Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Welcome to part 2 of our mini-series on how to prepare for Customer Success interviews!
Part 1 covered the research that goes into prepping; now, I'm going to show you how to start weaving in all of that information into the interview itself.
The main focus: Questions they'll ask YOU. I'll cover the "questions" to expect on a Customer Success job interview, how to create an interview guide and how to prepare for the unexpected.
And before we begin, let me set the stage here. I'm going to be using a role at Slack as my example. Here is what I know so far:
What questions to expect on a customer success interview?
You'll find a list of questions everywhere, so I won't reinvent the wheel. If you're looking for a shortcut, here are five articles to dig into:
30 customer success interview questions you should ask every candidate - Zendesk
Must-Ask Interview Questions for Customer Success Managers - Glassdoor
20 Customer Success Interview Questions to Ask Your Next Candidate - HubSpot
5 'curveball' interview questions for Customer Success Managers - stottandmay.com
11 Customer Success Manager Interview Questions Companies Ask & Why - Custify
My favorite questions aren't really questions, they're actually scenarios. When I first started interviewing people, I learned early on that questions don't always get you the information you need to decide on a candidate. Having a short amount of time to determine if a person has the right amount of experience, mindset, and desire to work with the team/company isn't going to get answered by:
"What's your experience with X" or "Are you a fixed or growth mindset type of person?"
It's all in the scenario type of asks. Similar to strategic questions in Customer Success, scenario asks have a way of digging directly to the point. They sound like this:
"Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a customer."
"Share with me an example of when you had to work really closely with other teams."
"Tell me about a time when a customer churned and why."
"How have you helped your teammates directly in the past."
These questions or asks cannot be answered with a yes or no, and they need concrete examples. Basically, it's hard to wing these with little prep unless you're a genius interviewer.
Creating an interview guide
At this point, you probably have a sea of information floating around. You have your research notes, the questions they'll likely ask, and the job spec at hand. It's time to create an interview guide to bring it all together. This step is crucial.
Open up a Google Doc, Notion page, or whatever you use to write freely and add in a few sections. Your research, the job spec, and the list of possible questions and scenarios–– it's time to start brainstorming.
The research is there to help frame your answers in a way that shows you align with who they are and who they're looking for. I want to dive into the role itself. Here are the responsibilities listed for our role at Slack:
Empathize with every aspect of the customer experience, putting customers' needs first.
Guide and coach customers with a proactive customer success processes.
Travel to meet with customers onsite to discover and understand their needs to help them develop a tailored Slack onboarding process.
Coach customers to be product specialists and train their teams on Slack standard methodologies so they become increasingly self sufficient.
Maintain high levels of customer engagement and satisfaction with a focus on customer loyalty.
Identify common customer challenges to suggest better solutions.
Partner with Slack's Account Executives to help them drive growth.
Partner closely with other cross-functional team members to translate business needs and product requirements into new solutions for customers.
Adapt existing customer onboarding assets and work with product marketing to refine them over time.
Help drive customer references and case studies.
How to answer questions concretely
Each point in the job spec is an opportunity to show that you have the experience necessary for the job. Go through the list and find a time in your career where you've done what they're looking for. For example, if the point is "Identify common customer challenges to suggest better solutions." and you worked in Support, your answer may sound like this:
"At Dunder Mifflin Digital, we had several customer-facing teams. We were all exposed to customer challenges and going about solving them in many different ways. I saw this as an opportunity for all of us to align so I created a resource in which we collected common customer challenges AND solutions. This helped us not only align on our response as a team, but it also allowed us to become more efficient and improved our collaboration with our Product team who was looking to solve challenges for our customers."
With the above answer, I've not only addressed the question, but I also sprinkled in a few things I found throughout my research:
Careers page: "...support one another in the process"
Role responsibility: Empathize with every aspect of the customer experience, putting customers' needs first
All of the research you did will allow you to give a "complete" answer. That's an answer that addresses the question asked, provides relevant concrete examples, and ties in bits and pieces of the research you've done.
Preparing for the unexpected
I've had curveballs thrown at me on interviews, and I'm sure you've had them too. Creating an interview guide will be helpful, but let's be clear here, we're not going to be able to track down every single question that'll come our way.
This step is crucial because it gets you in the mindset of thinking about those past experiences and how it ties directly to the role you're applying to and the company itself. The research you've done is key to answering any question in a way that speaks to the important things to the interviewer and the company.
I'll be the first to admit it... I straight up sucked at interviews. I'd ramble, get nervous and start saying silly things and overall, just got in my head. I started reeling all of those things in by building up my confidence during the research process.
For rambling, I started following "the rule of 3" - something my good friend Alexandra Thebert taught me. It goes, "here's how I would solve that in 3 steps..." Now I'm tied to those three steps, and even if I ramble a little bit, I still come across as organized and concise because of the "rule of 3."
For saying silly things, I started pausing more and realizing that "everything I have to say has value. There's no need to rush." Being okay with silence led me to say the silly things to try to move past the discomfort of silence.
For getting in my head, the research was the #1 contributor of confidence. "Why should I get in my own head if I know as much as there is to know and I have a story to tell that will land me this job?" Yup, I had to change my perspective here 🙃
Keep your interview guide close to you because we're not done just yet! This article is very one-sided –– it's all about the questions they're asking us. In part 3 of this mini-series, we're going to focus on the questions we'll be asking them. Curiosity is a critical skill in Customer Success, and the interview itself is a test of your curiosity skill.