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Is a Good Debt Collector “Born With It” or Taught?

  • Written by Dean Kaplan

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A few months ago on LinkedIn there was an interesting discussion about the source of a collector's success.  Many people chimed in that there were certain personality traits that are typically critically important for being a successful collector.  Others focused on techniques that people can learn to better achieve desired outcomes and all of the laws and policies you need to learn.  As an offshoot of this discussion, our commercial collection agency compiled a list of actual debt collector job descriptions from the internet to see what qualities were listed as desirable by employers.  Not surprisingly, the job descriptions reinforced what was said in the LinkedIn discussion.

Some key debt collector personality characteristics cited were:

·         Perseverance;

·         Doesn't take things personally;

·         Organized and able to analyze complex situations;

·         Independent and self-motivated;

·         Not easily ruffled, particularly when dealing with irate debtors.

In the training arena, several key skill areas were identified as critical to a collector's success:

·         Salesmanship;

·         Customer service;

·         Thorough knowledge of company policies;

·         Understanding of basic accounting principles, particularly those related to the accounts receivable function;

·         Claim research prior to debt collection;

·         Skip-tracing techniques.

When thinking about the daily life of a debt collector, the personality characteristics seem like must haves for a collector to thrive.  Without at least some of these qualities, it seems hard to imagine why a person would want to do the job of debt collections and even more difficult to see how that person could be successful doing this type of work.  Personality traits such as perseverance and self-motivation cannot easily be taught.

At the same time, there is a lot a collector has to learn with respect to legal compliance and following company policies and procedures.  Many people are not natural collectors, but they can learn techniques to motivate people and understand which techniques are typically less successful.  So even if someone is born with great collector skills, they need to be teachable to be an effective member of your team.