Thursday, November 22, 2012

Call Center Interview Tips
In 2010, there were over 2.1 million customer service jobs in the US according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is expected to grow 15 percent over the next decade. As more complex products are introduced to the marketplace, call center reps are resolving more complex consumer issues. A key requirement is to be able to understand the customer's need and be able to quickly resolve the issue.
As more companies look to creating contact centers in the United States as opposed to India or the Philippines, it is imperative to successfully ace the interview if you seek one of these customer service jobs. Larger centers rely on sophisticated interview methods such as STAR or CAR behavioral analysis questions. Understanding the question and answer techniques can dramatically improve your chances of success.

Types of Interview Methods
As a former senior manager for a large call center, I've interviewed hundreds of applicants using the STAR method. Candidates who were able to provide their work history using the format below were considered the best applicants for the jobs.

S – Situation, background set the scene
T – Task or Target, specifics of what's required, when, where, who
A – Action, what you did, skills used, behaviours, characteristics
R – Result – Outcome, what happened

C - Context
A - Action
R - Results

Both methods force the applicant to tell a compelling story about their work history. For the hiring manager, these methods provide an opportunity to look at what an applicant has done as opposed to what they will do. Known as behavioral based questions, these methods highlight an applicant's strengths as well as providing an opportunity to show negatives in a positive light.

Preparing for a Behavioral Interview
  • Identify situations that show your behavior in a favorable light. Call center managers are looking for situations where you've shown leadership, teamwork, customer satisfaction and conflict resolution.
  • Jot down two-minute "stories" for each situation.
  • Use examples from recent employers as well as coursework, sports or community service if your work experience is limited.
  • Rehearse your examples, and be sure to show yourself in a positive light.
  • Be specific. Vague examples or examples where other parties were responsible for the outcome
Sample Interview Questions and Answers
  1. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond to satisfy a customer.
A NYC customer called into the site to advise us of a shipping mistake. The customer had ordered several large pieces of equipment that could not be installed because the floor would not support the weight. I quickly contacted the equipment manufacturer in Wi and asked about alternatives. They suggested smaller lightweight systems instead of the larger systems. We calculated the electrical load requirements, advised the shipping company to return the larger systems, and immediately shipped out the alternatives. The client received the smaller systems in 4 days and was able to install them without any problems. Throughout the entire situation, I remained in contact with the manufacturer and the customer to ensure a smooth implementation.”
  1. Describe a time when you had to resolve conflict with a co-worker.
A co-worker and I were on the same team but different shifts. Because she came in later, she didn’t always know about some of the incentives being offered and accused me of using unfair selling techniques to generate more sales. I pulled her aside after one instance where she loudly stated that it was impossible for “some people” to have such high numbers. I explained that the morning shift supervisors often gave the early shift customer incentives. I offered to leave a copy of all promotions and incentives on her desk so that when she came in, she would be able to go right to work without having to search for the promotions. I received permission from the manager to create these “cheat sheets” for everyone on the team. The other worker was delighted to have this when she came in. She became a top seller and I eventually became a team lead.”
  1. Give me an example of when you had to make an important decision.
There was a customer who needed sales information that I couldn’t provide in customer service. The sales reps were in a meeting and there wasn’t anyone available to help the customer buy the product they wanted. I contacted a sales manager in another store and advised him of the situation. He remained on the phone with me as I conferenced the customer in. Based on my quick decision to make the sale, the customer purchased over $10,000 of product. I provided the customer with his sales reps information for follow-up and left the rep with a detailed report of what happened.

HR managers and hiring managers in call centers may interview hundreds of applicants when a site opens or expands. Being seen as a top candidate is easy if you are able to communicate your accomplishments in a clear and focused manner.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Customer Service Representatives Job Outlook

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Advice on Choosing a Career Path

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions most of us ever make. Depending on the individual, the choice of career may be decided by following in the footsteps of a parent or taking over a family business. For others, it is the pursuit of a passion or lifelong dream. Whether your path is clear or uncertain, careful planning may lead to the job of a lifetime.  

Examine Your Interests  

The first step in choosing the right career is to think about your interests. Decide if you prefer analyzing numbers to working with your hands. Evaluate your creativity or your desire to work with people. Don't worry if you have the education or experience for a specific career or how much money you might make. Use an interactive interest profile like that found on the My Next Move website. Created by the U.S. Department of Labor, the profile will help you identify possible career paths that agree with your interests. The Career Path website provides similar services.  

Focus Your Search  

After you've identified your interests, search for occupations. For example, if you like children or reading, explore a career in early education or library sciences. Careers such as daycare worker or pediatric nurse are also options that allow you to work with children. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information on thousands of jobs including salary, requirements and work environment.  

Evaluate Your Preparedness  

Now that you've focused on a specific career based on your interests, identify the education, knowledge and skills it requires. Some careers may be started with a high school diploma; others may require a two-year or four-year degree. Some fields require certification for your chosen path. For example, if you chose a career in project management, you may find that certain positions require a certification.  

Explore Careers  

Your next step is to explore job possibilities in your chosen career. Online job boards are useful tools to see if jobs matching your career path are available in your area. Look across different industries to see how the jobs vary in terms of salary and responsibility. Ask friends and family members who work in your chosen profession if you can job shadow them or visit with a human resources associate at their companies.  

Other Resources 

Local colleges and universities provide career information to their students. If the service is open to the public, visit the career services department. Ask the staff to provide you with information on employers in your area. Also, investigate state or local employment agencies in your town. These agencies work closely with local employers and may provide training for certain careers. When you decide on a specific career path as a result of your research, make the decision to secure the necessary education and skills for the jobs in your field. With proper planning, you should be on your way to your dream job.   


About the Author

Tami Glasco is a business instructor at Virginia College in Florence, S.C. She has also served as a senior manager at a major employment website and the director of development/marketing for a local nonprofit organization. Glasco holds an M.B.A. in e-commerce, as well as a B.S. in marketing.

Nonprofit Development Director Job Descriptions

The demand for nonprofit professionals will continue to increase at a rate of 17 percent through 2020, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonprofit organizations provide charitable or philanthropic services with income from donations solicited by a development team often led by a director of development. At the time of publication, the median annual salary range for a development director was between $70,000 and $100,000. 

Development Strategy

A nonprofit development director's primary responsibility is to raise money for a not-for-profit organization. He creates and implements a development plan that details how the organization solicits donors and identifies funding sources such as grants, in-kind donations, charitable events and marketing opportunities. The development director shares his development plans with senior leadership and the board of directors. As the governing body for such an organization, the board of directors provides oversight and leadership. The development director also spends time personally soliciting donors. As such, strong relationship building and solicitation skills are important. 

Budget Preparation

These development professionals also prepare annual budgets for their organizations. The budget details the cash required to fund programs. A successful budget should be realistic, consistent and measurable. The director provides detailed information about how much money must be raised to meet budget criteria. The budget must be approved by the board of directors before it is implemented. 

Public Relations

Candidates should expect to create marketing materials, and social media and advertising campaigns as part of a public relations strategy. The nonprofit development director is also responsible for branding. This concept, critical to successful fundraising endeavors, should focus on a strategy that expands the target audience through community relations, speaking engagements, newsletters and charitable events. 


Well-qualified candidates should possess a bachelor's degree in business, marketing or nonprofit leadership with fundraising experience. Other experience includes, but is not limited to, public relations, prospecting, business development and negotiation. Persuasive writing, strong verbal communication and the ability to interact at the executive level are other key qualifications. 


About the Author

Tami Glasco is a business instructor at Virginia College in Florence, S.C. She has also served as a senior manager at a major employment website and the director of development/marketing for a local nonprofit organization. Glasco holds an M.B.A. in e-commerce, as well as a B.S. in marketing.

Entry Level Medical Assistants

The healthcare industry offers a wide variety of entry level positions.  According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare job growth from now through 2020 will surpass all other industries. With a 31% projected rate of change in employment compared to a 14% change for all other industries, medical assistant training may provide a path for entry level applicants into the healthcare industry. 

Medical Assistant Role 

Medical assistants perform clinical and administrative duties under the direction of a physician. Clinical duties may include taking vital signs and medical histories, preparing patients for examination, drawing blood, and administering medications as directed by physician.

Administrative duties may include billing, scheduling appointments, and maintaining medical records. Medical assistants work in the offices of physicians and other health practitioners. Depending on the specialty and the size of the office, duties may vary.  

Training and Qualifications

Training focuses on vital sign and examination room procedures in addition to administrative duties.  The BLS says that most states don’t have special educational requirements and many assistants learn on the job. Career colleges and technical schools offer two-year associate degree programs as well as certificate programs for those interested in formal education. 

Candidates should look for program accredited by Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Courses include: human anatomy, medical terminology, laboratory techniques and clinical and diagnostic procedures among others.

The American Association of Medical Assistants functions as the certifying body for the profession. The organization’s mission is to provide medical assistants with education, certification and credentialing support.  


At the time of publication, the median salary for medical assistants is $28,860 per year. Salary will vary with location and duties. Assistants who hold the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification earn more on average than those without certification. A 2011 AAMA salary survey breaks down wage information of CMA certified and non-certified assistants by geographic region, practice specialty and work setting. Entry level employees average more earnings in emergency or hospital outpatient than hospitals.  Similarly, those who work in medical or surgical practices earn more than those in primary care offices.


Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical Assistants Job Outlook
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Standard Occupational Code – Medical Assistants
American Association of Medical Assistants: Find an Accredited Program
American Association of Medical Assistants: 2011 Medical Assisting Salary Survey
American Association of Medical Assistants: What is a CMA?

About the Author

Tami Glasco is a business instructor at Virginia College in Florence, S.C. She has also served as a senior manager at a major employment website and the director of development/marketing for a local nonprofit organization. Glasco holds an M.B.A. in e-commerce, as well as a B.S. in marketing.