Finding and building a customer support team can be daunting. Many customer support managers and directors are busy supervising or providing customer support themselves, making it hard to find the time (and it does take a lot of time) to recruit.
The way companies find and hire new talent has changed dramatically. Many customer support managers can’t wait months for their Human Resources departments to sift through applicants’ resumes, call references, and report their findings. The need for a new staff member is immediate when working with just one less person is a strain on resources and energies.
Posting an opening online also requires a lot of time to find star candidates among the piles. Glassdoor reports that one corporate job opening attracts an average of 250 resumes, of which only 4 to 6 people are interviewed.
Then there is the potential for failure. According to Geoff Smart, author of the bestselling book Who: The A Method for Hiring, a poor hiring decision costs a business 15 times the bad hire’s base salary in expenses and shortfalls.
Before you send call-outs for applicants or go to HR for help, try these alternate recruitment tools to find your next employee.
Tap into your professional network
According to Smart, the best job candidates are the ones who come through personal referrals. Before you start soliciting applications far and wide, consider these five ways to use your connections to your advantage.
- Network referrals: Ask other talented customer support managers and directors in your circle for recommendations.
- Staff referrals: Consider an incentive program that allows current employees to recommend strong candidates from their networks. Try some services such as RoiKoi and Teamable to identify your employee’s top talent and connections.
- Friends of the firm: Ask business partners and consultants who they like to work with that matches the skill set you’re looking for.
- External recruiters: Seek professionals to do the work for you—but only if they have a clear understanding of who you’re looking for and what your business needs in a new hire.
- Recruiting researchers and headhunters: Unlike recruiters, these firms don’t interview anyone. Instead, they research the market and get you names of top people. Again, make sure you’ve clearly outlined the competencies you’re looking for in a new hire and the outcomes you’re seeking.
Do your own research online
If network referrals and recruiters aren’t getting you the candidates you’re looking for, it may be time to extend your reach.
How to search LinkedIn for your next support hire
LinkedIn, with its 128 million registered users in the U.S. and 400-plus million users worldwide, is one of the best starting points.
Begin your search by using LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search tool—at the top of the page to the right of the search bar—to filter candidates by current and past companies, job titles, location, and industry (Customer Service has its own box to check). Use specific keywords to yield the best results, such as adding “customer support manager” in the job title category to get candidates with that level of experience.
To further hone in on candidates, LinkedIn offers more advanced search tools—years of experience, seniority, specific interests—and the ability to send InMail messages to anyone you’re not connected with to its Premium members.
And if you’re recruiting regularly, you can save your searches (for free) and LinkedIn will run this search on a weekly or monthly basis then email you the new results.
Another area to explore is in some of LinkedIn’s groups, where people in similar fields share content and post questions and jobs. Think of it like an online networking event. For customer support, join and start searching within these top groups:
- Customer Support Innovation Group
- Customer Service Champions (the largest group)
- Customer Experience Management
- Making Excellent Customer Service the Standard
- Customer Support Professionals
- Where Social Media Meets Customer Service
- Customer Service Handling
Search in specialized areas
Specialized job boards can also be powerful tools for finding customer support professionals who are looking for new opportunities. Bookmark these sites first, before you go to Craigslist and Indeed:
- If you’re looking for support-driven workers try … Support Driven Jobs.
- If your company uses Slack internally try … Slack at Work.
- If you’re looking for remote workers try … Remote OK and We Work Remotely.
- If you’re a startup try … AngelList Jobs.
Craft an excellent job posting and you will find some excellent candidates in these specialized areas.
Use conferences to your advantage
If you’re headed to Elevate Summit or SupConf, or any other industry events, take time to meet potential candidates face-to-face. Even if you’re not hiring right now, you can make connections for the next time you are. Consider these tips for making the most of a conference for networking and recruiting:
- Look over the lists of attendees in advance and make note of anyone you want to connect with.
- Don’t just collect as many business cards as you can. In the long run, establishing a personal connection is better than speed networking to meet as many people as possible.
- Ask engaging questions at presentations. Don’t use the opportunity to brag or reiterate that you’ve already done what the presenter has done at your company.
- When you get a business card, make a few quick notes about what you and that person talked about to remember for follow-up emails later on.
- Don’t stick to one table or area. Move around to meet new people.
Don’t forget about your interns
While most companies have internship programs for college students and recent grads, not all companies nurture their interns for prospective employment in the company.
Try giving him or her the chance to act as a support rep to see how the intern handles added responsibility. Interns at Kayako, for example, are not getting coffees or running errands. They have worked on critical development projects, such as building a tool to automate localization (local languages) in Kayako software. Interns on the marketing team create SlideShare slides and e-books, and organize webinars.
Supervisors overseeing interns at Kayako check in to ensure that their goals are being met and interns are learning new things. They have flexibility in where they work and when, so interns say they feel trusted, and thereby more productive.
Those who have gone above and beyond and demonstrated their value during their internship have been offered jobs.
Now start your search
To get better job candidates when you’re filling an opening, try forgoing the traditional methods—going through HR, posting on huge job boards—of seeking out top employees.
Ask for referrals from employees and friends of the company. Search on LinkedIn in groups and by specific qualifications, titles, and organizations. Post on customer support-specific job boards before you go to Indeed. Test your interns by giving them more responsibility to see if they might be a good fit for an opening.
Most importantly, by networking and always keeping an eye out for potential employees, you can always have new recruits at the ready when you need to make a new hire.