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Interviewing, Hiring & Onboarding for Debt Collection Roles

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With the onset of COVID-19, hiring & retention have become increasingly difficult in the debt collection industry.

Not only that, but experts are predicting a major ramp-up in turnover as the pandemic begins to subside. Are you prepared?

Employee onboarding experts, Mary Shores & Candace Burroughs, share their retention-boosting recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding best practices specifically for the debt collection industry.

Your interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes have a direct impact on how well you retain employees at your debt collection agency.

But Why Does Retention Matter? [4:15]

Some turnover is inevitable, but did you know that 77% of turnover could have been prevented? Failing to prevent preventable turnover means wasted money, damaged morale, and a weakened brand. Improving your retention rates helps minimize the impact of these costs associated with preventable turnover.

Wasted Resources

The interviewing, hiring, and onboarding process requires significant time, money, and other resources. The longer each employee stays, the more ROI you gain from your initial investment.

Damaged Morale

Have you ever had a manager or co-worker leave? If so, you probably understand how weird things can sometimes feel after they’ve left. This “weird” feeling is the result of the absence of that individual’s knowledge, skills, and overall presence. That absence can cause significant damage to a team’s morale. It’s not easy to replace an individual that had a positive impact on your agency.

Ruined Brand Image

If employees leave because of a negative experience at your company, it is likely that they will share their experience with others. That in turn makes it harder to recruit when you’re trying to hire a replacement. Not every employee will leave your agency because they had a negative experience, but preventable turnover is often caused by this.

Where to Find Candidates to Interview [8:55]

Sourcing candidates can be difficult, but these tools & platforms make it slightly easier:

  • Facebook groups
  • Linkedin
  • Industry message boards
  • Incentivized employee referral programs

Soft Skills to Identify [10:15]

Look out for the following soft skills that are essential for succeeding in any debt collection role:

  • Win-win thinking
  • Being proactive
  • Sharpening the saw (continuously learning and growing)

The interview marks the start of the onboarding process, so…

Interview With a Goal in Mind [11:30]

Mary suggests interviewing with a goal in mind. Here’s how she does it:

  1. Prior to the interview, review the candidate’s resume and highlight three points of interest that match the job role or your agency’s values.
  2. Throughout the interview, weave in conversation about the points you’ve highlighted. Ask the candidate to tell a story about each one.
  3. Consider the following: Can this person do the job? Can they do the job long-term? Will they fit within your company culture?

Motivational Interviewing

One of the keys to improving retention is to hire individuals that actually want the job. Almost every candidate will say this, but it’s your job to determine whether they’re telling the truth. Mary suggests using the following strategy to do this.

Question #1: On a Scale of 1-10, How Interested Are You in the Job?

In Mary’s experience, candidates tend to answer on the higher range, usually an interest level anywhere between seven and ten. This is just a surface-level question that allows you to dig deeper and understand whether the candidate really wants the job.

Question #2: Why So High?

Next, ask the candidate why their interest level in the role is so high? By gathering each candidate’s answer to this question, you can gather why people are attracted to the role. You can then build this into the job description to attract more qualified candidates.

Question #3: What Would Make Your Interest Level a 10?

The candidate’s answer to this last question will tell you what they currently do not like about the role. If you want to move forward with the candidate, you now know what you need to sell them on the role.

Onboarding for Success in Collections [22:40]

Example: Business Bootcamp

Mary Shores implemented a “Business Bootcamp” onboarding program at her collection agency to keep the onboarding process documented, consistent, organized, and effective.

Consistent Training Agenda

The training agenda for the “Business Bootcamp” onboarding program is broken down hour by hour and day by day.

Cross-Departmental Learning

The program gives new hires a taste of all entry-level roles within the debt collection agency. This helps determine early on which department each individual will perform best in.


Trainer and new hire instructions for the onboarding program are all documented. All training that each individual employee goes through is documented in their own dedicated file. Not only is documentation useful in ensuring that each new hire gets correct and consistent training, but it’s also useful to have on hand for clients.

What Motivates Your Ideal Candidate?

“Young people want meaningful work,” Mary says. “They’re looking for what’s best for their life.” The majority of the current candidate pool wants to know what impact your debt collection agency is making on the world. They want your agency to be “Humanitarian +”, meaning that you’re making a positive impact.

Re-Evaluate Your Mission, Vision & Values

Attracting and retaining talent involves more than just implementing interviewing, hiring, and onboarding best practices. It means completely re-evaluating your brand mission, vision, and values to reflect the “Humanitarian +” mindset. It also means aligning your interviewing, hiring & onboarding with your mission, vision, and values.

Impact Brand Model

Use the Impact Brand Model to become more “Humanitarian +.”

  • Provide a great service
  • Cultivate a positive company culture
  • Focus on the client/consumer experience & journey
  • Ensure you’re achieving a clear return on investment
  • Embed emotional intelligence into technology
  • Define your impact

At her agency, the goal is to “make people feel good about paying their debt,” says Mary.

Evaluate the Efficacy of Your Interviewing, Hiring & Onboarding [36:00]

Evaluate the efficacy of your interviewing, hiring & onboarding processes by measuring your employee retention rate. Before you make any changes to your current processes, establish a baseline by calculating your current retention rate. You’ll want to see it improve with the changes you make. Here’s how to calculate it:

About The Speakers