People stop paying their debts for various reasons, such as a job loss,
living beyond their means or even a dispute with the creditor. In any case,
it's safe to say, most of them aren't in great moods when a collection clerk
calls. Some people behind on their debts have been known to scream or swear
at collectors and dodge their creditors.
Does this sound like a satisfying way to make a living? A lot of people
Steve Rapaport of New York is one. He's been in the industry since college.
He started out as a collector and is now running his own agency. "You have
to be able to separate what you do from reality. If you're going to get upset,
then this is not for you."
It isn't a collection clerk's job to terrorize a debtor. In fact, Rapaport
doesn't like the negative stereotype of his profession. He sees what collectors
do as mediation. He finds it satisfying when he gets a good result for both
parties -- money back for a client and a reasonable payment plan for the debtor.
As a collection clerk, your job would be to help your employer or client
collect money owed to them. You may work for a specific business, such as
a bank or hospital. Or you might work for the government, or for a collection
agency that specializes in one or more areas. You could eventually start your
Your job duties might include sending letters, making phone calls and meeting
with clients and debtors. You could also be calculating payment plans, locating
debtors and tracking payments.
There's a creative side to the business. Your collection techniques must
be persuasive. Michelle Dunn started out in accounts receivable. She now runs
her own collection agency in New Hampshire.
"You have to be creative in order to get a debtor to respond to you. You
also have to be careful that you follow the FDCPA [Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act]. I like that challenge and try to create letters that will make the debtor
curious and want to call me."
The FDCPA was enacted in 1977 to protect consumers from overzealous debt
collectors. It outlines the rules for collectors, such as when and how to
contact debtors. But it doesn't cover all collectors, such as employees of
You will need a wide range of skills to be successful as a collection clerk.
Communication, organization and the ability to be cool under pressure are
some of them.
"One of the most important skills a collector must have is to listen,"
says Dunn. "You also need to be very organized and have outstanding follow-up
skills. Knowing how to deal with people and be firm is helpful."
Kecia Kesler of Kansas runs a family collection business. "Collectors should
have good interpersonal skills. Psychology helps. An even temper and ability
to think quickly, consistency, and salesmanship are required."