interview?
- 8 Questions to Ask an Interviewer—GlassDoor
- 30+ Questions to Ask in a Job Interview—Indeed
What metrics about my job performance will you be using in future evaluations?
You can word this one a different way. The top response on Reddit puts it like this:
“Let’s say you hire me. In a year, what kind of metrics would let me know I’ve done a good job before we go into my annual review?”
This is essential in customer service interviews, because different companies may have different ways of evaluating you. Will they put more weight toward customer feedback surveys? Is it more sales-oriented? Are you judged by how many products you can upsell, or by how many positive reviews they get from people you talked to?
This isn’t only an impressive question to ask, but it’s an important one for you to know. Remember on the first day of class, when teachers would give out a syllabus and tell you exactly how you’d be graded?
When you break it down, you’ll know exactly how you can do a good job for them. And prospective employers love to hear that you care about their metrics.
What sort of career path is available to someone in this position?
This isn’t only essential information for you, but it tells the employers that you’re not just viewing this as another job.
Remember: many of these questions are about the subtext just as much as their literal meaning.
On the literal level, this question is about career advancement. But the subtext is that you’re a serious professional looking to expand your skills and potentially stick around with the right company.
That’s something a lot of companies value; they don’t want to constantly hire people, but many companies look to grow talent from within.
What is it like to work here?
This one is less about impressing them and more about getting yourself a hint of what would happen if you were to be hired.
It’s your life, after all. You should enjoy your work environment. If the interviewers hem and haw about the company and clearly seem to be hiding something, you can take that as a potential red flag. But if they seem excited to share their experiences with you, you can probably bet that you’re going to feel as excited talking about your job, too.
How to Maximize Your Time On a Job Interview
Devote most time to specific anecdotes
Think in terms of storytelling. You’re not just at a job interview; you’re telling the story of your success. When going through fifty different interviews, hiring managers are going to glaze over if they have to hear another generic spiel about how excited the candidate would be for the opportunity.
It’s too bland. Eventually, the hiring managers just hear trumpet sounds, as if you were an adult in one of those Peanuts cartoons.
You can tell people some generic things about your skills. But remember it’s far more important to prepare a real-life anecdote that demonstrates your qualities as well.
It’s one thing to say “I’m a quick learner.”
It’s another thing to tell the story of your last job, when you had a great attitude but zero technical experience, and you were able to get started with the company CRM within a week, and within two weeks, you were teaching other people how to use it.
You’ve made the same point.
But they’ll only remember one of them.
Do most of your preparation around the most common interview questions
You can find some of them here, after all! You know that interviewers are going to ask specific questions—they all do—so it only makes sense to devote much of that preparation to what you know you can answer.
That means taking the time to prepare real stories. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Find a weakness you had that fits our guidance above, and then learn how to explain it in a way that shows a willingness to change.
Even if an interviewer asks you a curveball question, the kind of preparation you do for the other questions should still give you something of a blueprint for handling them.
Be willing to say “I don’t know” rather than bury yourself looking silly
Let’s say an interviewer gives you a tough question to react to. You don’t know much about it, and you’re afraid of looking bad.
You talk in circles around that question. You go on and on. And all the interviewer can think is, “Gee, is this how it’s going to be to work with them?”
That’s not ideal.
Instead, consider telling them that you don’t know. Be blunt, even. Matter-of-fact. Professional, but straightforward.
“You know, I don’t know the answer to that as well as I should. So I don’t want to pretend I do. But I’ll bet you I can learn.”
That’s someone you might want to work with, isn’t it? Someone who doesn’t obfuscate when they don’t know something? Someone who doesn’t pretend to be someone they’re not?
Making the Most of Your Customer Service Job Interview
In customer service, you’re expected to have people skills. Every question you answer is a demonstration of that fact. If you don’t prepare—and don’t know how to answer—you’re simply demonstrating that you don’t take the job seriously.
But if, on the other hand, you prepare for the interview the same way you might train for customer service, you’ll find it’s not nearly as hard as you think to impress them.