How to hire (and retain) someone with a service mindset



While many small businesses across Canada are currently struggling to staff up, some of the most hard-hit are those looking to fill client-facing roles. Not only can it be challenging to find qualified candidates, but how can you make sure you find the right people for your unique needs?

Here are five tips from our own experts on finding, keeping and nurturing team members with a service mindset:

1. Prioritize positive qualities and transferable skills over industry experience.

While a demonstrated interest in your industry is obviously a plus, when you’re hiring for a client-facing and service-based role, your best move is to identify candidates whose main passion is connecting with and helping people (both clients and colleagues!). Think of the local barista who knows your usual order by heart or the mechanic who explains your options pressure-free. Individuals who are similarly empathy-driven are the ones who’ll leave the most positive impression on your customers.

Adaptability and curiosity are also excellent qualities upon which to evaluate candidates, given the fact that your clients’ needs have likely changed rapidly and repeatedly (especially over the past couple years!). You and your clients will be in good hands with someone who not only knows how to ask the right questions to get to the root of the problem, but can also think outside the box to solve it.

2. Ask questions that allow a candidate to show their true selves…

Anyone applying for a service role is likely to tell you they’re interested in people… but how do you know if they’re telling the truth? One of the quickest ways is to seek out specific stories and real life examples from your candidates, rather than keeping things theoretical.

So instead of “what’s your biggest weakness?” try “let’s talk about a challenge you faced or a mistake you made and how you dealt with it!” instead. Ask them about something they love doing (even if it’s an off-the-clock hobby) so that you can see how they light up when they talk about it - do they demonstrate passion and energy?

Every question should be thoughtful and intentional, giving that person an opportunity to show their real, authentic self as opposed to just what they think you’re looking to hear.

3. …and keep an eye out for non-verbal clues as well.

Relationship-building and connection with the human being on the other side of the screen (or phone, counter, table, and so on!) is a critical component of any service role. So don’t discount the small talk before the formal interview even begins - is your candidate someone who can jump in with both feet and help all parties feel connected, or do they hold back and make the other person do the heavier lifting?

After all… any future clients of theirs would initially be strangers too.

4. Make sure they understand the “why” of it all.

The best way to help your new team member hit the ground running is to set them up with not only the tools and resources they need to provide good service, but also a clear sense of your organizational DNA. What does it mean to your business specifically to provide “good service”? How can they recover when they inevitably make a mistake, especially as a new employee? Answering these questions for them will help build their confidence.

It’s also key to clarify the importance of the role they’re playing, as well as the value they bring to the team and the success of the business. Drawing a clear connection between their efforts and the resulting impact is critical, especially in early days! Help them understand beyond any doubt exactly why they’re there and getting out of bed to do their job every day.

5. Remember that they’re looking to receive the same energy they’re putting out into the world themselves!

Your client-facing employees are your greatest advantage when it comes to delivering an experience. As a small business owner, you’re not necessarily there 24/7 to oversee every single client interaction… so you need to ensure you’re hiring people you can trust to show empathy and care, and to strengthen those relationships when you’re not around.

But don’t forget - this empathy and care needs to be two-way! Service folks care about people, and need to know that people care about them as well. So it’s important that you invest in them too - that back-and-forth connection is so meaningful to them, and is crucial to keeping their engagement and spirits high.

To learn more about Payworks’ own service commitment and the solutions we’ve developed for Canadian businesses from coast to coast, please visit

Customer service representative working at a cubicle with a headset on.

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Curious what better Canadian workforce management looks like in action (and how much time you could reclaim in your day-to-day)? Book a pressure-free, get-to-know you demo today.