Nail your customer support interview (1)

Nailing your customer support interview at Intercom

Main illustration: Jovaney Hollingsworth

Preparing to interview for a new job is challenging. It takes time, energy, and foresight to anticipate what you might be asked. And if you’re like me, you’re probably left wondering afterwards if you said the right things or shared the right examples. 

When we’re looking for our next incredible support teammate, we want to set up every candidate to give the best interview they can. Intercom’s company mission is to “make internet business personal” and we aim to bring the same personal touch to our interviewing process. We’re not interested in catching you out or putting you on the spot – we’re excited to have a conversation with you.

“Sharing our process and letting you know what we’re looking for means we’re likely to meet stronger applicants”

Sharing our process and letting you know what we’re looking for means we’re likely to meet stronger applicants – but it also saves you time and gives you an opportunity to show us that you’re invested and willing to put in the necessary work. In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know to feel comfortable and prepared when interviewing for our Customer Support team. 

The Customer Support interview process

Whether you’re applying for a Customer Support Specialist role, or a Customer Support Engineer role, the process is very similar. Our Support Engineers partner with our customers to tackle the challenging technical issues they face in innovative ways. Our Support Specialists are responsible for onboarding, educating, and supporting our customers on a global level. Both are integral to what we do here at Intercom.

Here, we’ve outlined the support interview process for both, from start to finish. This flow may vary slightly from time to time, but it gives a great indication of our general format. We hope it helps you to feel confident and prepared.

1. The application and phone screen

Once you’ve submitted your application for one of our open support positions, our recruiters will be in touch. If your background looks like a good fit, we’ll schedule a brief phone conversation. At this stage, we’re mostly interested in getting to know you better. Why are you excited for the role, and why Intercom? What sort of background do you have in the customer support space? What are your hobbies and interests?

Although it may sound a little clichéd, the best approach at this stage is to be yourself! This is your chance to highlight your excitement and interest in the role. If you’re successful here, you’ll receive a take-home test to complete within 24 hours.

2. The take-home test

The take-home test will vary slightly depending on the role you’re applying for. But for both positions, we’re looking to learn more about your communication style and technical skills. We mainly support our customers via our Messenger, so it’s important to have strong grammar and spelling, and to express your writing style through your answers. Read, re-read, and re-re-read your assessment before sending it back. 

For Support Specialists, we’ll ask a few questions to gauge:

  • Your communication style and how you craft messages to customers.
  • Your level of technical skills and how comfortable you are working with software.

For Support Engineers, the questions will explore:

  • Your coding experience.
  • Your ability to communicate with customers at a technical level.
  • Your ability to fix broken code.
  • Your experience working with customers in a front-line support capacity.

3. The manager phone screen

If you’re successful at this stage, your recruiter will schedule a 30-minute call for the hiring manager to chat with you some more. The manager phone screen will dive deeper into your customer support experience and technical skillset. 

At this point, we’re mainly looking to get to know you better. This is your chance to show the hiring manager why you’re excited about working in customer support and how your experience will bring value to the team.

4. The virtual onsite 

The final stage of the process is the virtual onsite interview. Before the pandemic, we offered the virtual onsite option to candidates who were planning to relocate if successful. Once we started working remotely, we rolled out our virtual onsite to everyone. We’re hoping to get back to in-person interviews soon, but virtual will remain an option for candidates.

This is likely to be a two to three hour commitment. You’ll have 30-minute conversations with different interviewers, covering a range of topics. These include:

  • Your experience working with teams and sharing or receiving feedback.
  • Your customer focus and how you prioritize your day-to-day work.
  • How you take ownership over your work.
  • Your past achievements and future ambitions.

What we value in our Customer Support teammates

On the Customer Support team, we aim to support growth with personal experiences. Our team values guide the work we do to support this mission, so it makes sense to look for them during candidate interviews. Here are our seven values:

Be an owner

We feel a sense of responsibility for our actions, results, and the team as a whole. We’re always looking for ways to improve our resources and workflows. In practice, this might look like staying engaged with a challenging customer conversation, choosing the right course of action for that customer over an easier one. 

Connect personally with empathy

We treat each person uniquely and with care, and we always assume best intent. This value shines through in our tone, conversational style, and honest interactions with customers.

Thrive under pressure 

We remain composed, collected, and creative under pressure. Our team takes a calm, solutions-focused approach when interacting with frustrated customers, and we never let a busy inbox affect the quality of our work. 

Give feedback fearlessly

We know how impactful caring, honest feedback can be, so we don’t hold back when we have some to share. In practice, this means delivering feedback in a clear way, while recognizing there may be more to a situation than we realize. 

Focus on fundamentals 

We believe in building from a solid foundation, so we focus on mastering the basics in everything we learn. We leverage these skills in problem solving, prioritization, personal connection, and communication. That means spending time exploring and learning about our product, and consistently striving to hit KPIs.

Be resourceful 

We try to creatively find solutions rather than identifying roadblocks and giving up. We constantly push ourselves to improve our expertise and skills, but it’s important to know when it might be a better customer experience to seek help from a more experienced teammate.

Practice patience 

This means being patient with customers, teammates, and ourselves. We admit when we make mistakes and try to learn from them. We empathize when customers become frustrated, and try to reach the best resolution no matter how long it takes. 

How to make a great impression 

Part of preparing for an interview involves planning how you’ll communicate your experience, skills, and interest in the role in the most effective way possible. Here are four tips that will help set you up for a strong onsite interview.

Practice your storytelling 

It’s impossible to know what questions we’ll ask, so don’t spend time trying to memorize answers. Instead, think about four to five stories from previous roles that demonstrate a range of your skills, and tie back to the general themes we’ll discuss.

For instance, we might ask you about strategies for talking to a non-technical customer about something inherently technical. If you’ve tried to memorize an answer here, you’ll probably be racking your brain to come up with a few points, and chances are they won’t be entirely relevant to the question. But, if you’ve already thought of a story about a customer you worked with previously, sharing that example with us will illustrate how you manage a scenario like this in practice. It helps to bring your experience to life. 

Use STAR

Think about how you structure your stories and points in your interview. STAR stands for “Situation, Task, Action, Result.” Sometimes, candidates start talking, and along the way the main message of their story gets lost. STAR allows you to organize your stories in a way that’s easier to follow.

“Without a framework, you could start and end your story anywhere”

For example, we might ask you about how you deal with difficult customer interactions. Without a framework, you could start and end your story anywhere. It might be difficult to follow and leave your interviewers without important context.

But using STAR, your answer might look a little more like this:

  • Situation: Introduce the scenario. What was the customer’s issue?
  • Task: What was the problem that needed to be solved at that moment?
  • Action: What did you do to help facilitate a resolution to their problem?
  • Result: What was the outcome and what did you learn from it?

Ask questions at the end

This is one of the easiest things you can do to prepare. One of the biggest letdowns in any interview is to reach the end of the conversation and not get any questions from the candidate. We’ll always leave 5–10 minutes at the end of every interview for you to ask us anything that you’d like. This is another opportunity to show that you’re committed and engaged. 

Ahead of the interview, take some time to plan questions for each person you’re meeting with. Typically you’ll speak with up to four people, and so you should aim to have a few questions for each interviewer by time you get to this stage of the process. Take a look at your interviewer’s LinkedIn profiles to get a sense of their area of expertise, and think about the topics each one will be covering when deciding your questions.

[For Support Engineers] Install Intercom and practice with our API

If you’re interviewing for a Support Engineering role, there will be a longer-form written technical assessment as part of the virtual onsite. Here are some things you can do to prepare:

  • Try installing the Intercom messenger on a website or web app that you’ve built. You can follow the directions here to install Intercom for logged-out visitors, and here for logged-in users.
  • Take a look at Intercom’s API documentation to get a sense for what endpoints are available, and how to make basic calls to them (like GET and POST). We would recommend using something like Postman for this, but there are many ways you can interact with Intercom’s API.

Note that you can create a new workspace in Intercom with a 14-day free trial. Feel free to cancel your subscription before the trial is up – and if you forget, we’ll gladly refund you!

Apply to join Intercom’s Customer Support team!

We know that interviewing can be an intimidating and sometimes scary process. No matter the outcome, we want you to succeed and have a great experience. 

We hope you’ll apply to join the team – we’re hiring in Chicago right now!

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