Generating profit isn’t thy reason why a business exists. Or at least it shouldn’t be the main reason. Good companies try to bring some value to their customers. They help them to satisfy their needs– providing quality products, services, or information. At the end of the day, however, everyone has to pay their bills. A business won’t remain operational for long, if their customers aren’t paying their dues. Collection Specialists ensure that the outstanding debts are collected, or forwarded to the debt recovery department.

Monitoring accounts and identifying outstanding debts, you will personally contact the clients and encourage them to make a payment. Or you will find out the reason why they cannot pay, and suggest a new payment schedule, or try to find some alternative, some other way to eventually get the money they owe the company.

Let’s have a look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this entry level job, advertised regularly by almost each big corporation.

 

Why do you want to work as a collection specialist?

Try to find some connection between your skills and career goals, and the role of a collection specialist. Maybe you excel (or believe to excel) in communication and negotiation, and aren’t afraid to make any phone calls. You studied accounting and you can find what you need in the books, and you excel in monitoring and reporting on the results of your work.

What’s more, you’d love to get a senior accounting position in the future, or perhaps specialize in debt recollection later on. Job of a collection specialist is therefore an ideal starting point for your career.

You can also emphasize the importance of the job. Money matters, because without money company won’t be able to pay the salaries to the employees, they will struggle to feed themselves and their families, and the entire economic system will collapse.

Maybe I am being a little dramatic here, but I hope you get the point. It’s important to minimize the volume of outstanding debt, and to keep a healthy cash flow. Healthy cash flow means a healthy company, and you look forward to help them remain competitive and healthy as a business.

 

How do you imagine a typical day in an office while working as a collection specialist?

The most important thing is to refer to unpleasant duties, such as long repetitive calls to customers who didn’t pay their invoices. Because that will be the core of your job. Emails may help, but most of the time they won’t do the trick.

Anyway, try to show them that you like to have some system in your work. For example, you plan to have a master sheet in Excel, with the list of customers and payment schedule for each one, and notes in the next column–emails sent, phone calls made, some special information about the customer, etc.

Referring to your master sheet each morning, you will easily set tasks for the day–such as contacting this or that person, discussing this or that problem/adjustment to the payment schedule with the managers, etc. You will also refresh your sheet with fresh data each day.

Anyway, tell them that you expect to be busy, and spend a lot of time on the call, while trying to collect the outstanding payments. Administrative work that relates to this process goes without saying, but it does not form the core of your job, and you do not want to waste too much time with secondary tasks.

What will you do to encourage the clients to pay their overdue invoices?

If it was easy to encourage the debtors, companies wouldn’t hire collection specialists. But it is far from easy, and that’s why I suggest you to emphasize individual approach to each client.

You will look into the historical records, trying to understand the debtor. Have they struggled with payments before? Is there any seasonality in their business? Has anything changed recently? Did they eventually pay their debts, or did the company lose the money last time when they didn’t pay on time?

Once you know as much as you can about them, you will make a phone call. Instead of simply saying that their payment is overdue, you will try to understand what happened. You will inquire whether they have any problems, and why they cannot pay the invoice. You may suggest a new payment date, or paying the debt in smaller installments with a clear schedule, acceptable for both parties.

Basically you will try to understand the debtor, and give them some viable options. Because at the end of the day everyone can experience financial problems, and you do not want to lose a customer. That’s the attitude the hiring managers seek in a good applicant for this job.

If you fail to collect the debt, despite your best efforts, you will forward the client to a debt recovery department, and that’s where your job ends.

 

Imagine that you are calling one of the debtors. The person on the other side of the call starts shouting on you, blaming you for pressing them in a difficult situation. How will you react?

First of all, you should ensure the hiring managers that you count with this behavior. Customers sometimes do not pay because they forget, but more often they do not pay because they do not have money (or prefer to spend it elsewhere, or need to spend it for something else to stay in the business).

It’s easy to get emotional in such a situation, you understand it, and it won’t take you out of your comfort zone on the call.

At the same time, however, you won’t let emotions to interfere with your work. They may shout, they may cry, they may express whatever emotion they want on the call. Once they are done, you will progress with your plan, following the steps you set with the particular client, doing your best to encourage them to pay the overdue invoice.

 

What role does reporting and monitoring play in your work, and how do you do it?

You should give reporting and monitoring the utmost importance. Typically you will work with dozens, or even hundreds of clients, and it’s impossible to remember the details of each contact–what exactly you said during the last phone call, the excuse they made, etc.

You can suggest making a master sheet in Excel, or in any other software. Keeping this document always open on your desktop, you will make notes as soon as you end the phone call, send the email, or do any other action with the customer.

This helps you to stay on the top of things, to follow certain steps with each customers, and to maintain the individual approach, which always yields the best results when we talk about debt collection…

 

Behavioral questions you may face in your collection specialist interview

If you apply for a job with one of the Fortune 500 companies, they will almost certainly ask you a variety of behavioral questions. Some of them can be unrelated to the job of a collection specialist, but they examine your attitude to various situations that happen in the workplace. Think conflict with a colleague, meeting a tight deadline, reaching a goal, etc.

Try to prepare for the following questions:

  • Describe a situation when you went above and beyond with your service.
  • Tell us about an obstacle you overcame.
  • Tell us about a time when you reached a goal, and explain how you did it.
  • Describe a situation when you did not agree with an opinion (or decision) of your superior or supervisor, and knew that they were wrong.
  • When you had to work on multiple projects simultaneously, how did you prioritize?
  • Have you ever experienced a crisis of motivation, either in work or in school? How did you handle the crisis?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work hard to please a client.
  • Tell us about a time when you missed a deadline or productivity target.
  • Describe the most difficult decision you had to make in your career.
  • Tell us about a time when you used logic to solve a problem.
  • ….

* Special Tip: If you are not sure how to answer the questions from my list, or experience interview anxiety, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to basically all tricky questions you may face in your Collection Specialist job interview will help you streamline your interview preparation, outclass your competitors, and eventually get this job. Thank you for checking it out!

 

Final thoughts

Interview for a job of a collection specialist belong to interview with average difficulty. This isn’t a fancy job title, and you typically won’t compete with dozens of people for the job (at least not with as many as if you applied for a marketing specialist, entry level financial analyst, or management trainee position). Less competitors always means it is easier to succeed.

On the other hand, you will have to demonstrate your understanding for the role, excellent communication and computer skills, and also right attitude to various situations you may encounter in this job, with your answers to behavioral questions.

Try to prepare an answer to each question, and learn as much as you can about your future employer. And if you aren’t sure what to do and need help, refer to our Interview Success Package. Thank you, I wish you good luck!

Matthew

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Matthew Chulaw
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