Articles and Advice

 Career in Collections

By Joe Stein

An industry that has thrived in WNY over the last 10+ years is the area of debt collection. National collection companies have recognized the skilled labor market in WNY and have placed facilities in our area. Companies with local origins have also sprung up and thrived in WNY landing major contracts and using the area’s hard-working and talented labor pool.
 
If you are a regular reader of WNYJOBS.com, you have probably noticed all of the job opportunities in the collection field each week in the paper and on the Website. There is a reason for this and that is because the field is growing, especially in WNY. As our society becomes more debt dependent each year, the need for professionals to collect unpaid accounts will continue to grow. Another often overlooked reason for the growth in collections, is that organizations are becoming much more aware of their bad debt and increasingly turning to 3rd party collection agencies in an attempt to recoup some of this uncollected revenue. The collection industry has proven to be resilient to downward economic turns or recession since that is when people or companies are most likely going to have difficulty paying their open invoices/bills. This is a very appealing aspect of the industry for anyone who has suffered a layoff.
 
So if you are considering reentering the world of collections or entering this exciting area for the first time there a number of aspects of the job to consider to determine if you are a good match.
 

 

 

 

    • People who enter this area should be focused on maximizing their income. A significant portion of your income will most likely be derived from commission. The better you do the more you will earn. This allows you to have much higher income potential than would most likely be available in other industries requiring similar skills. Working in a commission-based area also requires someone who will not become stressed by any short-term peaks and valleys in their income.  The reality is also that some people are not able to manage their weekly spending in a way that allows them to work in a commission world. In the interview, you will want to communicate very clearly your desire to improve your income status and your desire to be paid for your performance. 
    • Collectors need to be very confident individuals constantly believing their next call will be very successful. The position shares some similar characteristics with sales in that regard. Collectors enter the field understanding that they will be in a position where they will need to consistently perform. Organizations will have productivity requirements for you as leads are precious items and a certain percentage of return will be expected. Collectors also will, on a regular basis, contact individuals who will not want to discuss their situation with you. If you think closely about it, these people are in debt and are struggling to pay and probably are stressed about it. Your job will be to quickly develop a rapport with the individual and seek a solution to the situation. Successful Collectors are confident people; you need to project this during your interview. Good posture, eye contact, and confident answers are a must during your interview.
    • Collectors will need very strong phone oral communication skills. You will need to be able to conduct your business solely over the telephone and perform in a persuasive manner. Prior to your interview with a prospective employer, practice your skills on the phone with a family member or friend. Many interviews will involve some role-play or a communication skill assessment so emphasis needs to be placed in this area in your preparation. 
    • The old stereotype of collections is a “boiler room” packed with people on the phones “browbeating” people to pay their bills. The reality is that most collection companies are in new buildings with all the amenities that reflect successful organizations. The real world of collections is an emphasis on customer service with the focus on problem solving. As you probably know, collection companies now work under a detailed framework of laws that dictate how the collect their debt.  
    • A high school education generally will be the minimum requirement for the position. Due to the financial opportunity in this area many applicants will be college educated and/or degreed although it is usually not required. If you are college educated you will want to, in the interview, describe how this experience has improved your communication, problem solving, and analytical skills. 
    • If you are entering this industry for the first time then you will want to emphasize any experience you may have in areas that require related skills. Prior experience in the field of telemarketing and/or incoming customer service is helpful. Any experience that you have in the area of negotiation should also be communicated, such as time spent in a sales position. Remember, communicate your experience by describing how it developed your clear communication skills, your persistence, and your attention to detail. 
Training for this role will generally be a combination of classroom and “on the job”. In the classroom you will spend time becoming proficient in the company’s computer and telephone systems. If you previously worked in collections on the same system for another company, you will want to make sure you communicate this in the interview. An Interviewer will view this knowledge positively as it most likely will reduce your learning curve. This training will certainly take weeks to complete and may even last for a few months. Many organizations will strongly encourage or require membership in the American Collectors Association (ACA). If you have previously worked in collections and are a current member then you certainly want to emphasize this on your Resume.
 
Beginning a career in collections does not mean that you will find yourself forever on the telephones. Collection agencies want to place successful Collectors in supervisory and management positions. Your success in collecting debt will not only prove financially rewarding, but also place yourself in a position to be promoted.
 
The world of collection provides a tremendous opportunity for individuals seeking to earn above-average income. Make sure that this industry is right for you and then prepare yourself so that you can display to your Interviewer the skills and desire necessary for the position.
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.