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Fire Up Your Recruiting Model

“There has never been a better time to be in the insurance business.” We hear that phrase at so many company and industry meetings. It sounds trite, but whenever I hear it, I often look at the young people in the audience to see how they respond. The good news: They know it, feel it, sense it. 

As your business cultivates young talent – and we certainly need it – here are a few thoughts that may help you leverage that young talent in your practice.


1. Millennials are not impressed when, at a first interview, we talk about administering a personality or aptitude test. Why would we throw that at job candidates so early in their career journey? Find a sizzling recruiter, and they begin the conversation by talking about social networking. They say, “Tell me about Twitter and Facebook – how much do you leverage those resources? Let me show you what we’re doing within our agency, and I’d love you to critique our approach.” Engage the candidate to become part of the team immediately. Seek their insight. Throw them off. Test their creativity and ability to articulate. Then talk about product, helping clients with financial security and your compensation model.


2. Etiquette Frisbee. One of the top agents at New York Life used that term in one of my classes at The American College. I asked her to explain. She replied, “Well, we were always taught to write a thank-you note to the recruiter, and we still look for that as a sign of politeness from those we are interviewing. But at my agency, before the candidate arrives back home, I email the candidate a personalized note and indicate how great it was to meet them. I want them to know, immediately, that this is varsity.” I love it.


3. Ask candidates what they read. They will inevitably not expect this question, so just think about the portal of insight you will gain from their answers. Write down what they say! They may mention news, financial commentary and marketplace websites that are unfamiliar to you. They may read journals and blogs you’ve never discovered. They will also be impressed that you are curious enough to respect what they consider to be important. Also, to be brutal, if a candidate’s answer is weak, I’m not sure you have a winner in that candidate. Anyone who wants to succeed in insurance and financial services must be well-read. They must be engaged with markets, products and client needs.


4. Turn recruiting upside down. An independent insurance advisor who has recruited about a dozen rock-star young agents in the past two years tells me that during the first interview, which the candidate’s parents are invited to attend, he brings out a single piece of paper that is a capsule of a client opportunity. Here is how he describes it:

“The sheet is used for all candidates. Here is a couple 52 years of age with three children. They have $3 million in total assets, including their home, cash value of insurance, individual retirement accounts – everything. Their insurance is shown as $500,000, 20-year term on only the working husband. Their debt is about $120,000 on their home equity loan. Without making it complicated, I tell the candidate: ‘This is all we know. If this couple asked for advice and you were sitting with them at the kitchen table, where would you begin?’”

You might reply that you’re doing this already. If so, bravo! But if you are focused on education, grooming, the “fit” with your team and related issues at the first meeting, maybe this is an opportunity missed. What does your agency really want? I suspect you seek characteristics such as persistency, winning personality, curiosity, problem-solving ability and engagement.

Rather than showing job candidates incredibly boring videos about your company and your agency, followed by a visit to your trophy case, focus on them. Then consider explaining how a career with you can be financially rewarding. Emphasize how education, designations and degrees will enhance their ability to be successful. Explain the profound difference they can make when their clients achieve financial independence and security with life insurance, disability coverage and sound retirement planning. It sounds pretty basic, but somehow a few seem to mess it up.

We have all heard that millennials believe that “it’s all about them.” I’m not sure it’s true for all, but it certainly is true for many of them. So let’s turn to Machiavelli. He would argue that we should capitalize on this generational shift and allow the candidate to speak and solve problems. He would also say that we need to speak less, especially in the first phase of recruiting. Then we need to listen more attentively, to be astute and responsive but strong on observing the traits of a potential winner. 

So many agencies are on fire right now. They are growing with young talent – young men and women who are so bright, so driven to success and so educated. They are achieving sales targets at a pace far in excess of the generations before them. Find them and encourage them to be part of your interview process even though they may not be managing partners or directors. Showcase them as role models. 

If your recruiting model hasn’t changed, I’d ponder the wise words of that great Cuban philosopher, Ricky Ricardo: “Lucy, you got some ’splain’ to do.”


Larry Barton, Ph.D., CAP, is Chancellor of The American College. Larry may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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