Let’s get this straight from the start, I am no expert and I do not have a library of all the best interview questions. However firstly, I do have considerable experience interviewing candidates and building high-performing Customer Success and Account Management teams over the last ten years. Secondly, after being interviewed several times over the last 2 months I am shocked at some of the poorly prepared interviewers there are, and how many poor questions are being used.
Hiring is one of the biggest use of time and money at a company. Finding the right person is big business – aligning to both the skills required to do the job, and a culture-fit to the company. Poor performers in your company and team can be disastrous, and as a leader can suck time and energy not just from you, but also from your wider team. The managing of poor performers can have wide-spanning impact on your team hitting morale hard.
To keep your interview process impactful and streamlined means you only have a short period of time to spend with candidates, so asking the right questions is of paramount importance. This article makes the (fair) assumption you know the profile of your Customer Success Manager and the weighting of relationship management skills, technical skills, industry knowledge, etc. so select questions based on the relevant make-up of your CSM profile.
Below are some of the questions I use, have been used on me or have heard being used by some of my leadership thought-leaders I follow. I have tried to provide some context on why I think these are good questions to ask when interviewing for a Customer Success Manager.
Ownership is a fundamental skill associated with being all profiles or “flavours” of being a CSM, and to ascertain this skill I look to ask:
Tell me a time when you experienced not getting the desired result or response from an internal stakeholder while representing your customer’s best interests. How did you react, how did you respond and what did you do next would all be suitable follow-up questions.
At this stage you are assessing their level of maturity, their professionalism, their resolution solving, negotiation skills and how they own the situation to a suitable conclusion.
Curiosity is a skill I really like seeing in my CSMs, the art of wanting to know more with strong questioning techniques and I would suggest a question to test this would be:
Tell me the last time you really became obsessed by something.
I like to see their intent to learn and how they take responsibility for their own learning. How obsessed did they become? What research did they do? What was the end result of this obsession?
Delivering Value is what defines a Customer Success Manager and anyone that knows or follows me will understand that value must be two things: tangible and acknowledged. So, in this question I am looking explicitly for evidence of that. A couple of questions I like to use are:
Tell me about a time where you had measurable impact on a customer.
Tell me about a fellow Customer Success professional you admire and the reasons behind that.
Both of these questions you are looking to see how they translate activities into value, and why that value is relevant and important.
Customer Success Passion – I have a huge passion for the role, the industry, the community and the value that a good CSM brings to not only their customers but their employer too. I always like to challenge this “passion” for Customer Success by asking a series of questions, including:
What are the current trends in the Customer Success space?
What books, blogs or podcasts do you follow?
At a family party, how do you explain your role when asked what you do?
As I have said before, sometimes when you are hiring for a Customer Success Manager it just comes down to a “gut feel”, but that feel usually comes from a passion for doing the right thing for, and by your customer so the answer to these questions give an overwhelming instance of that passion.
Culture Fit – As I become more specific with where I choose to work I have also become more particular on the culture fit of candidates I choose to hire so questions that ascertain that fit are critical. I like this question that I have picked up from an ex-leader I worked with:
Tell me about the last time you encountered a rule or process at a company you worked at that you thought made no sense. What was that rule or process? What did you do, and what was the result? What did you learn from this?
This question allows you to evaluate many different components; is this a candidate that ignores it or addresses it, how does that candidate address it, what was their thought process, what was the impact and the result. There may not be a right or wrong answer to this, just one that doesn’t align to your company culture.
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters