It’s easy to hire good people – if your look and listen are right.
Today’s average agent is well over 45 years old. We have been discussing the need to introduce a new generation of agents into the industry for some time. Independent agency owners are often prevented from creating their own retirement plans. TIME seems to be the #1 obstacle. Agency owners are too busy growing and maintaining their business, and don’t have time or skills to train new producers. Unpreparedness to plan and not knowing how to are close behind. It’s often when it’s too late that agency owners realize they need a plan and are forced to sell to large conglomerates that their retirement plans fail.
We don’t think about or prepare for interviews until we meet the applicant. These tips will help to make sure you are more aware of whether the applicant is capable of producing a great product.
Here are some steps to help you find the right fit for your company.
#1. Instead of running an advertisement in the newspaper, ask for recommendations. Bring a list of three names from your office that you trust to the next week’s meeting. This is a great idea. You can announce it at the next Rotary, Lions or community leaders group meeting or ask your closest insured relationships. Be clear about what qualities you seek in a person. For their recommendation, offer cash or other incentives. After 30 days, $100, and after 90 days, $250, or something similar. Another option is to e-mail your local trade organizations with a 1-page document asking for referrals. Include your offer for (a), a financial incentive (b), the qualities you are looking to acquire, and (c), the requirements for the job. You can post this in your home or to the membership directory. The same incentive can be offered financially or you could offer to host/cater the next employee of your referring company. You can thank your employees by hosting an event that includes a raffle, door prizes and agency materials. This is a creative way to market your agency.
#2. CHARACTER COUNTS. Your agency values should be your first step. List the qualities that you value in people and what they are like. What type of organization do you envision your mission statement (or vision statement) to be? Also, be clear about who you are and what your goals are. This topic can be discussed in staff meetings. Talk about what kind of person you would like to see on your team. You might also consider other local sales organizations to broaden your focus.
#3. TEST THEIR ABILITY BEFORE THE INTERVIEW. It is a trait that makes performers successful. They keep their word and follow up. Check to see if the potential producer is able to show up on schedule. You can learn from past habits if they are indicative of future red flags. It is important to be aware of broken promises so you don’t get into big problems later. Take this example:
Give a time frame for e-mailing and faxing resumes. Get agreement from the applicant to contact you at a certain time and day. [John, will you please call me at exactly 3 00 p.m. on Wednesday the 20th? What makes you believe they will keep the agreement with potential customers if they don’t?
Before the interview, have them submit a piece of work. Create open ended questions. Ask questions that you might be interested in learning more about during the interview. One example question might be “What are your income goals for the next five years?” Or, “How do you believe being in the insurance business will help you reach your financial and personal goals?” Or “What kind of opinions do you have about the insurance industry and insurance agents?” Are they able to do the job they promised before the interview began? This may not be a great fit for your team.
#4. INTERVIEW well. Ask the applicant questions about their work ethics, problem solving skills, and other aspects of life in the insurance industry. This will help you to judge this person. Ask your applicants to fill out a value-based questionnaire that includes essay sections. One example question might be: “One of our biggest challenges in the industry agency is taking out the commodity from insurance – it’s not all about the price.” What approach would you take to provide more value to our customers and prospects in their insurance purchasing decision? Another example question is “You are overwhelmed with paperwork, insurance education classes and new training. You also have to make commitments. However, you are being told to get along well with the service team. You don’t have clients yet, so they are there to assist you. Your family and the agency’s revenue are your responsibility. How can you balance the demands of your new job with being a “team player” at the same time?
Also, ask your top staff to interview the applicant. They [or you] would buy insurance from the person across from them. Listen to your gut (and the staff). A person who is willing, energetic, and teachable will give you more than someone with a resume or polished speech.
#5. #5. Find tools that can help. There are many testing tools available, but there are only a few that are most well-known. To screen applicants, create your own questionnaire before you invest in the more expensive ones.
#5. #5. A “buddy” should be assigned to the new hire. This should be based on their personality and aptitude, not years of experience. Your most skilled staff may not be the best teachers. Your new hire should meet with your staff to learn about technology, input, and communication. Next, create a list with questions for insurance companies. Have them call each company to learn about the state and expectations. Discuss the importance of good business writing and what it means to be “good business”. Give examples. A flow chart that shows how insurance works from the insured’s request to the agency quoting process, and expectations for carriers can be created. The quoting process can be explained using either formal submissions or automation. Discuss what to include in a carrier’s cover letter and letters of engagement to potential clients.
Hire seasoned producers to ride-along. Ask your new hires to list the things they are interested in, any judgments they might be making, and their personal concerns. If the agency principal is unable or unwilling to train, designate a producer or manager. Weekly activity and progress tracking. Ask questions without interrogation. Ask how things are going. What is working and what isn’t every 30 days. Make a specific time and date for any changes. Discuss the challenges, training ideas, improvements, and suggestions that the new hire has for your agency. You may discover some great ideas and helpful feedback.