Credit guru Thea Dudley has spent more than 30 years in LBM credit management. Now she's here to answer your credit and collection questions. Got a question for her mailbag? Contact Thea at

The credit manager I hired turned out to be far different than the person that I interviewed. Consequently, we parted ways. Now I am back to searching and don't want to make the same mistake. HELP!

Flummoxed in Florida

Dear Flummoxed,

That is a challenge no matter what position you are hiring for. Your candidate shows up, full of potential, and before you know it you are getting along like two ticks on a dog. You share the same viewpoints and are just about finishing each other's sentences. You make the offer and think you hit the jackpot.

A few days later, the credit manager of your dreams has turned into your own version of the bride of Frankenstein: Big, ugly, and married to you. Before you know it, the villagers (otherwise known as sales reps and customers) are gathering pitchforks and rakes and getting ready to set the place on fire.

So, you part ways and find yourself back to searching. What you are looking for is a magic bean, but know this: there isn't one. To find the credit manager of your dreams, you have to know what you are looking for.

I can hear all the cries of "well duh, Thea," out there. "I want someone who can collect my company's money," you’re saying. But it’s more complicated than that, and a lot will depend on you and your company's views regarding credit, as well as the type of personalities you like to work with.

So, make your list of questions. Have scenarios in mind regarding customer credit situations and present them to the candidate. Ask the questions and scenarios, and then let the candidate talk—really talk. Resist the urge to interrupt, finish answering for them, or lead them to what you want to hear. Sit quietly, listen to the answers and make mental notes that you can ask the candidate to clarify after he or she has finished.

  • Ask real-life situations that you have had come up in the past and see how the candidate responds. Possible questions to candidates may include:
  • What their experience has been with manufactures, suppliers, dealers, contractors, subcontractors and specialty contractors. Do they have experience with all or some combination.
  • Do they have experience with mechanics liens and bonds. How do they incorporate that knowledge into their job?
  • What is their knowledge of Uniform Commercial Code. Can they explain it?
  • What is their view on obtaining customer financials.
  • What is their view on the role the credit department/credit manager plays within the company? Does it mesh with yours, totally oppose it or peak your interest?

These are just a few to get you thinking. Personally, I like a conversation that revolves around the position, the company, and the person. Questions about the person’s strengths and weaknesses, asking for examples of how someone handled a difficult period in their life, asking why they want to work at your company, etc., are just white noise. Canned questions often produce canned answers.
I was asked once, "How did you handle a difficult customer?” I responded "which one?" Seriously, it depends on the customer, the particulars involved, there are so many variables that the question feels forced.

My best hires have come from having a serious, solid conversation in which I really let the person talk and tell me his or her views on credit, how that person came into the credit profession, what’s good about the business, what’s frustrating, and why. You can tell a lot about the individual by how he or she speaks about work and co-workers, customers, and industry. I look for a mix of passion, frustration, assertiveness, compassion, and common sense.

I want to see whether the candidate will fit in with my company's current philosophy on credit. Not a clone of my personality or approach, but what does this person bring to the party? Does the candidate complement what we have, help us get to the next level, fill in some gaps? Is this person strong enough to stand up for her viewpoint and what she believes the best decision is for the company at the time, but can also see other viewpoints and switch gears if that is the best decision without worrying about looking weak or getting a bruised ego?

Also: Does this candidate just say what he thinks I want to hear?. It does your company no good to,have someone who just pays you lip service … unless of course that’s actually what you want.

Who you ultimately end up hiring is reflection of your company and the service it provides. Why should your credit manager be any different?