10 March 2019

Hiring your Customer Success team: 3-step-guide for SaaS companies.

In this article I will explain:

1. What Customer Success is;
2. The skills which are necessary for Customer Success jobs;
3. How to qualitatively screen candidates;
4. How to assess soft skills during an interview.



Customer Success. A few years ago, I honestly had never heard of it. Customer Success (CS) is an exploding functional area which has been very popular for many years already in the States — and now it has come to Europe as well. Some people say CS is a trend in companies. I don’t believe in that statement. I think especially 2018 has shown that CS went from trendy to necessary and a must have in SaaS companies. It’s hot, the demand is getting higher, salaries are raising and you always need it yesterday already instead of today.

So what is the ideal candidate profile when hiring a Customer Success colleague? It’s not just about one field of expertise or only professionals with a university degree. CS is a skill job. And that’s something many recruiters find a bit scary, because how to assess these skills? In this article I will provide you with a 3-step-guide so that you will know what to do when the next Customer Success job appears on your hiring wish list.

Customer Succes: a quick introduction

The name actually already explains it: CS is all about making sure your clients are successful in using your product/service. If you for instance sell a SaaS product to me, it’s your job to take care of my onboarding process, support, product updates, etc. to ensure I get the most out of this product.

How to hire your new Customer Success colleague

So, you’re looking for someone who’s able to explain your product to people and who’s willing to deal with some support tasks. Simple, isn’t it? Well, if that’s what you’re thinking, you won’t find a CS hero — because it’s way harder than you might think. Attracting new clients is a challenge, but retaining them is an even tougher challenge. Hundred happy clients might share one thing or nothing about your company; one unhappy client might even cost you your company’s reputation.

So now that we understand the importance of CS, let’s guide you through a 3-step-guide on how to hire a CS colleague.

Step 1. It’s all about skills.

As mentioned in the intro of this article, CS is a skill job. Education and job experience aren’t that relevant. In contrast to that, the following two aspects are super relevant:

1. Industry/product knowledge. This is something you can learn;
2. Your skill set. This is something you need to have (or at least the basics).

Research has shown that the following skills are necessary for Customer Success roles:

1. Flexibility and agility;
2. Ability to build relationships;
3. Critical thinking;
4. Impulse control (i.e. having patience and work ethics);
5. Planning and task prioritizing ability.

Step 2. Turn your first screening into a smart screening.

Skills are very hard to assess and therefore cause a more intense interview — for both the interviewer and the candidate. To prevent you from spending dozens of hours interviewing a (too) large pool of candidates, it’s very important to make a first filtering. However, you don’t want to wrongly reject a good candidate while doing this. Conclusion: you need to find a way to qualitatively screen and filter your candidate pool.

With the word qualitatively I mean screening on both experience and soft skills. I call this smart screening. To be able to do this, you need to search for technologies that assess candidates on both categories already during the first application.

How we do this at my company Equalture:

Equalture is a pre-hiring matching technology. Our goal is to provide you with an accurate job successfulness prediction — right after a candidate has applied to your job opening. We base this prediction on both historical data (resume information) and predictive data (soft skills and personality). We collect this predictive data through gamification. Our set of neuro-assessment games is able to measure a candidate’s personality traits and soft/cognitive skills. And that’s exactly what you need to turn your screening into a smart screening.

Neuro-assessment game (source: www.equalture.com)

Keen to learn more about how we do this at Equalture? Just contact us to schedule a demo.

So now that you’re able to qualitatively/smartly screen all candidates, it’s time to go the the last step.

Step 3. Assess soft skills during an interview.

In step 2 you’ve already been able to gain the first insights into a candidate’s personality traits and soft skills. These first insights are good enough to create a first filtering between candidates. Step 3 is the step in which you need to improve and deepen these insights. I will therefore shortly explain how to assess soft skills and personality traits during an interview.

The two types of questions

To assess soft skills and personality traits, two types of questions will help you:

1. Behavioural questions. These types of questions focus on a candidate’s past experiences and how they dealt with those experiences (how did you deal with this);

2. Situational questions. These types of questions are hypothetical and therefore focus on potential behaviour (how would you deal with this).

Example questions

Last but not least, I will share a few example questions.

Flexibility and agility

1. Behavioural: Can you give an example of a system/tool you weren’t familiar with and how the process went in getting comfortable with it?

2. Situational: Imagine you lead a Customer Success team of five colleagues. How would you deal with an unexpected leave of a team member?

Ability to build relationships

1. Behavioural: How did the ideal relationship with your previous client look like?

2. Situational: Imagine working in this company and onboarding a new client. How would you ideal relationship with a client look like?

Critical thinking

1. Behavioural: Can you share an experience in which you had to deal with a client problem were your information was incomplete and how you dealt with that?

2. Situational: Based on what you know about this job so far, what areas do you think you need to develop more and how would you do that?

I hope these examples provide you with enough trust and feeling to develop questions yourself for all relevant skills mentioned above. An important final tip: make sure your questions are clear, but not too defined. If you narrow your question too much, you won’t optimally assess candidates (because you might already lead them towards a suitable answer).

So that’s it. I hope this 3-step-guide provides you with enough information to start your hiring adventure for Customer Success. And if you’d like to receive any more information about how Equalture might help you with that, don’t hesitate to contact us — no strings attached.

Cheers, Charlotte