Before you go on and hire that eager and smart customer service candidate, it’s essential to gauge whether that individual will be a productive and engaged team member. But is there any way to do so? Other than using a time machine, there is no sure-fire method, which makes the interview the best way to judge customer support and service candidates. 

With the right questions, you can force interviewees to reflect on their experiences and think on their feet, thus making them reveal useful information. Their body language and reactions will speak volumes about how they’ll manage real-life situations and will help determine any red flags.

It’s important to remember that the qualities and core skills of every customer service job are the same. To ensure you hire top talent, here are some interview questions you can ask candidates and what you can hope to learn from them:


  • How would you define customer service, and what does it mean to you?


This question will enable you to see the mindset and philosophy the candidate will bring to the position. You’ll be able to gain insights and details about their philosophy and gauge their commitment to the job. 

The best response 

Candidates you choose should talk about the impact and importance of customers for the growth of the company, should believe in the significance of retaining customers, and should be interested in learning from and working with others. They should also be dedicated to servant leadership and believe in the fact that customer satisfaction can change businesses in the same way as sales and marketing.  


  • Can you recall a time you handled a fussy customer, and how did you manage the situation?


This question will help determine whether a candidate will go the extra mile to help a customer, even in a difficult situation. 

The best response 

Good answers include detailed examples of the candidate’s own experiences, which showcase humility and the ability to accept their mistakes. Candidates should be able to easily answer any follow-up questions about those experiences. It’s also important to see if they remained calm, understood, and empathized with the customer. Furthermore, candidates suggesting new improvements or ideas to de-escalate the situation is always a big plus. 

On the other hand, mediocre candidates will talk about how unreasonable the customer was and how frustrating it was to solve the issue.


  • What can you tell us about our company or our product?


This question will help evaluate the amount of research a candidate did before the interview and will help determine whether they want this particular customer service job or are looking for any customer service job. 

The best response

Good candidates will have done their research about your company, thus showing that they’re really invested in this particular opportunity.


  • How do you handle and de-escalate angry customers?


In order to gauge a candidate’s level of empathy, it’s important to determine their views on how difficult customers should be handled. You should be looking for candidates that can easily empathize with others and are able to turn a bad situation into a constructive learning experience.

The best response

Good candidates are characterized by their respect for customers, humility, and practical conflict resolution skills. They should also understand that angry customers prefer an apology rather than an explanation for their problem.


  • How do you maintain a positive attitude when customers are rude to you?


Customer service jobs involve plenty of unpleasant encounters with unhappy customers, who are often quite vocal about their problems. This question will help determine whether candidates have considered this part of the job and if it’s something they will be able to manage. 

The best response

Good candidates should understand that a customer service job has its disadvantages, but at the same time, should be able to convey that its advantages far outweigh them. You should look for individuals that won’t burn out and won’t yell at a customer. 

Look out for candidates that complain about customers in their interview. Mentioning the phrase, ‘dealing with customers’ is also a red flag, as it shows that candidates don’t view their job as something they would enjoy. Although it’s not a deal-breaker, you should still ask follow-up questions to see how they’d interact with angry customers and if they really want a customer support job. 


  • How would you define empathy? Did you use empathy in any of your previous roles?


This question is how interviewers screen for empathy. It’s important to understand that you don’t want the exact definition of empathy, but are looking for candidates who can explain empathy in their own words. It’s also a good sign if they provide examples of how they understand and relate to customers. 

The best response

Good candidates will provide a concrete example that includes more than just apologizing to a customer. They should explain how they used rapport-building and understanding to establish a strong relationship with the customer and how they consequently solved the problem.


  • Was there a time when you didn’t know how to help a customer? What did you do?


Even with extensive experience and training, it’s practically impossible for customer service representatives to have the solution for every problem. Ask this question to determine whether a candidate will respond efficiently and calmly if presented with this situation. 

The best response

Good candidates will be honest, confident, and will be able to demonstrate how they handled situations where they didn’t have an answer. Look out for individuals who claim they’ve never been stumped or only provide examples where another colleague gave the final answer. 


  • When answering a customer, how do you determine what information to exclude and what to include?


The most important skill for customer service representatives is the ability to clearly communicate information with just the right amount of detail. This section will enable candidates to explain how they write or talk to customers, helping you identify the best ones. 

The best response

Great candidates will be able to properly understand the needs of a customer and change their communication styles to suit different audiences. Beware of inflexible candidates who can only explain one communication approach.


  • What do you think was your biggest failure in your last job, and how did you learn from it?


This question helps gauge a candidate’s honesty and coachability. Every person has failed at least once in their life, but the important question is whether they blamed someone else for it or learned and improved from it?

The best response

Moderate candidates will give an evasive and vague answer. It’s better to look for answers that showcase resilience, an ability to learn and improve from mistakes, and a sense of personal responsibility.


  • Are you experienced with any customer service tools?


The customer service stack of every company is different, but it’s always a plus if a candidate is experienced and knows how to use CRMs, collaboration tools, and ticketing systems. 

The best response

Look for candidates that express a desire to learn new systems and technologies. They should also be experienced with specific systems and tools and should possess the ability to grasp new concepts quickly.


  • What qualities do you think a good teammate should have?


This question will help you understand whether a candidate is a good teammate, and if the individual is able to work well with others. 

The best response

It’s important to look for candidates that are eager to learn new skills and are supportive of their co-workers, along with their customers. People who can easily talk about their interests and can have a casual conversation are usually better suited for customer service roles. 

Traits to look for when interviewing customer service candidates

Asking the right questions is only half the battle. When interviewing candidates for a customer service job, it’s important to look for the following traits:


  • Drive


Customer service representatives should be eager to start and ready to learn. They should be driven, have a desire to prove themselves, but most not be entitled. They want to be promoted to better positions but know that they’ll have to earn it. 


  • Coachability


Customer service representatives should be eager to grasp new concepts, but should not get defensive if given criticism. The best candidates pick things up pretty quickly. 


  • Positivity 


This is one of the most overlooked traits. A negative person makes for an incredibly poor team member as they might talk poorly about colleagues and customers. It’s important to ensure that every new hire is a positive person. 


  • Problem-solving skills


Unfortunately, people rarely contact customer support to praise and thank them for exceptional service. Since a customer service representative is responsible for solving people’s problems, it’s important to look for candidates that can untangle sticky issues, think on their feet, and quickly find effective solutions.


The most productive interviews are never straight-forward question-and-answer sessions; instead, they’re carefully constructed conversations that determine candidates’ strengths, challenges, and attitudes. It’s important to remember that the questions are only starting pieces for different conversational topics. If you find an answer concerning or interesting, remember to ask follow-up questions to glean more details.