Hiring has been top of mind for many businesses over the last few months, as the pandemic transformed the labor market. Managers now need to be experts in the hiring and onboarding process if they hope to find and retain quality staff.
For credit professionals, the qualities they want in new hires have changed. In 2019, 87% of creditors looked for candidates who had a college degree, among other qualities. But today, 0% view a degree as the most important factor when hiring. Instead, prior credit experience is the most important quality (44%), alongside willingness to learn (41%) and emotional intelligence (15%).
One of the main reasons credit managers seek prior credit experience is for adaptability. “I prefer someone who can meet deadlines, and understand the requirements and nuances of the Texas credit management statutes,” explained Gweneth Weeks, operations manager at Big D Concrete Inc. (Dallas, TX). For her, that also ties into reliability. “I want to know that the person I’m hiring has the ability to get things done without me, which allows me to focus on the bigger picture.”
Others would hire a candidate who shows a willingness to learn over one with prior credit experience, partly because it will make the training process a lot easier. “Those employees are hungry, passionate and bring energy to the team,” said Susan Rausch, CCE, credit supervisor at H.B. Fuller Company (Saint Paul, MN). “For me, I look for intelligence, integrity, good chemistry and willingness to learn. If I have those non-tangibles, I can teach anything … If you have someone who has a willingness to learn, grow and reach out, they’re much farther ahead than someone who doesn’t have a desire to learn.”
For Kevin Stinner, CCE, CCRA, credit manager at Simplot AB Retail Sub, Inc. (Loveland, CO), willingness to learn also demonstrates the employee’s willingness to stay. “It’s important to be willing to learn the position and have the motivation to stick with it,” he explained. “I don’t want to hire someone and hire their replacement in six months.” For example, “One of my last hires had no finance experience but I hired her because she had the right go-get-them attitude and a willingness to learn.”
Emotional intelligence and finding the right personality also are important, especially in the credit industry, Stinner added. “Credit is an extremely grey area at times and you’re going to get yelled at for big mistakes. As an employee, you have to be able to not take that personally given that the person is more upset at the scenario than you.”
An emotionally intelligent employee makes for an effective team player. “The ability to work with teams is important in the credit world because we are the heart of the company,” Rausch explained. The ability to communicate and build those internal relationships helps tremendously. “A lot of people will say that they don’t need to be friends with the people they work with, but who likes that? It’s nice having a coworker you can talk to, especially when we spend the majority of our day at work.”
The process of hiring has changed drastically over the years. “Before COVID, you did phone interviews and then met them in person once or twice,” Stinner said. “Now, for my last three hires, I didn’t meet them until they were hired face to face because everything was finalized over the phone and Microsoft Teams.” This proved difficult for Stinner because with one-on-one interviews, he can gauge the person’s energy, whereas that is more difficult to do through a screen. It’s also changed his fact-finding process and method of asking questions.
While emotional intelligence and willingness to learn are two of the most important factors in new hires, they also can be the most difficult to find. “Unfortunately, what I’ve noticed, especially with the younger people entering the workforce, is that they’re having a hard time accepting any sort of feedback on any part of the job—no matter how it’s delivered,” Weeks explained. “I say that as a young person in the workforce that finding those people who are truly willing to do better is hard.”
You as the interviewer need to listen and ask behavioral-based questions instead of hypothetical ones, and pay close attention to the answers. “As a credit manager, you can train someone in excel, general accounting concepts, portals, systems, financial analysis etc.,” Rausch said. “If I have somebody with a bad attitude, I can’t train or teach them to have a different attitude, so I don’t hire them.”
This article first appeared in the November 17 issue of eNews. It is used with permission.