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"We recruit attitude": the selection and shaping of call centre labour

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Abstract

Call centres are growing rapidly and are receiving attention from politicians, policy makers and academics. While most of the latter focus on work relations, notably patterns of control and surveillance, this paper explores the role of recruitment, selection and training in the shaping call centre labour. The paper uses data from a case study of a call centre (Telebank) to argue that the increased significance of social competencies within interactive service work gives these procedures greater salience and that they are used by management to address the indeterminacy of labour, in part, outside the labour process. Primary data from management and customer service representatives is used to examine and contrast their respective perceptions of recruitment, selection and training. The paper shows the contested and contradictory tendencies associated with how a particular company identifies and then uses social competencies. Tensions in the labour process between the mobilization of employee attributes and the deliberate moulding and standardization of such competencies is merely part of wider and unresolved tensions concerning the contested nature of emotional labour and the demands of quantity and quality in the management of call centre work.

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