Success in Your Insurance Agency: Hiring the Best People requires patience and a process. Jenesis Software has a unique plan that has worked.Hiring the best people is the goal in any business. We cannot always prevent a bad hire, but we can take steps to minimize it.  I am not perfect at hiring and have had my share of success stories and lessons learned.  I want to share with you what we do at Jenesis Software and in our insurance agency, Carolina Insurance, for most positions.  We have had great success with this plan and hope it can help your agency in hiring.

Round 1:  Anticipation

We try very hard to anticipate the need to hire rather than hiring after the need arrives.  This makes for a much happier new employee and a much happier staff.  Ideally, when we think we are around 3 months from needing a new person, we start looking.  If we are replacing, that’s a bit more stressful, but it doesn’t mean we sacrifice.  We still follow the process.

Round 2:  The Looking Process

Hiring in a small town presents challenges with getting the word out.  Our company and agency have had our greatest success advertising on for insurance agents, which is free.  We have also had success by posting on Facebook and encouraging our current employees to share to their pages.  While we have advertised on Craigslist, LinkedIn and our local newpaper, candidates contacting us have been only a few. There is also the option of advertising with colleges in your area, which is normally free advertising.

Also, I have experimented with the short summary ad with limited information vs a nicely detailed description of the job, our company and team environment, hours, and requirements.  The detailed description wins over the short one hands down for gaining attention. Tell them who you are and include your website. Don’t be afraid of the walk-ins or calls.  You may find the right person in those people.

Round 3:  Prescreening

I have a lot of experience reviewing resumes, so this is second nature.  I do second guess myself at times.  While I believe gut feel is best, if I have one that could be on the fence, I will include it in the next step.  I look for the typical info – education, skills, prior job history, and time in each position.

What will get a resume tossed, other than lack of qualifications? Resumes that have misspellings, have poor grammar, are poorly written, or people who attach a resume to an email with nothing in the body of the email.  I don’t require a cover letter, but do appreciate a short email introduction. This is important to me, because our insurance agents will be writing to companies and customers, and if they are sloppy when applying for a job, they are not going to get neater and more organized after they are hired.

I also research Google about individuals.  We do consider what’s available on the internet as a part of our hiring process.  On to Round 4.

Round 4:  Set up a Phone Call

I start to get excited about Round 4.  I send an email to those who make it through prescreening to set up a time to speak with them for around 15 minutes.  In the email, I tell them I would like to speak with them more about the position, suggest and date and time, and let them know it will take around 15 minutes.  I ask them to respond back with the best number to reach them and if the proposed time and date do not work, I ask them to propose one.  Normally this is a very easy process.  BTW, if they didn’t write their resume or cover letter, you will know it during this process.  I never eliminate anyone just yet, but I am evaluating.

Round 5: The Call

And the day(s) arrive to make calls!  Most importantly, I am punctual and call exactly when I say I will call. Let’s remember that they are evaluating me by now, as much as I am evaluating them.  If they do not answer, it’s not the end of the world. But, I still have to document.  For those I reach, I find out what about the position perked their interest, what they are doing now, what their ideal work schedule would be and to tell me about themselves.  I discuss with them a bit more about the job, our team, and let them know then that becoming an insurance agent requires a criminal background check, in addition to obtaining an insurance license.  I ask if any questions for me, then discuss the next steps.  At that time, I either make a decision to bring them in for an interview and schedule it right then OR let them know I will be back in touch.  If I enjoyed the call, the person was personable, friendly and I can see myself speaking with them about my insurance policy (I put myself in the customer’s position), I bring them in.  How they respond to me on the phone is a big part of deciding whether or not they move to the next round.

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

This is a phrase that we believe throughout the interview process.  It starts with the call, and continues throughout each Round.

Round 6: Interview Day

We have historically had a different way of interviewing at Jenesis and in our insurance agency.  When I schedule the interview, I let them know that it will last around two hours and each member of our staff will speak with them.  It’s a get-to-know you meeting.  No management, after all, our team will be working with the new person day to day.  The idea of team is important to us. Each member of our staff meets with the applicant for around 30 minutes.  I tell the applicant this is their time to also ask about the good, the bad and the ugly.  What’s it like to work with us?  What’s management like?  Our team is transparent, so there is nothing off limits, except salary.  Each team member reports back in writing about how their meeting went with each applicant.

Round 7: Meet the Management Team

For those who mesh with our team, we bring them back in for around 45 minutes with the management team.  We ask some standard questions, but mostly this is to gauge their fit with our team.  Attitude and aptitude are a big part of this meeting, rather than experience.  Sure, experience combined with their fit is important for a tie breaker, but how well we believe they can work with our team is most important.  Tasks can be taught.  Attitude cannot.

“Hire for Attitude. Train for Skill.”

This is another rule we believe in throughout the hiring process.  Very important.

Round 8: Behavioral Assessment

For those candidates that have made it to round 8, we firmly believe in a Behavioral Assessment. We utilize Carolina Business Coach, specifically our Business Coach, Harvey Smith, to assist with the assessment.  There is a cost associated with this, and we have found it to be well worth the investment.  It tells us about their communication style and how well they may work with our team.  In addition, we do a background check.  While there are many services, we use ADP for our background checks.  Lessons learned from prior experience tell us that both are worthwhile investments.  If both pass, we move on to the next round.

Round 9:  Hiring the best person

This is where everything comes together.  Candidate expectations, meetings with our team, meetings with management, the Behavioral Assessment telling us how they communicate with others, email communication, phone communication all come into play.  Management makes the ultimate call.

If we are ready, we offer the position.  If we do not find a qualified candidate, we go back to the drawing board.  It’s not easy to hire right, but we believe the investment is worth it and we have an excellent team as a result.

Having 25 years of experience in supervision and management, which almost always has included hiring, I only wish there was an absolute secret to hiring the greatest and most talented people.  Here’s what I do know.  It’s easier to hire the best from within the organization.  It’s also easier to hire people you know or people referred to you by someone you trust.  The challenge is when you are faced with advertising a position and hiring from a pool of individuals that you know nothing about.  Trusting your instinct includes having a process.  Both are important.