Customer Success Manager Interview Questions

Melissa Hatter
Melissa Hatter Member Posts: 1 Navigator
GGR Blogger 2022
edited March 2021 in CS Org Conversations
Hello CS Community,
I lead a CS Team at a growing fintech company. I'm currently working on a restructuring our CSM interviewing process. I would love to hear your most effective interview questions.  Thanks!


  • Jacob Clarke
    Jacob Clarke Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    edited March 2021
    Hey Melissa, 

    To me the most important traits to look for in a CSM candidate are their ability to prioritize workload, manage challenging clients, and their willingness to seek professional development.  Here are a few questions that can help get an idea of where a candidate measures up. 

    1. Send across a scenario for the candidate to review before the interview that involves multiple customers requesting support at the same time. One customer should be a "high risk" customer with a poor health score with a high contract value. A second should be a "low risk" customer with a great health score that is having an issue preventing them from using your software/service entirely, and has a low contract value. A thirds should be a customer with a "medium risk" that has a neutral health score and an average contract value. Ask them how they would prioritize that day. It will give you an idea on how they prioritize their time. 

    2. A common question is always "tell me about a time you dealt with a challenging customer" but to take it a step further you can ask the candidate to tell you about a time where they had to handle a situation where a customers expectations could not be met. This is where you can see if the candidate is going to point fingers at sales/product or if they where creative with problem solving to try and get the customer to a good place but ultimately could not. Never hire a CSM who points fingers. Hire the one who focuses on creating successful outcomes. 

    3. Regardless of the size and scope of your organization you'll always want to get a team around you who wants to continually grow and improve themselves. When people want to improve themselves professionally they also tend to find gaps in your organization and will want play a part in bridging those gaps. Ask about a gap they identified within a previous organization and what they did to improve it. You'll be able to filter out the fluff pretty easily if they don't talk about the details in the process. You can also make it non-work related and ask what they want to learn this year. You will get a lot of really interesting answers that may not be tied to the workplace but it will give you an indication of how committed that person is to actually learning new things. 

    4. A great question that I learned from a colleague recently is to ask "what's an unpopular opinion that you have" in the middle of an interview to try and throw the candidate off. You can see how quickly they can think on their feet to give you an answer that is appropriate. CSM's are asked off the wall questions all the time and you need to know that they can handle this gracefully. This is especially true in Fintech!

    Excited to see what other people ask in interviews.
  • Will Stevenson
    Will Stevenson Member Posts: 16 Thought Leader
    First Anniversary
    edited March 2021

    Hey Melissa, 

    I've found that so much of a CSMs role is self and situational awareness. Not to mention, if someone has no awareness, they are most likely going to be really hard to work with. A series of questions that I always ask is this:

    • If I were to ask your previous manager, what is really great about [interviewee's name], what would they say?
    • Now if I were to ask your previous manager, what is [interviewee's name]'s biggest room for improvement, what would they say?

    Those are pretty typical questions, but the next part is what really shows their level of awareness. 

    • Let's flip it around. What was really great about your previous manager? 
    • What was their biggest room for improvement?
    I look for a solid answer for each. If they say too many positive things about themself and too many negative things about their previous manager, it's a red flag. That said, you might also find out that your interviewee lacks confidence if they can't think of a strength for themself, which could be a really bad thing or just something they need to work on. 

    Also, taking a page out of a former peer's playbook, I love the question: How do you know which fires to let burn and which fires do you put out?

    Hope this helps!
  • Rachel Yockey
    Rachel Yockey Member Posts: 10 Contributor
    First Anniversary
    edited March 2021
    Hi Melissa - 

    Hiring is such a fun challenge!  Our last hiring round we implemented a new first step - candidates had to submit a video in lieu of a screening call.  In their video, which could be no longer than 9 minutes (3 mins/question), we asked them to answer:
    1. What do you love, what do you hate
    2. What do you rock at, what do you suck at
    3. Why do you want to work at [our company]

    This video screening process saved us countless hours of screening applicants, AND the questions helped us weed out some candidates who looked great on paper but would've crashed and burned with us.  For example, one said she struggles with constructive feedback and coming up with ideas off the cuff.  She would've totally flopped with us, because our CS team also covers support, so overcoming user adoption objections and finding ideas on the spot is critical.

    Now, for actual interview questions, these have been helpful for us:
    • What is your favorite app? Pretend I've never heard of it and explain it to me. --> I want to hear if someone can take it back to the basics and thoroughly answer my question (my CS team also trains, so breaking down the basics is important to us.)
    • You have a day packed with pre-planned Onboarding meetings. How will you handle an escalation from your key client? --> Can they prioritize and lean on their team when they need to.
    • (My favorite) If you get off call with a user who just doesn't get it (technology, our app, etc.), and they really don't want to turn to your teammate and say what?  --> I'm looking for them to be real on this, to show a bit of emotion and their ability to then push through and be strategic.  I want them to hear that they turn to their teammate, maybe make a *very* light hearted joke, or commiserate, and then pick themself up, and ask for help in finding a solution.
    • If you started your own business tomorrow, what would it be? --> We're very entrepreneurial and in scale up mode, so I want to see if someone is looking for solutions and can be creative, or is already doing so in their personal life.
    • What are your biggest pet peeves? --> This one has helped us identify emotional intelligence if they have a general sense of caring for other people, which is critical in CS.
    • What will you bring to our culture? --> Our team culture is amazing and we won't sacrifice it...knowing how someone identifies their role on a team is important to us.
    Hope those are helpful!
  • Brian Study
    Brian Study Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited April 2021

    We send candidates a case study and ask them to prepare a 15 minute presentation and be prepared for 15 minutes of question and answer.  The case requires the candidate to perform data analysis and make a recommendation, both very relevant skills for our CSMs.  The case doesn't necessarily have anything to do with our business, and we try not to make it too high pressure.  For example, for one we've used recently, we point the candidate to a publically available data set on crime in Chicago and ask the candidate to analyze it and make a recommendation to a friend on whether they should more here or not. 

    This exercise tells us a lot: 
    - How do they break down a problem?
    - Can they construct an argument using data?
    - Do they have good verbal, presentation and customer-facing skills?
    - How do they perform when a little uncomfortable?  We always ask at least one question that we do not expect them to have prepared for.
    - Do they want the job enough to put in a few hours of preparation for the interview?

    In my 1:1 interviews, I always ask behavioral interviewing questions, e.g. tell me about a difficult customer situation, but the case study tends to be the most insightful part of the interview process.  I recommend it.
  • Erika Villarreal
    Erika Villarreal Member Posts: 41 Expert
    10 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Likes Name Dropper
    edited April 2021
    Hello Melissa!!

    Good morning!! I've put up a list of interview questions I got asked during the time I was looking for a job, some of which are very good questions to ask a CSM to validate their experience. I'm happy to share that document with you! Let me know to which email I can send it over! I've got questions that range for front line CSM and well as leadership type of questions for more executive roles. 

  • Steve Botz
    Steve Botz Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    edited April 2021

    I would love a copy of those questions if you could share! My email is [email protected].
  • Daryl Colborne
    Daryl Colborne Member Posts: 53 Expert
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments Name Dropper
    edited April 2021
    This sounds great. I’d love to see as well! Maybe we should post all these questions in the library so that the masses can also see?
  • Erika Villarreal
    Erika Villarreal Member Posts: 41 Expert
    10 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Likes Name Dropper
    edited April 2021
    Hi @Steve Botz and @Daryl Colborne
    I agree!!

    I have uploaded the CS interview questions file to the Library. It is located in the CS Team Building folder.
    Hope it helps the community! Let me know your thoughts!

  • Amir Solowiejczyk
    Amir Solowiejczyk Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    First Anniversary
    edited April 2021
    This is a great collection of questions. Thank you for sharing @Erika Villarreal

  • Erika Villarreal
    Erika Villarreal Member Posts: 41 Expert
    10 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Likes Name Dropper
    edited April 2021
    Sure thing!!
    I'm glad you found these questions helpful!