The business model for a national debt collection agency involved purchasing significantly aged debt for pennies on the dollar. It then relied on its Collections Agents to collect enough of this “uncollectable” debt to profit from the purchase. To be successful, Collections Agents needed to be able to stay motivated and productive even though they knew they would encounter serious resistance…and, often, abuse…on every call they made. They also needed to be able to adapt their message to the circumstances and emotional drivers of the individual debtors. Only a limited number of Collections Agents were successful over the long term and the company decided to examine whether adding an assessment to its hiring process would provide benefits.
Polaris interviewed job experts to identify the profile of traits associated with longer-tenured, successful Agents. Tests were constructed that contained personality, attitude and value components. See Figure 1 for the range of characteristics addressed by the testing system.
The Polaris tests were administered to about 140 incumbent Collections Agents. Statistical analyses verified the strong correlation between test scores and performance on the job. In addition to relationships with supervisory performance ratings, the tests also predicted objective outcomes such as attendance and sales results. As shown in Figure 2, high performers on the test averaged monthly collections that were over 50% above the collections of low performers on the test.
A cloud-administered version of the test was constructed that would take most candidates 15-20 to complete. Computerized procedures scored candidates against the requirements of the jobs and also produced lists of suggested interview questions that were derived from problematic responses to groups of items. This made for an extremely effective (as well as efficient) interview process.
Beyond the original organization, this test—the Polaris JobFit Inventory-Collections—has been adopted by numerous other collections agencies across the country. Adding it to the online application process has provided agencies with an objective way to pass only the most credible candidates on to interviewers. The focused information interviewers have from the testing stage has, in turn, enhanced the effectiveness of the interview process. The result: significantly improved screening.