Common customer service interview questions for employers and candidates

The questions you ask in an interview are vital to hiring the right person for your business. This article will share the most important customer service interview questions and answers for both employers and interviewees.

4 mins read
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8 months ago

​The main three skills or traits employers are looking for in an interviewee are communication, enthusiasm, and problem-solving. These questions will help employers find the right candidates and interviewees to show their full potential:

Tell me about yourself

Employers will already have key information about an applicant from their CV and other documents, but this is your chance to get a deeper insight into who you might be hiring. People are more honest when speaking in real-time than in their cover letters or job applications.

Candidates should refer directly to what is in the job description and make your introduction relevant to the role. The hiring manager also wants to know who you are as a person, but in terms of your professional background and values, rather than just your hobbies.

What does customer service mean to you?

There are times when candidates will apply to roles just to get their foot in the door at a company and will really have their eye on a different profession. This customer service interview question helps you evaluate the motivation of the applicant and see if they really want to work in customer service or are just using your role as a stepping-stone.

A good candidate will be able to explain what customer service is, why it’s important to a business, and what they enjoy about it. Candidates who show passion, dedication, and potential are often more valued by hiring managers than those with a lot of experience and education because these traits show the longevity of employees.

Describe a time when you’ve dealt with a difficult customer – what did you do?

Scenario-based questions help employers understand the candidate’s practical ability without having seen it first-hand. For this to be effective, they need to have real examples and be able to answer questions from their own experience. Hypothetical answers such as “If I were in that situation I would…” don’t show their experience or ability, only their theoretical understanding of customer service.

Candidates should be aware that any experience you have with conflict resolution, in a retail role, for example, can be applied here. Those with customer service experience should be as specific as possible and answer honestly in case of any follow-up questions. If the customer being difficult or rude was their fault, being honest about it will show their accountability and self-awareness.

What do you know about our company/product?

Any candidate who hasn’t done some initial research will most likely not get the role. If they don’t know what they’re applying for, they may leave once they find out.

Employers don’t expect a detailed description, only that the interviewee has an idea of what the company does, what the specific product is, and how that relates to the role. This is a chance for an applicant to share any thoughts or opinions they have about the company, potentially highlighting what made them want to apply in the first place.

Using the job description, checking out their website, and even calling their customer service line to see how they work, are good methods of researching a company. Preparing for an interview by doing research shows both interest and professionalism and will boost the candidate’s chances of receiving a job offer. It’s even better if the candidate is already a customer because they can give real feedback and will have a deeper understanding of the product/service.

Tell me about a time when you delivered excellent customer service

Customer service competency questions often use situations where you’ve interacted with a customer. These are chances for interviewees to show off their achievements and demonstrate their knowledge of what excellent customer service is, while using examples from their experience. Through this question, employers can evaluate their best performance, and ask follow-up questions such as what skills they think contributed to this, and what the outcome was.

What skills do you think are essential for someone in customer service?

For customer service advisor questions, soft skills are the most important to mention, e.g. communication skills, patience, empathy, listening, and more. Advisors are there to inform and help customers in a way that is clear and concise, honest, and polite – even in stressful situations. Working well under pressure is important because customer service advisors may need to talk to several difficult people and stay professional. Usually, the skills candidates mention as most important are the ones they recognize in themselves the most.

What is your biggest weakness?

Self-awareness and self-assessment are skills in themselves. This might be the most common customer service interview question because it usually reveals employers several areas besides the candidate’s weaknesses: how they see themselves, and how they are working on reducing their own weaknesses to improve themselves.

Interviewees must be honest and avoid the trap of saying “I’m too [something positive]” because this sounds insincere and indicates a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset – indicative of someone who welcomes new challenges. Candidates answering honestly about self-improvement show employers that they are still developing and can become a more valuable employees later, even if they don’t have the right skills or experience yet.

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​When it comes to the hospitality industry, the role of a hotel manager is crucial in ensuring the smooth operation of a hotel. From overseeing day-to-day operations to managing staff and ensuring guest satisfaction, hotel managers play a key role in the success of a hotel. If you are considering a career in hotel management, it's important to understand what the role entails and whether it is the right fit for you.

What does a Hotel Manager do?

A hotel manager is responsible for overseeing the overall operations of a hotel, including managing staff, ensuring guest satisfaction, and maximizing revenue. They are typically in charge of setting and achieving financial goals, developing and implementing policies and procedures, and maintaining high standards of customer service. Hotel managers also handle issues such as staffing, budgeting, marketing, and public relations to ensure the hotel runs smoothly and efficiently.

Is a career as a Hotel Manager right for me?

A career as a hotel manager can be both rewarding and challenging. If you have a passion for hospitality, strong leadership skills, and a knack for problem-solving, a career in hotel management may be a good fit for you. It's important to be able to work well under pressure, communicate effectively with staff and guests, and adapt to changing situations in a fast-paced environment. Additionally, a willingness to work long hours, including nights and weekends, is often required in this role.

Key responsibilities of a Hotel Manager

Some key responsibilities of a hotel manager include:

  • Overseeing day-to-day operations of the hotel

  • Managing staff and ensuring they are properly trained and motivated

  • Ensuring guest satisfaction and responding to guest feedback

  • Developing and implementing strategic plans to achieve financial goals

  • Managing budgets and controlling costs

  • Marketing and promoting the hotel to attract guests

  • Maintaining high standards of cleanliness and safety

  • Handling any issues or complaints that arise

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Employee tenure: long-term relationship or short-term fling?
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Employee tenure: long-term relationship or short-term fling?

​We all want committed employees but is length of service a true indicator of engagement? Does simply staying around in an employment relationship mean you’re all in? Of course, there are no simple answers to these questions – each situation is as individual as the parties involved – but it is worth thinking about what benefits both short and long tenure bring – and not rushing to build assumptions (or recruitment practices) on one or the other. 

So, what is employee tenure? It is generally defined as the length of time an individual spends with the same organisation or working for the same employer. According to the CIPD, the most common length of service is between two and five years (22.4%) but employees with over five years’ service make up nearly 50% of the workforce (Jan-Dec 2022).  

Is a long-term relationship better? You can certainly be forgiven for thinking so, as our corporate landscape often places value on long service and actively engages with strategies to lengthen or reward employee tenure. But why? Here are some key benefits of both short- and long-term tenures:

Long-term employee tenure

Increased productivity

Tenured employees tend to have a clear understanding of their roles and company goals due to their experience and time with the organisation. This familiarity with processes and procedures can allow them to work efficiently and contribute positively to productivity, as they are able to navigate the idiosyncrasies inherent in all companies. Quite often, they will have developed practices that enable the most efficient use of time to achieve objectives and outputs; and are then able to influence wider practices to spread the word. 

Stability and commitment 

Tenured employees will often feel more secure in their positions and so, can demonstrate greater commitment to the company. Their loyalty contributes to a stable work environment, which can positively impact team dynamics and overall organisational success. My current HR team has an average tenure of around 10 years, and this contributes to a very supportive and effective working environment – although how they’ve put up with me over the years is still a mystery! 

Skill set and knowledge base

Over time, tenured employees accumulate valuable knowledge and skills specific to their roles. This expertise can not only be passed down to new hires, benefitting the organisation as a whole, but also help with integrating new technologies and processes, ensuring they work for the business. We all have a ‘go-to’ person in our companies who is the fount of all knowledge and can help give a perspective gained from years of experience and insight. 

Company ambassadors

A company that retains its workforce builds a reputation for employee satisfaction. In a world where Employee Value Proposition (EVP) plays an important role in both retention and attraction, having employees who are aligned with the company ethos and happy to talk about why they’ve stayed so long, is a real asset. Plus, they are able to share this insight with new hires, acting as mentors and imparting knowledge and enthusiasm for the company. 

Short-term employee tenure

So, if long tenured employees are the utopia, why does an interim market exist, I hear you ask? What about those contractors who enjoy short-term assignments or project-based roles? Well, as I mentioned earlier, there are benefits to both forms of tenure and while the above benefits can be true of long-term relationships, there is also a lot to be said for a short-term fling (from an employment perspective, I hasten to add): 

Career experience 

Demonstrating experience in diverse roles can make employees more attractive to potential employers, not only for permanent positions but also where a specific skill set or experience is needed. Working in various short-terms roles can help to provide this and organisations then benefit from someone who can bring real-life examples from different workplaces. 

Versatility

Working across different organisations and/or industries means employees will have experience of adapting to new environments or taking on responsibilities they haven't had before. This can encourage a mindset that is open to new ideas, as well as sharing them, and so means organisations benefit from having a versatile employee who excels in new environments. 

Openness

By accepting that an individual is not planning on bedding down within the organisation, employers may find a level of openness and challenge that is not there in others. The short-termer will be happy to challenge the status quo and focus on meeting the objectives in hand, even if that means coming up with new ways of working or unsettling the cart. While this might not be comfortable for all involved, it will foster an environment where ‘this is how it’s always been done’ is no longer a mantra. 

Ambition and drive 

Employees who are prepared to leave a company to seek new challenges or career development that is not available to them if they stay, show a level of ambition that is likely to have benefitted the company during their employment. In addition, they could well be the individuals who return to the organisation as future leaders, and so allowing them the opportunity to gain new experiences, while leaving on good terms, is a no brainer. 

Final thoughts 

With benefits of both types of tenure, where does this leave you? Should you be looking for a serial monogamist or a more open relationship? Well, as with most things in life, there isn’t a simple answer. It’s primarily about striking the right balance within your workforce and accepting that people have different preferences and needs.

Of course, you should be looking to encourage retention and reward those who show loyalty to the company, but you should also embrace those who leave sooner than hoped as they may one day wish to return. Many people, having gained certain skills and experience elsewhere, will fondly remember their experience at an organisation and consider rejoining. Therefore, the main thing to remember is how all employees are treated and valued during their time with you. Who knows, you may rekindle a relationship with an old flame further down the line! 

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Hospitality resume template
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Hospitality resume template

​Build the perfect hospitality resume with our free template

[Full Name]
[Home address]
[Contact Number] • [Email Address]

Personal Statement

Stick to no more than four sentences in this section of your CV.

“I am a professionally qualified chef with over 15 years’ experience. During this time I have worked in fine dining restaurants up to a 2 rosette standard and spent two years working for high society event caterers across Europe. I hold an up to date Level 3 Certificate in Food Hygiene, and am now looking for my first Head Chef role.”

Education

This is your chance to talk about your qualifications, academic and vocational. This is a particularly important section for those with little experience. You should give detail about what you studied, where and when, and list them in chronological order.

If you have many of one qualification, such as GCSEs or professional qualification e.g. HND in Hotel Management/NVQ Level 3 Professional Cookery etc. you might find it useful to group them together.

[University Name]
[Date M/Y– Date M/Y]

[Degree Class]
[Degree Name]

[College/School Name]
[Date M/Y– Date M/Y]

A-levels:

  • [Subject] – [Grade]

  • [Subject] – [Grade]

  • [Subject] – [Grade]

GCSEs:

  • [Number] GCSEs, grades [range], including Maths and English

Work Experience

Try not to repeat yourself when you are bullet pointing each job. Mix it up, and try to think of different skills/styles of environment you’ve worked in. This should be brief and, as a general rule of thumb, focus on the last five years of your career, or last three roles, in chronological order with the most recent at the top. You should highlight your key achievements and use bullet points rather than lengthy descriptions.

October 2010 – Present

Senior Sous Chef, REED Restaurant, London, 3 rosettes

  • Brief overview: [state any promotions you’ve had and your responsibilities e.g. staff training, recruitment, stock/cost control P&L, marketing strategy, managing suppliers etc.]

  • Environment worked within: I worked in a [size of brigade/team] to produce [style of food] in a [establishment e.g. hotel/bar/restaurant] with [status e.g. Rosette, Michelin etc.]. Or I worked on [event/contract catering/food retail/production/New Product Development] with [result].

  • Worked/managed [different sections/departments/teams e.g. F&B, events, reception, general/kitchen, corporate or leisure sales, revenue management etc.]

  • Received a [include achievements e.g. Bib Gourmand/Rosette/Michelin/Trip Advisor score, increase in revenue etc.] for [reason]

Hobbies and Interests

If you are a chef, clients would expect to see that at least one of your hobbies relates to cooking or eating out.

If you work front of house it would be advised to include interests in different styles of restaurants or bars, give examples of your knowledge.

“I have a keen interest in craft beer and whisky, and have recently discovered The East London Liquor Company.”

Make it relevant.

References

References are available upon request.