Down with the Keyboarding Skills and Typing Test for Call Center Hiring
Many call center hiring managers still rely on the typing test as a tool during the job candidate evaluation process. They administer a typing speed test or use a candidate keyboard skill test to check for accurate typing. We’ve often wondered why because they provide limited information for skills that are not needed in the modern call center.
Explanations for giving job candidate's typing skills tests that check for speed and accuracy include:
- Front line agents need keyboarding skills and typing tests to measure words per minute (wpm)
- Front line agents need to type information into the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and a typing test measures their ability to input the information with accuracy
- It is simple to administer
- We’ve always used a typing test
Why Simulation is a better Assessment Tool for Call Center Agents than Traditional Typing Tests
Based on our job observations, we’re not in agreement that the typing test assessing words per minute (wpm) represents a realistic representation of the traditional call center agent’s keyboarding activities. For example, most call center agents only type information into a system after the caller verbally provides it to them. But, in a keyboarding skills test, candidates have the ability to look ahead and read the information. Measuring the candidate's job skills based on typing fixed information in front of them is not a good method for determining how well the person can enter accurate and understandable information on the computer while a customer is talking.
In addition, call center agents don’t enter complete paragraphs of information. Usually, the data entry encompasses short sentences, numeric characters, or checking boxes in a system. This means the traditional typing skills test is not assessing the right skills needed for the job.
An article from the Spring 2004 National Journal of Emergency Dispatch by Jim Kuthy provides additional information. According to Kuthy, “The ability to type in a clerical setting is not directly comparable to the alphanumeric, highly verbal setting of the telecommunicator.” He is saying that testing for typing speed and accuracy as a type of pre-employment test does not measure the actual job skills the candidate needs for success.
The reality is that a good frontline agent job candidate needs to be proficient in his or her computer ability which includes keyboarding capabilities. Measuring keyboarding skills is very different than a typing test only measuring words per minute (wpm) or typing speed. In fact, the job requirements of the call center employee today are more complex. The person must be able to talk to the customer, multi-task while problem-solving (i.e. checking multiple systems at the same time) and enter abbreviated information that is still understandable to anyone else reading the customer records.
Accuracy is still important, but it is a different kind of accuracy needed than what is measured with a traditional typing test. Accurate typing in the modern call center or contact center requires knowledge of the system and the best way to capture the customer's or client's message to the organization. It could be a product or service order or complaint, an explanation of special requirements, a problem needing resolution or a simple question.
A candidate keyboard skills assessment is just one element of a job simulation, and it is measuring more than speed and accuracy. The job simulation helps to determine if the candidate is the right person for the position and can handle all the job responsibilities. Hiring managers should consider the use of realistic job simulations to measure a front line agent's computer ability and accuracy inputting information in a setting more realistic to the call center environment.