CSM/AM interviewing practices

Lindsey Kemmerich
Lindsey Kemmerich Member Posts: 7 Seeker
Photogenic First Anniversary
edited August 2023 in CS Conversations
Hi all - 

Looking for advice on interviewing practices to troubleshoot drop-off in performance I'm seeing from candidates between hiring manager conversations and a QBR role-play.

As part of our interview process, candidates go through a Recruiter Screen (30 mins), hiring manager call (1hr), and a role play QBR (1hr) usually preceded by a 30 min "discovery call". 

During the hiring manager call, I spend at least 35 minutes on situational / philosophical questions to get to the core of whether the candidate has solid decision-making logic and understands the core purpose of customer success. Can they explain the how and why behind the outcomes on their resume vs. using buzzwords like "trusted advisor"?

What I'm finding is that candidates will do well on this portion, but when the QBR role play comes around, they fail to engage the "executive audience", lack structure and objectives to their presentation, and give me little confidence that they have the experience or attributes to perform the job well.

We don't have fully built out playbooks nor the capacity to do a ton of enablement, so the expectation is that candidates can drive their accounts forward (worth noting that candidates have ~5 years of experience).

Any suggestions on how to validate the person's experience earlier on in the process? What are some techniques that are difficult to game or overly prep?

P.S. worth noting that the team is called "Account Management" but really is tasked with Customer Success. This is clarified in the job description and throughout the recruitment process so candidates are clear about expectations.

Thanks all!


  • Scott Morgan
    Scott Morgan Member Posts: 24 Thought Leader
    First Anniversary
    edited August 2020
    How clearly are the outcomes of the QBR role play laid out? Your let's talk about "you" section seems clear. People know themselves and can talk about themselves well and they train for this in an interview. It seems the QBR role play is meant to see how they are able to engage the client with some talking points that are related to real QBRs. If you are looking for certain presentation skills, then invite them to present on an engaging topic of their choosing. Then drill down or invite them to include specific skills. Be clear on the ask from the initial data given to the outcomes you want to see.
  • Tiffany Morin
    Tiffany Morin Member Posts: 20 Thought Leader
    edited August 2020
    I completely agree with Scott's point above. Often times when interviewed earlier on in my career, I found it a bit off-putting if I am required to give a demo of a company product or QBR on said company solution. Generally, you don't know enough to really hone in on what the hiring manager is likely looking for. I've found that situational interview-type questions really early on in the interview process helps weed out things like presentation skills earlier on. At my previous company, the product was a very technical enterprise solution. I'd ask situation questions about how they interact with executive stakeholders, how they worked with customer engineering, how they won back an unhealthy client. "Tell me about a time" type-questions seemed to do the trick at uncovering things like presentation skills. 

    As a rule of thumb, I did have a QBR template that my CSMs had to follow and we would do persona-based practice QBRs and Demos regardless of the level of presentation acumen. I am happy to share those templates if needed!
  • Russell Bourne
    Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61 Expert
    GGR Blogger 2023 GGR Blogger 2021 First Anniversary
    edited August 2020
    @Lindsey Kemmerich, I'm going to mostly echo what @Scott Morgan and @Tiffany Morin said but I want to emphasize a couple things.

    1) In the role play QBR, have the candidate present you something they're an expert on.  Remember that in many cases, that's what real QBRs look like: the exec customer audience hasn't been engaged since the last QBR, or are new contacts altogether.  You want to evaluate the candidate's ability to engage on new concepts and then illustrate their value.

    2) As for how the value is defined, you say candidates lack structure and objectives in their presentations.  Do you provide suggestions on these when you give the assignment? 
    • If you don't, watch for the candidates who ask you for them - that's a great sign.
    • If you do, and you're finding candidates usually miss the mark, take a hard look inward and make sure you're communicating well enough.  Are you setting candidates up for success, or are you testing to see if they'll reinvent the wheel?  A step further: which of those ways will they experience from you if they're hired?
    You also mention with the lack of a playbook, you want your candidates (later CSMs) to come with fully-formed collateral from their prior experience.  To me, that's going to lead to a disjointed team; likely not a good experience for you, them, cross-functional teams, or the customers.  It would be a worthy time investment to create standards for success plans and QBR templates.  I highly recommend this article about the team creative process: https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/five-keys-to-a-successful-google-team/  

    Perhaps your interview criteria can look for creativity, teamwork, and diversity rather than a variety of finished products?
  • Lindsey Kemmerich
    Lindsey Kemmerich Member Posts: 7 Seeker
    Photogenic First Anniversary
    edited August 2020
    Thanks all for the suggestions. In hindsight, I see that the tweaks we've made to the test task in the last few months have made it disjointed and ineffective. It lacked a clear storyline/expectations and didn't set candidates up for success.

    I plan to overhaul it to better reflect our business and client engagement strategy since the brief hasn't kept up with that evolution.

    These are some of the improvements I plan to make:
    • more clearly outline the objective of the exercise --> how candidates will be measured
    • specify the intended outcomes of the QBR --> measure their ability to define and present a strategy vs. figuring out what the intended outcome should be
    • ensure the brief provides sufficient context --> level the playing field since nuances about our business and product will be taught
    • make better use of the interview time, shortening the presentation and spending more time debriefing on the candidate's thought process --> allow us to evaluate their decision-making logic and ability to take feedback
      • I test drove this with a candidate last week and found it to be very effective. Bonus is that this is similar to the coaching we do with the team today, so helps both sides envision the future working relationship.
    Looking at it with fresh eyes was a big help. Appreciate the perspectives you shared!