The Right Fit

My office has been fortunate over the last several years to have been able to attract and retain employees with a good mix of skills and personalities. One of my most experienced and successful collectors has decided it is time to retire so I find myself faced with finding another suitable fit for our department. Although we have experienced some difficult situations with employees over the years, our overall approach to finding a good match for our office has proven successful.

When replacing someone or filling a newly created position, we have tried to streamline our procedures so as to make the experience less taxing on the hiring team and the applicants. One of the best things to have in place is a clear, detailed job description, outlining your minimum requirements and defining what skills or qualifications a superior candidate would possess. With some clear expectations, your administrative staff can assist you with pre-screening your applicant pool and provide initial rankings to help filter out unqualified candidates.

Given the technologically advanced age we live in, practically everyone has a Facebook page and email. The presumption of computer literacy has mislead hiring teams into believing that someone with years of experience in an office setting is capable of navigating through basic computer applications. Hiring an employee who excels at verbal communication and is a top notch negotiator, but cannot find their way through their email is a sticky situation we’d rather not get snared in. We now pre-screen every potential hire prior to their interview with a typing test as well as a Basic MS Word/Excel test. I was happy to find that our state Department of Labor offers these assessments at no cost to the employer, and the results are emailed to the hiring manager immediately after completion. If you find yourself faced with a tough decision between candidates after the interviews, the skills assessment could break the tie.

Panel interviews have become another proven time saver for us. Stock your team with interviewers who have a good knowledge of how your office operates and your current staff, and whose opinions and decisions are respected by upper management. Reaching a consensus amongst solid interviewers can eliminate the need for a second interview. This type of interview might not work for all situations, but I’m hiring collectors. I would expect that if they can deal with difficult consumers day in and day out, then a team interview shouldn’t rattle them too much.

I know I have never cared for role play scenarios in any kind of setting, however, I think they are extremely valuable to use in an interview. One of my favorites is playing the role of a bankrupt debtor. I had an applicant once who was coming from the bankruptcy department of a local bank. When this scenario was posed to her, I was stunned to have her say that she didn’t know what questions to ask because she always had all the information provided to her. I always include at least three role playing questions in the interview; I get much more out of that than I do from questions like “What collection tools have you used?” (And yes, I do still ask that one, my HR department loves questions like that).

A good start to the interview is to give an overview of your organization. Describe the work they’ll be doing, explain your management philosophies, and briefly touch on any benefits package. It’s helpful to have a pre-printed information sheet that they can take with them. Finally, answer any initial questions they might have. It acts as a bit of an ice breaker and I have found this technique relaxes the interviewee so that more of their personality comes through. Personality is a huge focus area because in my small and confined department, I have to find someone I feel will fit in with our group. I haven’t worked this hard to create a cohesive, well-rounded team just to bring in someone who, despite possibly having all the collection experience in the world, will throw a wrench into that.

These are just some of the tools and procedures we have in place in our organization to assist in the hiring process. I hope to hear back about tools and techniques other offices employ in finding quality personnel. You can find more information about how to hone your hiring processes here.