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'How can I ace my call centre interview?'
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February 28, 2008

Do you want to improve your English speaking skills, but don't know how? Or want to join a call centre but have been rejected at the interview stage because of a 'mother tongue influence'? Well, you are not alone. We receive numerous e-mails from readers asking for advice on how to improve these and various other aspects of written and verbal communication.

Here, Nasha Fitter, an expert in vocational and communication skills management for BPO and service-based organisations, addresses some of the queries we recieved.

Improving English language questions:
~ Hi nasha i want to improve my english plz help me give me some tips and plz tell me something about daily routine.

-- Deepesh

Nasha answers: There are two things I would suggest. First, increase your exposure to the English language. Make sure that on a daily basis you are reading newspapers, business magazines or books. Try to take at least an hour per day to read. Reading out loud is very helpful. Additionally, watch English TV shows and movies when you can.

Second, practice writing correctly. In your email to me, you have made various grammar and pronunciation mistakes. Stop being lazy when you write! It is unacceptable to send someone an email where you write "plz" instead of "please". It doesn't take too much longer to write the whole word. If you practice writing correctly every chance you get, you will end up speaking better English as well.

'Working in a BPO' related questions:
~ Hi Nasha, my question is if a person who does not have experience on a call centre is there any chance for employment and what questions she can expect?

-- Anchen

~ Dear Nasha, My name is Adnan, I have completed my graduation in B.COM, I have a certificate of basic information technology, and I have completed one more certification course of Export Import Management. I want to make my career in BPO, will you give me some tips that what could I do to make a successful career in BPO Industries.

-- Adnan Binmahfooz

~ Hi, i am currently  working for teleshopping company as franchisee coordinator in marketing department from last one year & i also have experience of domestic call center of same company. I'm looking to move into bpo industry. Any suggestions for me?

-- Ganesh 

~ I am in telecom industry handling backend operations -- Legal & Non - Legal. If I am going for an interview in a BPO company they will ask what do you know about BPO? and Why are you coming to BPO industry? What is meant by outsourcing? Pls clarify.

-- Palani

Nasha answers: Many of you have asked similar questions about BPOs and call centers. First off, let's define what these places of work actually are.

BPO stands for Business Process Outsourcing. BPO concerns are vendors that do "outsourced" work for foreign companies based in countries like America. For example, if Citibank in America decides that it wants to have people in India do some of their telesales work, that would be considered "outsourcing".

They may choose to give their telesales work to a third party vendor like Wipro [Get Quote] -- who would be considered a BPO. Indian companies can also outsource their work, and we refer to the third party vendors who take on this type of work as "domestic BPO".

Call centers are one type of BPO. They do work that is voice-based. BPO also includes non-voice based services like email customer service and back-end work like data-mining.

If you are interested in working in a voiced-based position in a BPO (examples are customer service and telesales), how you communicate is very important. Focus on improving your grammar, pronunciation, pace and tone.

Extempore rounds in call centers test a few skills. First, they test your ability to speak English on the spot -- make sure when you speak that you are grammatically correct and that your sentences sound professional. 

Second, they test your ability to speak clearly and in a way that makes sense to the listener -- make sure that your thoughts are logical and when you speak you get to the point quickly. Avoid sentences that are long and have unnecessary words. 

And lastly, extempore rounds test your ability to add flavour to what you are saying -- be sure to intonate and emphasise words while you speak.

Next, make sure you have an answer prepared for the question "Why do you want to work in a BPO?" Explain to your interviewer that you want to build a career in a BPO -- emphasise on ambition. 

Last, research the call center you are interviewing with so you can really tell your interviewer why you want to work there.  For example, you could say, "After researching your website, I noticed you have a commercial banking process. I studied Commerce and am very interested in consumer financial markets which is why I want to work for a call center focused in this area."   

Team leader-related questions
~ Hi Nasha, I am a graduate in humanities. I have nearly 4 yrs of experience in BPO industry in Transaction Processing (Non - Voice). In 4 years I have worked in 3 different companies. I am determined to work in BPO industry. But now I feel that I need a growth designation wise. I am looking for a team leader kind of position in a BPO company.

Please advise what should I do ? I have no idea at all.  

-- Priyaranjan

Nasha answers: As a team leader (TL) your command and delivery of the English language needs to be strong. Brush up on your communication skills as they are very important at the TL level. 

In your interview, bring up any managerial and leadership positions you have held. As a TL, you need to be able to motivate your team, deal with interpersonal issues, and ensure that your team is meeting company expectations. During your interview bring up responsibilities you have held that touch upon these topics. 

Pronunciation-related questions
~ This is Ramesh & am working for a technology company. I believe I speak good english, but still I would like to focus on improving pronounciation, accent skills etc.

-- Ramesh

~ Hi, This is kabeer. where ever I go I got rejected by saying that MOTHER TONGUE INFLUENCE but I don't know what bothers them because when I speak, I speak like a normal person who speak English. For me I never find any difference between their voice and my voice. Please help me giving tips to come out this problem as soon as I can.

-- Kabeer.h.m

Nasha answers: Improving pronunciation is difficult, and it can get frustrating when interviewers keep complaining about your "mother tongue influence".

First off, there is nothing wrong with having an accent. What you want to do is just work on softening some harsher sounds so you are more globally understood. I have found that if people aspirate more (allow additional air to come out of your mouth) for the "P, K, T, TH" sounds, and make sure the tongue does not touch the roof of the mouth for the "R" sound -- accents become much more clear.

Also if you aspirate more for these sounds, it becomes difficult to speak fast -- thus your rate of speech simultaneously improves.

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