How to Become a Bill Collector

Pam Nelson
Senior Member Solution Officer
Verity Credit Union

Q: First, could you provide a little background about yourself? How did you get started in the collections industry?

A: I stumbled into collections. An opportunity came up and I ended up working for a bank during my college years. I collected on delinquent credit card and over limit visa accounts.

Q: Next, can you tell us a little about the company you work for?

A: I work for Verity Credit Union, which was formerly NW Federal Credit Union.

Q: Can you tell us about your job, what do you find rewarding about a career in collections?

A: I’m the Senior Member Solutions Officer and I work with past due first mortgages, second mortgages, home equity lines of credit, visa accounts, personal loans, lines of credit, and delinquent car loans. I find it rewarding when a Member I’ve worked with for a certain length of time gets back on track with their payments and eventually pays off the debt obligation. It’s rewarding when our delinquency ratios keep going down especially in this challenging economy.

Q: What kind of training or education does a career in collections require?

A: Most financial institutions and even collection agencies will train you specifically to collect the way they want you to, however, it’s wise to have experience in collections to begin with because it’s not something that people typically jump into. Most employers seek collectors with experience because they like to hire someone that can hit the ground running and get the money in. A good employer will invest in their collection staff by allowing their collectors to further their education by attending classes and seminars that provides continuing education opportunities for this industry.

Q: What are the skills that are valuable to a successful collector?

A: Good question. Important skills for bill collectors include strong listening skills, the ability to negotiate, ability to multi-task because you have to note the conversation as your talking on the phone and the notes need to be concise, must be able to keep in mind the bottom line, empathy is good to have. Maintaining professionalism is a good attribute to have also, as well as the ability to work independently and make the solid decisions you are hired to make. I think you also should have a certain level of maturity so that you don’t let negative situations get next to you and don’t take things said during the conversation personal.

Q: In day to day operation, what are some of the challenges a collector can expect?

A: A lack of contact due to people not answering the calls or returning calls to take care of the situation. Caller ID was a killer for this industry! Also people typically don’t like to be called regarding lack of payment so it’s good to be positive and work with them accordingly-folks tend to be rude to collectors, it’s just the nature of this line of work. Today it’s a tough environment to collect in because of the economy and the high unemployment rate.

Q: Do you have any advice, such as resume or interview tips, for those seeking employment in collections?

A: At my current employer, we are very big on fit. We look for people who believe and can thrive and work in a team environment. We look for mature experienced individuals who want to come to work every day and contribute. I think it’s important to present yourself in a professional manner in an interview. Listen to each question fully, answer to the best of your ability, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand a particular question. I think a clean concise resume is best. There’s no need to list the last 10 years’ job experience, no one wants to wade through that much information. Figure out what makes you tick and what sets you apart from your competition and present yourself with confidence that you are the best candidate for the position.

Q: From your point of view, what kind of impact is the economic downturn having on the collections industry?

A: It has a huge effect on the collection industry right now. If people don’t have jobs how are they supposed to pay their bills? It’s up to a good collector to figure out how to convince the borrower that it’s in their best interest to pay your debt before they pay others. That’s where experience and know how comes in handy.

Q: Change is constant, what are some changes that you see occurring in the collections industry?

A: Being that I’m primary first party collections, we usually collect on debts from loans or lines of credit that were made from within my financial institution. What I’m seeing now is “creative financing” in collections. Meaning we now have the ability to provide note modifications for specific loans and forebearances are being offered for first mortgages, basically, a lot of new ideas are being explored in order to protect the assets of our Credit Union. We also offer financial counseling which has been invaluable to our Members who are in serious financial trouble.

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