How to Hire and Retain Qualified Collectors

It’s been known to strike fear into the hearts of even tough, smart, seasoned collection managers. At best, it’s an extremely unsettling business experience requiring too much time, too much money and too much patience; at worst, it’s every manager’s most dreaded task — INTERVIEWING JOB APPLICANTS. It may very well be the reason muscle relaxers, sleep aids and tension relievers exist.

Wages, environments and working conditions all become factors in an applicant’s decision to accept or decline a job, but another integral part of the interview process is to determine if there is mutual compatibility among the candidate, the position and the manager. Too often, there isn’t.

To begin searching for collectors, you’ll need to define your objectives and expectations for role – in other words, know your own criteria. For example, determine at the outset whether you need a collector who’s more persuasive or consultative, quick paced or patient. Ask yourself if your ideal candidate is self-reliant or more cautious and inclined to ask questions before taking action. Being absolutely certain about the kind of person you’re looking for will help you screen out candidates who don’t even come close to matching your needs.

The second step is to hire the right person. This may seem like an obvious statement, but in order to do this, you’ll need to pose the right questions and ask for specific examples of cited traits. Make sure you’re not being told half-truths or creatively embellished stories. If you really need a proactive individual and the job seeker tells you he or she is just that, verify that this is indeed the case and has been demonstrated previously. Don’t ask open-ended questions — ask for details! It’s one thing for interviewees to saythey’re confident and self-sufficient, but it’s quite another to prove it.

Remember, job applicants know they’re under the spotlight and can often put on an extraordinarily good show! Be careful!

Misfits create turmoil, cause dissent, destroy harmony, and quickly level any spirit of cohesiveness that might exist in your agency. Speak with former employers or references to help gain some insight into the behavior of the person you are considering for the job. Role-play typical collection scenarios to see how your job candidate reacts. Do everything you can to get to know who it is you may be hiring.

While it is certainly no easy task to find quality collectors, an even greater challenge is retaining outstanding employees. Once you‘ve found a suitable employee, you may need to redesign your management style — at least slightly — in order to play into individual strengths and weaknesses. This is how you can increase your chances of retaining good workers.  For example, let’s say you’ve just hired George, a new collector who seems to have excellent potential. He’s somewhat inexperienced, though, so you’re tempted to step in, take control and show him how the job needs to be done. Should you do it?

Maybe…or maybe not!

The answer to that question depends largely on just how independently minded George really is. If he’s the type who wants input from others, attentive management, guidance when he’s unsure, he’ll undoubtedly appreciate your care, concern and efforts. In fact, he may become quite frustrated or think you’re intentionally ignoring him, if you leave him to fend for himself.

However, if he’s free-thinking and self-assured, George will want you to stay out of his way so he can devise and implement his own collection approach. The self-directing George will resent it if you try to take over or monitor him closely, even if you’re doing so with the best of intentions. Frequent questions about his actions or the least bit of skepticism from you are sure to drive George away.

Different personalities have different trigger buttons that launch desirable or undesirable behavior. A collector who’s normally very methodical and careful will cringe if forced to rush when doing a job and can end up making uncharacteristic mistakes. Give ample notice of deadlines! Don’t spring last minute surprises, as routine-oriented people need predictability in their day. Conversely, the often repetitive nature of your industry may deter those who are hurried and have a strong need for variety to their day. Assign some other tasks to your antsy employee, but make sure those tasks, or at least stages of them, can be completed quickly.

Hiring should never be left to guesswork. It takes time, patience, determination and insightful management to bring aboard, and then retain, excellent workers. Collectors can have very different traits and therefore different collection styles, but they all expect similar feelings of satisfaction and worth from an employer. Bringing out their best, keeping them happy and enhancing their effectiveness as a team is a real challenge, but it’s part of your job, and it can be done!

Each time you begin the process of employee selection, you’ll need to ask yourself and the applicant important questions. Remember too, that a person who seems good for the job and comes with great credentials, may have objectives and needs that are quite different from your own. Do you know how to deal with individuals who need extra direction and attention? Can you put up with a person who insists on making his own decisions and resents being told what to do?

There are distinct personality groups that most people belong to. Each of these groups has strengths that can be utilized and weaknesses that can be offset, ifyou know what they are and how to respond to them. You don’t need to be lucky to find, hire and retain good collectors, but you doneed to be informed!


Carletta Clyatt, SVP, The Omnia Group, Inc.

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group.  She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, challenges, and behaviors. For more information about employee behavioral assessments, call Carletta at 813-280-3026 or email: [email protected]