Today’s mobile workforce looks nothing like it did a decade ago. Legacy field service workers are cycling out — with as many as two million technical jobs expected to go unfilled by 2025 because of the skill gap — and a new generation of digital natives are cycling in.
With that comes a new hiring rule book. Today’s candidates may not have the exact product- or industry-related experience that were once top hiring criteria, but those are only a piece of the puzzle. Hiring managers must now consider transferable skills, emotional intelligence, and an ability to adapt to different situations, especially when 89% of service leaders say the experience a mobile worker provides is a direct reflection of their brand.
If you’re struggling to find the best candidates for your mobile workforce, here are three areas to focus on during the interview.
1. Look for transferable skills
Once upon a time field service workers had to demonstrate competency in the core technical requirements of the job. That worked well to get experienced candidates, but it left out those who were trainable and may have excelled in personal service. Today’s candidates may not have the decades-long industry experience, but their training, education, certifications, and past roles can signal transferable skills and key analytical and problem-solving abilities.
Consider these questions:
Give me an example of a challenging problem you faced and how you resolved it?
Independent problem-solving is crucial in field service. This is their chance to give you examples of times they rose to the occasion.
Tell me about your work experience or training
Their response is a two-for-one because you can ask them to tell you about recent work experience or their relevant education/training while taking note of how they communicate, which we will cover in the next section.
What are your goals?
How do you plan to achieve them? This speaks to the candidate’s curiosity and willingness to learn while letting you in on future training plans.
2. Get to know their communication style
In the past, soft skills were second to technical proficiency, but customer experience now has equal weight to first visit resolution. Communication skills are vital in a field service worker’s role. When they’re face-to-face with customers, they need to feel like allies — especially in situations when customer frustration peaks.
Does your candidate speak your customer’s language? Seek candidates who use positive language and demonstrate empathy. Take note of any complaints or negative observations during the interview. The manner in which they answer your questions will hint at how they will communicate with customers.
Here are prompts that will reveal their communication style:
Tell me about a time something went wrong on the job
Observe how the candidate frames the event in their response. Their answer can speak to their adaptability and how empathetic they are.
Translate a complex matter for anyone to understand
If the candidate can do this successfully, they can likely break down the issues they’ll encounter in the field so that customers understand what’s going on.
Listening skills are the other side of the communication coin. Field service workers can’t afford to miss information from customers. To get a sense of their listening skills, be on the lookout if they repeat themselves or seem forgetful. A positive sign is if they relate back information you give them to show they are paying attention.
3. Gauge how adaptive and flexible candidates can be
Mobile workers in the field have to pivot all the time. Equipment can be unpredictable, so when they’re on the job, field service workers must easily adapt to the unexpected and respond appropriately. When inevitable scheduling changes happen in their day, field service workers need to get up to speed on the customer quickly and adapt to the new job at hand.
This can be one of the hardest things to gauge during the interview process, but scenario-based questions that require candidates to think on their feet will uncover how adaptive they can be. Consider these questions:
How would you respond to customers who are disgruntled or rude to you during a visit because you don’t have the parts on hand to finish the job?
A situation like this is high pressure and can happen at any point. Customers look to field service workers to explain what’s going on. The details in the candidate’s response will uncover how they figure out a problem while still being empathetic to the customer.
You discovered something that needs to be fixed but you’ve never performed the task before. How would you resolve the case?
Here, you’ll get to understand their ability to ask for help. Would they call the dispatcher for instructions, look through a knowledge base for a video, or attempt to solve on their own without the right resources (which could lead to further problems with the asset)?
Is your current candidate pool the right fit for your mobile workforce? If you’re still prioritizing technical proficiency, it’s time to rethink your hiring process and ask questions that reveal capable, talented field service workers. Then, find out how to take customer experience to the next level.