How To Hire A Customer Success Manager (Written By A CSM)

Article by

Roi Kiouri

Head of Success & Support @ Perceptual Robotics

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March 20, 2023

First-time hiring managers: you're officially in the driver's seat. Congratulations! (And also, welcome to hell.)

Now that you've got some experience, it's time to take on one of the most important tasks: hiring. As a first-timer, you've probably noticed that there isn't much information out there about how to do it right—and this is why so many people make mistakes when recruiting new hires.

In this article, we'll walk through every step of the hiring process:

  • what makes for an effective customer success job description
  • how to research candidates properly so you can find someone who fits both your position requirements and company culture
  • how to source candidates effectively via social media networks like LinkedIn
  • how best to screen candidates using online assessments as well as live interviews with scenarios designed specifically around the customer success position
  • how to then best evaluate them accordingly
  • …and finally, hire them successfully into their new role within your business

1. Nailing the job description

Before you can begin to think about how to fill the position, you need to know the job description.

The first thing you need to establish is how your CSM’s day-to-day will look like and derive key tasks and responsibilities from it. This will look different from one company to another so I suggest you do not blindly copy-paste generic descriptions/templates you’ll find online, like the ones I’m going to list below for reference.

You should write your own bullet points that will apply to the specific skillset and responsibilities you have in mind so you can attract the right resumes.

Another thing to keep in mind towards attracting the right resumes is including compensation information -- if not an exact amount for the position, a range is a must. Especially if your target candidates are GenZers. According to a recent Adobe survey, about 85% of recent graduates are less likely to consider a job if the pay range isn't disclosed.

Here’s an example:

What will you be doing on a day-to-day basis?

  • Put our users first, always. Learn about them, listen to them, get to know them, think for them so that we can build an onboarding experience tailored to them.
  • Work closely with the Product Team to create a smooth and delightful digital/human onboarding experience for our users.
  • Conduct introductory training sessions for new customers (either on 1-on-1 basis or in groups) to get them started on the right foot.
  • Collaborate with other Customer Success teammates to expand and improve our training materials, so that customers can rely on self-service support.
  • Assist the team in answering front-line support questions from our users.
  • Challenge assumptions, and make the best use of the time and the opportunity we have by ensuring we are trying to answer the right questions, rather than solutioning.
  • Be proactive and pragmatic about how we get stuff done. We'll expect you to take the lead in resolving problems, gathering opinions, making decisions, and making sure we move at pace.

Essentials we can't do without

Then, it’s essential to list the particular skills required to do the job such as software knowledge, languages, experience level in years and other soft skills.

For example, essential requirements might include:

  • 1-3 years experience in Customer Success at a B2B SaaS company
  • Experience with Gainsight or a similar customer success platform
  • Previous relationship-building experience with VPs and C-level executives
  • Basic familiarity with CRMs like HubSpot & Salesforce

Keep in mind that the job description is the first opportunity you get to set the correct expectations with potential candidates.

A nice touch would be to include a section where you list all the things they’ll enjoy if they are a good fit and the not-so-enjoyable ones if they’re not the right fit. It may look like this:

You'll probably enjoy this role if...

  • You want to work with purpose - we build tools to impact {insert_vision}, and hopefully, contribute to making the world better for our customers.
  • You are a people person - you care about how people feel, and the experiences they have, and you want to play in part in making that the best it can possibly be.
  • You love a good process and you don't stop till you get it right.
  • You love a challenge, something to sink your teeth into.
  • You have a lot of energy bandwidth (emotionally, physically, intellectually) to give and want to go all-in into an adventure to leave a legacy!

You probably won't enjoy this role if...

  • You are looking for a no-pressure, low-accountability environment.
  • You are looking for a more transactional relationship with your work environment ("I come to work, do my job, get paid, and go home").
  • You prefer a minimal amount of socializing at work.
  • There's nothing wrong with any of these mindsets and behaviors, they're just not those on which our company is based on - that's why we think this probably won't be a workplace that matches the type of environment you are looking for. And if there's one thing we believe deeply above all else, it's that everyone deserves to find a place that's perfect for them!

Here’s what you should know about us

Last but not least, it’s important to offer some key information on the company’s culture and how you approach your vision. I personally believe this is more important than the actual details of the responsibilities. You can train people in tools and processes but it’s not easy (if not impossible) to align mentalities with your own.

2. Sourcing candidates

When it comes to finding candidates, there are a number of ways to go about it. Here's a quick rundown of some common sourcing methods:

  • Your network. The best way to find great people is through your own contacts and friends; they may know someone who would be perfect for the role.
  • CS communities online. You can find these on Linkedin and Slack most of the time. They are a wonderful way to not only network yourself but also hunt for exceptional talent. I highly suggest joining the Customer Success Collective & CS in focus groups where thousands of CS professionals connect, share knowledge and find their next career step in dedicated channels.
  • Linkedin. Posting the job opening on professional social media like Linkedin will help you attract talent easier. Serious professionals make sure to set up notifications for job openings in their line of work and also have updated their profile to “open to work” so you can contact them via the “Talent solutions” feature.
  • Job boards/job sites like Monster, Indeed and Glassdoor can help you find qualified candidates in a hurry if you're looking for specific skills or experience levels (and sometimes even salaries).
  • Referrals are always one of the most effective ways of recruiting new employees because they tend not only to have good credentials but also come from people whom you trust implicitly. Offering a referral bonus is also a good way to motivate your employees to be actively on the lookout for new talent - win-win!

3. Research your candidates

Now that you've set your sights on a potential customer success manager, it's time to do some research.

Your first step is to look at their resume and LinkedIn profile. You should be able to get an idea of what they've done in their career by reading these--and if there are any gaps or inconsistencies between the two, that could be cause for concern. If there are no red flags (or if they're just too small), move on!

Your next step is to search online for info about the candidate: social media accounts like Twitter and Instagram; articles written by them; websites they've built; etcetera ad infinitum until your eyes bleed from scrolling through so many tabs in Chrome browser windows open simultaneously across all available screens in front of get where I'm going with this?

4. Screen for skills and personality traits

Skills and personality traits are the two most important factors in hiring. You can't hire someone who doesn't have the skills, and you can't train someone to have the right personality traits. If a candidate doesn't possess both, they aren't going to be successful in your organization. The two core traits to look out for in any candidate are:

  • Strong communication skills: The CS team is responsible for communicating with customers, so you want someone who can write clearly and concisely. They should also have excellent listening skills so they can understand what's being said by their customers.
  • Customer-focused mindset: CS managers need to be empathetic toward the needs of the people they serve (i.e., your customers). If a customer has an issue, it's important that your CS rep respond quickly and resolve it in a way that makes sense for both parties involved--not just from a technical standpoint but also from an emotional one as well!

To ensure you find the right person for the job, it's important to use techniques that allow you to confirm if someone has the right skills and experience to do the job well. While there are no set rules on how to screen candidates, here are some techniques that can help you sort out which candidates fit the role:

Use an online skills test. There are plenty of tools available that can help you assess your candidates' technical knowledge. For example, Toggl Hire is a tool that provides skill-based screening templates per role and team setup (remote, scaling startups etc.)

Another one is TestGorilla -- an online platform that allows you to create test questions for any skill or competency you want to measure against.

You can also use Google Forms to create self-assessment tests for your candidates.

Arrange a brief screening call. Ask them about their previous roles. Candidates should have worked in customer success before so ask them about their previous achievements and responsibilities in this area of work. If they haven't worked in this field, ask them why they'd like to work in customer success now. What makes them suitable? What relevant experience do they have?

5. Prepare an interview scenario

If there's anything I've learned from doing hundreds of interviews over my career, it's this: The more prepared you are for every scenario that could arise during an interview process--and every type of interviewer who might sit across from you--the better off your team will be when making its final decision.

So, how do you prepare? The first step is knowing what questions will be asked and having a game plan for each one. This may sound like a lot of work, but it's actually quite simple:

14 customer success manager interview question examples

I always like to start the interview process with some ice-breakers. The way I achieve that is by presenting myself first in a light and friendly tone. I might mention how hectic this period is or a funny incident that happened. This, I’ve realized, helps candidates relax a bit and set aside their anxiety to be “perfect” - I aim for human.

Here are some sample intro questions to ask candidates:

  • What would you like me to know about you?
  • How would your boss and co-workers describe you?
  • What's your favorite part of your current/previous job?

You should also be prepared to ask questions related to the role itself, such as:

  • How would you define customer success?
  • Can you share an example of how you've personally impacted a key KPI? e.g. churn, NRR
  • Can you remember a time when you received excellent customer service? Describe the interaction and what you felt made the difference.
  • Describe a time when you went above and beyond for a customer. What happened and how you handled it?
  • Describe an interaction with a dissatisfied customer and how you turned their experience into a positive one.

Finally, it’s good to get a sense of their general goals and aspirations:

  • What are your long-term career goals in customer success?
  • What are your expectations from the company?
  • What would the ideal working environment for you to thrive in look like?
  • What inspires and motivates you to give your best self?
  • Outside of work, how do you define success for yourself?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment?

Then, you should allow the candidate to ask you questions as well. Remember, this is a two-way process; just like you’re trying to determine whether they’re a good fit, they should be in the position to do the same thing. I actually consider them not having questions for me something of a red flag; it either means they don’t care or they didn’t come prepared for the interview.

6. Assign a practical task

I usually follow up the first interview with a task that the candidate can complete at home -- the candidates who pass this stage will then move forward to a group interview with me and another member of the CS team.

When you ask candidates to solve a problem, they should be able to explain their solution. They should also be able to tell you how they arrived at their conclusion and why it's the right one. The task aims to test their perception and professional approach to problem-solving.

Look for these things instead of the “correct answers” when reviewing the answers.

Sample assignment for Customer Success Manager role


This is an assignment for our Customer Success Manager candidates. Our main goal is to understand the candidate’s level of expertise and way of thinking.

By that, we mean that we’d like to understand your knowledge of customer success concepts and test your ability to adapt your strategy and approach to different customer needs and scenarios. We’re looking for presentation and communication skills, product understanding, and thoughtfulness in execution.

We believe that it should take you approximately 2-3 hours. In case you have any questions or comments, feel free to send an email to {insert_email}.


1. What do you think are the key factors to developing long-term customer relationships?

2. What are the top three ways a Customer Success Manager can minimise churn? Please explain your choices.

3. Which KPIs do you consider more indicative of the performance evaluation of a Customer Success team. Why did you choose those ones?

4. Let’s assume that you traced an unresolved support ticket raised a month ago by one of your accounts. Please describe the actions you would take.

5. COMPANYNAME offers a variety of tools for our customers to sell and promote their products. If Black Friday & Cyber Monday were approaching, can you please compose an email, to proactively suggest marketing ideas/actions for your lower-performing customers.

6. Can you please tell us which questions you would ask a new customer during your first onboarding call to better understand their activities, needs, level of technical skills, and growth potential?

7. In your opinion which Customer Success KPIs are more indicative of an upsell opportunity and why?

8. How do you handle a situation where you can’t meet a customer’s expectations, i.e a feature request which is not yet on our product roadmap?

7. Team interview

The next step of the hiring process for those candidates who pass the assignment should be a team interview with you and another member of the CS team. I like to share a list of questions with my colleague which we’ll take turns asking during the interview.

This is important, not only because it will give you the chance to evaluate the candidates through another person’s perspective but also because it’s important for the candidate to be introduced to another potential teammate. It will give them a better understanding of the team’s culture and the personalities they’ll hopefully be around with ⅓ of their day.

8. Check for culture fit

The most important thing to understand is that it's not just about how well a candidate fits in with your team and organization. They also need to be able to fit into the company culture.

The best way to determine if someone is truly a cultural fit is by having them interact with your team members, as well as observing their behavior during the interview process (e.g., asking questions about company values). You should also ask about past experiences working with different types of people and teams:

  • Do they have any examples where they've had conflicts?
  • How did those conflicts get resolved?
  • What did they learn from this experience? And so on...

It's important not only for you but also for potential hires themselves because there are many things that could go wrong when hiring someone who doesn't fit into your company culture--and these issues can impact both sides negatively!

9. Evaluation time!

Make sure you have enough time to conduct the interviews and evaluate candidates' performance before making a decision on which candidate(s) you'd like to hire.

To ensure that you're evaluating candidates correctly, it's critical to define what you mean by "skills" and "personality traits." For example: If your job listing says "must be able to work in a different timezone," then make sure that everyone applying knows that they will need this ability before they apply (not after!). This way there won't be any surprises later on when it comes time for training; only qualified applicants will move forward through each stage of the interviewing process until you narrow it down to your final hire(s).

Keep in mind how important these two things are! While other factors may come into play during interviews - such as references from past employers/colleagues - nothing else matters nearly as much as whether or not someone possesses certain skillset(s) relevant parts needed to meet expectations set forth by contract agreement(s) signed upon hiring date(s).

The following methods can help you evaluate whether a candidate possesses the personality traits needed for the job.

  • Observe the candidate's body language during the interview. Is he or she engaged? Does he or she make eye contact and smile? Does he or she seem nervous? Does he or she appear comfortable? The way someone carries himself or herself can reveal a lot about their personality.
  • Ask open-ended questions that require some thought to answer, such as "Tell me about a time when…" or "Describe your ideal work environment." This will help you get an idea of what motivates and inspires the candidate — which is critical if they're going to be successful in your company culture.
  • Asking situational questions can also reveal plenty about someone's personality traits; however, make sure they're relevant to the position at hand. You don't want them answering questions like "What would you do if you were stuck on an island?" when they're applying for an office manager position!

Final thoughts

Hiring is hard. So, what can you do to get ready for that first hire? Take a deep breath and relax! You're not alone. There are thousands of first-time managers out there, just like you. And remember: hiring is a process that takes time. You don't have to hit the ground running with your very first hire--just make sure that when it comes time to bring someone on board (or if it already has), you know what questions to ask so that they can be successful in their new role at your company!

You're looking for someone who will be able to do the job, but also fit in with the culture of your company. It's a long process that involves many steps and team members from across departments.

The most important thing you can do as a hiring manager? Know what you need from a candidate before starting the process (and make sure everyone else knows it too).

Once you know what kind of person will be successful in this role, it becomes easier to identify them when they apply and evaluate candidates according to those criteria rather than just their skillset alone--which may not be enough in itself!

Made your hire? Time to read: how to onboard a new CSM 🙂