Collectors - What They Do

Collectors collect payments on overdue accounts and bad cheques and locate debtors to make collection arrangements. They are employed by collection agencies, utility companies, department stores, loan companies, banks and credit unions, and by financial and licensing departments within governments.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Notify debtors of overdue payments and accounts by telephone, mail, and registered mail, and continue the notification process if reply is not received
  • Resolve collection issues by making payment arrangements by telephone or visit to debtor
  • Recommend further action or discontinuation of service in cases where payment is not forthcoming
  • Trace and locate debtors, and may contact debtors' friends, neighbours, relatives and employers to obtain information
  • Answer correspondence, prepare reports and maintain records and files related to collection work
  • May work with on-line accounts and systems.

Job titles

  • collection officer (except taxation)
  • locator - collection
  • skip tracer - collection
  • collector
  • bill collector
  • collection clerk
  • collections investigation officer
  • credit and collection clerk
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is required.
  • A business college diploma may be required.
  • A period of on-the-job training is often provided for collection clerks and collection officers.
  • A collections licence issued by the province or territory of employment is usually required.

Essential Skills


  • Read letters from debtors disputing the amount owed, indicating why they are late in making their payment or indicating their intent to pay and suggesting terms of payment. (1)
  • Read letters from financial institutions containing information on the status of a particular loan. (2)
  • Read government and legal forms, such as garnishee forms and forms for student loans, to ensure they are up-to-date with legislative changes. (2)
  • Read debtors' files which may include credit reports and notes on the current status of the file or any actions taken to date. (3)
  • May refer to a computer manual to troubleshoot problems. (3)

Document use

  • Read telephone books to find the addresses of debtors. (1)
  • May read city or district directories to find debtors. (1)
  • May read client list sheets and payment plan cards. (1)
  • Read and update collection reports or client files, including names, addresses, account numbers, records of payments and amounts overdue. (2)
  • Read client transactions on a computer to determine if debts are being paid. (2)
  • Interpret various forms, such as the Personal Property Branch Registration form, credit request forms, settlement forms and claim-for-loss forms. (3)


  • Complete collection cards for each client whose payment is overdue. (1)
  • Write reminder notes to themselves about clients or tasks to perform. (1)
  • Do name searches on companies and individuals before suing to ensure they are suing the correct company or person. This may involve sending letters to government offices requesting information. (2)
  • Write letters or faxes to customers for whom debts are being collected. These letters report on actions taken with debtors, such as whether payment has been received, the amount of payment and the amount owing. They may also inquire about whether the customer has received payments or request other relevant information. (2)
  • Write letters or e-mails to debtors about overdue accounts, the status of their accounts and explanations of why some proposed settlements are not acceptable. (2)
  • Write memos to managers informing them of what is happening on a particular case, such as responses received and further action to be taken. (3)


Money Math

  • Receive payments made by debtors at the office and issue receipts. (1)
  • Calculate what a person owes, by taking the amount overdue and the interest accruing and subtracting payments made. (2)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • May enter the amount of a payment in the client's file. (1)
  • Determine the minimum payment a debtor may make on the amount owing to pay off the debt in an acceptable period of time. (2)
  • Work with debtors to develop a payment plan, examining their income and expenses to establish their ability to pay. (3)
  • Compare the value of collections in different time periods, as a performance indicator. (1)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate the amount of money coming in for the following week. (1)

Oral communication

  • Listen to a debtor explain why they cannot pay amounts owing. (1)
  • Take directions from customers for whom they are collecting debts. (2)
  • Interact with their supervisor or manager to get approval for settlements and modes of repayment and report cases which are being brought to the court system. (2)
  • Make reports to customers about payouts, debtors who cannot pay or other relevant information about cases, so they are aware of actions being taken. (2)
  • Participate in meetings with managers and other staff to discuss cost constraints, new policies, problems, progress and ways to improve productivity. (3)
  • Speak to debtors on behalf of the customer using clear language, explaining their amounts owing and determining a plan of action. Debtors may be upset or hostile during this interaction. (3)
  • Attend or lead training seminars. (3)
  • May train new collectors and give them direction. (3)


Problem Solving

  • May notice that the value of collections made in one month is significantly less than the previous month. They adjust their work plan to bring in more revenue. (1)
  • Encounter debtors who allege that they have already made payments or are owed a credit note or that they never received the goods for which they have been billed. If required, they resolve the situation by obtaining additional information about the account and correcting the records. (2)
  • Encounter debtors who have difficulties making payments. They negotiate a payment plan with them. (3)
  • May have to trace people whose payments are overdue and who move often. (3)

Decision Making

  • Decide when to schedule visits to debtors. (1)
  • Make decisions about changing the payment schedules of particular debtors. These decisions may require a supervisor's approval, particularly if the amount overdue is large. (2)
  • Decide whether to accept smaller payments or delayed payments, based on a debtor's financial, health and emotional circumstances. (2)
  • Decide how much to spend to find a debtor, how much effort to put into a particular case and whether cases should be taken to court, settled or closed. (3)

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Collectors plan their own work tasks within a framework of standard procedures provided by management. These standard procedures may set out general practices, such as dealing with new business first or reviewing files at the end of each month to decide which ones to close. They may also set out what action to take on accounts at particular stages, such as 90 days overdue. Collectors deal with emergencies and unexpected tasks as they occur. Deadlines are usually approximate, except for court dates. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember procedures for tracing individuals with overdue accounts.
  • Remember details of earlier conversations with debtors so that they are consistent in dealing with the case.
  • Remember how earlier cases with a particular debtor were handled so that time is used effectively.

Finding Information

  • Look up information in files when they want to know the amount of money a client currently owes. (1)
  • Obtain information about debtors from relatives, employers and landlords through telephone calls or personal visits. (2)
  • Obtain information about debtors from city directories, banks, town halls, credit bureaux and trustee offices. (2)

Digital technology

  • They produce letters. (2)
  • They access databases containing client files. (2)
  • They use electronic mail (e-mail). (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Collectors work independently, while being members of a staff that works as a team, assisting each other and offering each other advice on difficult cases.

Continuous Learning

Collectors have an ongoing need to learn in order to keep abreast of changes in relevant legislation and improve their knowledge of how to deal with particular situations or clients.