Walter Steele

We take great pride in hiring and retaining top talent for the long haul. We view our human resources as an investment that pays dividends at numerous intervals and multiple levels. We desire employees that can produce at a very high level; however, just as importantly, we are on a quest for employees that fit with the culture of our organization. In hiring, we identify candidates that possess traits — creativity, dependability, accountability, honesty — that directly correlate to success in collections.

We keep the following five points in mind when we are looking to fill roles in our company. We hope you might find some of these helpful, too.

[You can download the full whitepaper here.]

1) Ask questions that provide insight into the individual

Ask thought-provoking questions in the interview that force prospects to think on their feet while allowing you to gauge their out-of-the-box thinking. For instance, “What is your biggest professional failure and what did you learn from it?” Let’s face it, everyone comes to an interview locked and loaded with rehearsed responses on how great they are and how much success they have achieved. How many people think about their ultimate professional failure before an interview? Not many. This question catches people off guard and makes them think on their feet. It also allows you to gauge honesty in character. Moreover, it provides you insight into how well they learn from their mistakes. This ability is crucial in our line of business. We are not looking for robots. We desire creative solution-orientated employees who use their brain.

2) You get what you pay for

Pay a little more for quality instead of paying less for quantity: the quantity route normally results in high turnover and costs more money in the long run. When we at F.H. Cann hire five people, we expect to keep five people. We have all heard about the “Hire Ten with the Expectation of Keeping Five” models. In our opinion, this is a waste of valuable time, energy, and resources, and quite frankly is an excuse for not taking the time to properly vet prospective candidates. We strongly believe over time the extra money collected by the quality people you hire far outweighs the little extra you spend up front on the hourly wage.

3) Promote from within whenever possible

Take a vested interest in the career growth of every employee in your organization. If you make it the norm to promote from within, it creates an environment where people personally witness career growth around them. This strategy works on two levels. The first is you get former managers (very experienced people) willing to prove themselves as collectors for the opportunity to move up within our company. This results in a staff that has highly qualified individuals performing at a very high level. Second, this creates a very talented pipeline of readymade managers already on staff (and already producing high revenue) and waiting in the wings to take on the next management role that presents itself.

4) Invest in your employees and provide them a structure where the achievement of goals and success is the norm

Investing in your employees is not simply a measure of how much you pay them. It also means investing the time and energy in their continued career growth through their individual ongoing improvement. Through consistent call monitoring and account audits, it provides an environment of compliance while also easily tracking each collector’s individual strengths and weaknesses. In short, you have a readymade map to success for each person.

5) Be proactive instead of reactive and be super selective in who you hire

Being proactive allows you the necessary time to delve deep into the talent pool and identify the diamonds in the rough. Yes this process takes a little longer, but the rewards are countless. Your organization will quickly gain a reputation that in order to be considered for a job there you have to be a lot more than just a warm body. It ensures that the people you add to your staff complement the employees you worked so hard to cultivate. Your organization will become a place people want to, and strive to, work for. This simplifies the hiring process.

These five tips are by no means the end of the conversation, but we have found that they are a very good starting point on which to build and advance a behavioral and cultural shift. It creates a true sense of pride in what you do and where you work.

Walter Steele is the Chief Operating Officer of F.H. Cann & Associates (FHC). He is a Six Sigma Black Belt with over 25 years collection experience centered on receivables management and portfolio optimization. Throughout his highly successful career Walter has held key leadership positions with companies such as the publicly traded First Marblehead Corporation (FMD), JP Morgan Chase (JPM), and BankOne.

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