Agency Executives Share Tips to Help Hire the Best Collectors

Sep 18, 2019

In today’s job market, individuals can be a lot pickier about where they work. Hundreds of resumes that are submitted turn into a handful of viable candidates who actually show up for the interview, and maybe one or two people accept an offer and make it through lunch on the first day. Finding qualified individuals who can become collectors is as hard as it’s ever been. Even as collection agencies get better at sourcing new candidates, be it through referrals, job fairs, or online job sites, turning those pieces of paper into an actual living, breathing employee is no easy feat today.

In a webinar sponsored by Peak Revenue Learning, a trio of executives from collection agencies recently came together for a discussion on where to find the best collectors, and while there was a lot of consensus from the panelists about where to source possible candidates, each agency had its own process for screening and interviewing those individuals to determine if they have what it takes to become a successful collector.

To improve the efficiency of the screening process and to get an initial feel for how candidates sound and behave on the phone, most agencies start with a phone interview. In many cases, the objective is to just get the candidate talking about anything. The interviewer wants to assess the candidate’s phone demeanor and ability to engage with someone. If the candidate has a job, ask why he or she wants to leave, to help assess if the candidate is a good fit, culturally, for the new agency. Another question to ask is what interested the candidate in applying for a job with this particular agency. This can reveal how much research a candidate has done about a particular place of employment and how he or she thinks on his or her feet.

“There’s no wrong question,” in a phone interview, said Mike Hiller, vice president of collections at American Profit Recovery. “I just want to get them talking. I want to see how well they can think on their feet. If I’m picturing someone, maybe they’ve got a job already and they’re cyber-slacking at work, just clicking around, applying to jobs now. If I ask him a question, ‘Why were you interested in, in our position?’ And they don’t know what they actually, they applied for. Maybe I’ve got to dig a little deeper.”

One of the questions that interviewers should seek to answer during the process is how comfortable are they with the candidate, said Jessica Andriola, vice president of talent management at ERC.

“If I were, you know, a consumer, how comfortable would I be talking to this person?” Andriola asked. “How comfortable would I be handing over my credit card information, my checking account information, things like that?”

Being a good listener is as important for the person in charge of hiring as it is for the individual looking to become a collector, said Alan Clayton, the chief operating officer of Frost-Arnett.

“One of the questions that we’ll ask somebody who has call center experience, is about that experience,” Clayton said. “And if they say, ‘Well, I just don’t do well in production environments,’ it kind of gives you a clue that they might not be a good fit. Or, if they list the last three places they’ve worked at and they blame their supervisor or manager for being bad supervisors and managers as the reason why they were not able to do their job, it kind of gets to their attitude. So I’m really trying to get them to talk and the more they talk, the more you can hear the good and the bad. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to teach our managers and supervisors that they should be letting the applicant talk 80% to 90% of the time on interviews.”