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Bret Ranoa Hawaiian Airlines

Bret Ranoa, Senior Director Airport Customer Services at Hawaiian Airlines LinkedIn




Sonia Brummer, Customer Service Manager at Medivators Inc



Vicki Dunlap, Customer Service Center Manager at Sacred Heart Health System LinkedIn



Valarie Prue, Director of Customer Services Management Division at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Alec Veinger, VP of Customer Service at GSP


By Robin Rayburn and Emily Tatum

The goal of many businesses is to grow profits through attracting and retaining customers. The importance of maintaining the customer lifeline falls primarily on the organization’s customer service team. As client facing employees, customer service representatives are often the only contact customers have with a company and have the power to leave a lasting impression of the organization in the mind of the public. Customer service is so important on an organization’s success that 78% of customers have not made an intended purchase due to poor customer service and it even takes an average of 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. As customers place an increasing importance on high quality customer service, organizations have shifted their focus (and funding) on recruiting the best customer service representatives for their organization. To help gain a better understanding of how to identify top customer service candidates, leading customer service practitioners discussed their favorite interview questions to ask when seeking top candidates.

When prescreening candidates, Alec Veinger, VP of Customer Service at GSP, said his favorite question is “who are you” versus “what have you done”. He believes that the ambiguity of this question allows the candidate to share a personal story such as challenges the individual has overcome or successes. The question serves as a leading question before the interviewer begins digging into the candidate’s job history.

Bret Ranoa, Senior Director of Airport Customer Services at Hawaiian Airlines, said that his favorite prescreen interview question is, “tell me about an initiative or idea that you implemented at your last position that increased productivity, saved time and/or money.” He hopes to hear something out of the box to identify not only a candidate’s customer service skills, but business acumen as well. He believes that this question highlights a candidate’s willingness to go the extra mile and strive for continuous improvement. Some recruiters like to ask candidates what their favorite class and teacher were while they were in school to get an idea of where the candidates’ interests lay, what influences their lives and even what motivates them. This question shows candidates that you are interested in them as a person and opens them up for future questions.

Although out of the box questions dive deeper into a candidate’s character and creativity, recruiters shouldn’t undermine the basic customer service prerequisite questions. A popular basic question could be, “what is the one word that you would use to describe the difference between a good customer service experience versus a bad one?” Questions like this tap directly into the customer service role and provide insight into a candidate’s pervious customer service experience. Another question directly related to the customer service role that Valarie Prue, Director of Customer Services Management Division at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, likes to ask is, “How do you handle difficult customers?” She thinks the best answer to this question is to listen. By asking this question, she hopes to find a level headed candidate with good judgment.

Vicki Dunlap, Customer Service Center Manager at Sacred Heart Health System, says that her favorite interview question is, “tell me about a time when you went beyond your employer’s expectations to get a job done that was a benefit to both the company and the customer.” Dunlap thinks that this is an effective question for hiring candidates based off of their attitude over skills that could be acquired though training. Another effective behavioral question recruiters like to use is, “let’s say you had a disagreement with a co-worker about their performance or behavior. How would you handle it?” This question taps into candidates’ value systems and their confidence in their own judgment.

When ending the interview. Sonia Brummer, Customer Service Manager at Medivators Inc, likes to wrap up with, “what is a common misconception that people have of you?” She believes that this this is a better version of asking the candidate, “tell me your weaknesses or challenges.” She believes that the question touches on a candidate’s fault and also gives space for the candidate to explain why they do what they do without sounding defensive. Brummer likes this question because it tells her a bit about the candidate’s personality and she can often detect things about their professionalism, confidence, humor, values and communication style in the way that they answer the question. She added that it’s a fun question to end with because it usually catches the candidate off guard and she can see a wave of sincerity wash over some candidates’ faces.

Some customer service recruiters’ favorite interview practice is to ask their executive assistant and receptionist their thoughts on the candidate. This is helpful for interviewers to see how the candidate treats other coworkers, such as if the receptionist thought that the candidate was rude when scheduling interviewing times. Other customer service recruiters look for a candidate who uses “we” versus “I’. Rarely do we get great things done on our own and acknowledgement of team accomplishments indicates strong leadership abilities. It is important to hire someone that others want to work with and who are actively working to improve themselves.

Quality customer service is one of the most important factors in your organization’s success. It is a way to attract and retain customers as well as differentiate your organization from competitors. Knowing the right questions to ask candidates will uncover the best talent to ensure satisfactory customer service from your organization.



Help Scout. “75Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics.” 75 Customer Service Stats and Facts You Can’t Afford to Ignore. N.p., n.d. Web.

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