How to Find the Right CSR Employee

Does it seem harder than ever to find new employees for your graphics business? Do you feel that there are no experienced candidates any more? Well, you are feeling the effects of a different type of labor shortage. Despite the news about the high unemployment rate, it is tough to find candidates with the skills you want. It is likely to get even worse as the economy slowly improves.

The fact is that the educational system has not kept pace with the demand for specific skills in our industry. In addition, because of the continued closures of businesses in our industry, it no longer has the image of a positive career choice for the better candidates. The remaining companies are now competing for a smaller and smaller group of specifically talented people. In order to have continued business success in the coming years, you will need to change your thoughts about finding the “right” person.

Here are a couple suggestions to help you with your dilemma.


Hire Attitude, Train Aptitude

Recognize that certain positions, such as CSR, translate across a lot of different businesses. Take a look at your job description for your CSR position and really examine which requirements are specifically print driven and which are dependent on other skills and talents such as strong interpersonal relationships and detail orientation. Then accept that the interpersonal behaviors are more essential to job success and that the print driven requirements are trainable. It is also key to understand that behaviors are inherent—they are not trainable.

Decide clearly what kind of CSR you want. The most frustrating thing for me is to hear an owner berate the CSR because they are not acting like an outside salesperson. They deal well with customers, but do not go out to get more business. As I have worked with the personality profile and the experience of dealing with our clients, I have identified that there are different CSR personalities, and they react to customers differently, but none of the predominant CSR personalities are suitable for outside sales.

Make sure that your job posting emphasizes the behavioral characteristics that you need in the CSR and that the printing experience is listed as a plus, rather than required. Set your goals to find the right person rather than the specific skill. When you look at resumes, look at a progression in experience that represents an inherent customer service attitude.


Testing Makes a Difference

For years I have been preaching about the need to test candidates to see if they have the inherent aptitude and attitude. Yet many owners and managers continue to wing it. You need the Wonderlic test to see if they are smart enough and the personality profile to see if they have the behavioral characteristics that are needed to fit the job. The CSR job is very demanding. You need a bright person who can handle the job well and learn everything that is needed to be successful. Plan for a lengthy training period and don’t expect them to learn it by osmosis.

Design a training program that is progressive and builds on their basic personality and attitude. Expect to work hard to train them to have the level of printing knowledge that you want. Be realistic in the timeline you set up. Reaching the optimum level of knowledge and responsibility that the position requires could take as long as two years.

Remember that hiring is a two-way street. While you are looking for the best possible candidate, the applicants are looking for the best possible company. Determine if you are considered an “employer of choice”. People will have many choices for employment and they will only want to work at the best places. If you don’t offer what employees are looking for, you reduce your chances of winning this difficult new war for talent.

Don’t act out of your desperation. Find the right person, not just a warm body. Be thorough in your prescreening and your interviews. Do reference and background checking. Involve other members of your team in the interview process.

Bottom line is that you need to change your recruiting approach. Recruit every day. Don’t wait until there is an urgent need. Re-examine all of your positions and make sure you have the right person in each function. With the increasing technology and competition, it is critical to have only the best employees. It is also the time to work even harder to retain those employees who do meet your standards and provide the competitive advantage your business needs. Remember that other owners are also looking to improve their situations. You don’t want to lose your good people to your competitor.


Debra Thompson is president of TG & Associates, specializing in Human Resources for the Graphics Industries. She can be reached at 877-842-7762 or Learn more at