Leadership & Productivity

Getting fast recruitment right when staff are the face of a brand

6 min read

24 July 2017

Former special projects journalist

Online customer engagement company Chat Shop prides itself on the quality of the real-time customer service it provides – but has found fast recruitment a challenge. Here’s how the problem was solved.

The Chat Shop is a business specialising in live chat – the brand provides real-time chat boxes on websites to improve customer service and help generate sales.

Born back in 2012 when one of the founders saw how effective live chat tools were for creating great customer engagement, it took it looked to change the fact that many companies were not embracing new technology. It launched with a team of two people, and has since grown to 85-strong across the UK and USA.

It’s safe to say this has been a successful scale-up, but one of the biggest challenges faced by the business as it grew was fast recruitment.

Jonny Everett, founder and director, let Real Business know how the company cracked it – and it largely boils down to taking ownership of the recruitment process.

“We’ve found that to get the standard of people desired we have to have full control, so we’ve built an internal four-person recruitment team. They process up to 2,000 applications per week, conduct 200 interviews and we accept just two candidates. This one per cent pass mark is the start of a huge focus on quality, which is why we’re the only business in our space offering a 99 per cent customer satisfaction rating.”

Fast recruitment: The right person for the job

New applicants at the Chat Shop go through a lengthy interview process, including: a base skills check, a live chat interview, knowledge base testing, a second interview, a phone interview, and finally reference checks before an offer is made. Crucially, the business also offers ongoing training and development.

When hiring a new member of the chat team, candidates are expected to speak fluent English, type at over 80 words per minute, have flawless spelling and grammar and possess a flair for engaging text-based conversation.

In addition, the business is looking for people who will be a good cultural fit.

“During the early days, we looked for people who wanted to make a mark, and we still do. There are a lot of talented people out there who either feel undervalued, underutilised or are just sick of corporate bureaucracy. So, we look for those people first, then we build a company with them, not for them,” Everett.

“Startups can be hard to work in as they’re fast, people are busy and the way we do things today may not be the way we do them tomorrow. Having people that thrive in a moving environment, and want to make their mark on how that evolves, is key.”

Fast recruitment requirements

Because the Chat Shop scaled up fairly quickly, it had to take people on board quicker, and this can be risky.
Taking on the wrong person can mean more paperwork and more unnecessary recruitment processes weeks or months down the line, which can be a costly mistake.

To avoid hiring the wrong people, the business tries to plan about three months ahead.

“Fit is so important and finding that person takes time. Red flags for us include negativity – we once had someone come in and sneer at our office, asking if we were redecorating (we weren’t and it’s not bad!) so that was a short interview,” said Everett.

“Other red flags are also people who start with money, rather than ending with it. We need people who want to help us build something long term, so when we see candidates (as we have) calling us before their interview to negotiate salary, that’s an easy no.”

Fast recruitment: Play to your strengths

A lot of growing businesses are worried that the best and brightest will flock to the giant corporates, and to some extent that may be true – but a scale-up has the ability to offer the right person a chance to really take on responsibilities and grow.

“Small businesses can offer fast progression, flat management and a real ability to make a mark on an organisation. It’s much easier for someone to come into a startup and say: “I made that happen,” than it is in a corporate mammoth,” explained Everett.

Take your time, play to your strengths, and remember to assess whether a candidate has the right attitude for a scale-up – it’s not all about grades and experience.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.