Looking to Hire a Top-Tier Producer? Think Outside the Box - and the Industry

Looking to Hire a Top-Tier Producer?
Think Outside the Box - and the Industry


Featured: The Standard
By: Deborah Dukeshire

When agency principals were asked by MarshBerry to name the top challenges regarding commission growth in their agencies today, nonperforming producers and lack of new business generation topped the list. Knowing how to look for strong producers is a crucial step in the hiring process, according to Curt Vondrasek, PRC, CDR, senior vice president of the managing consulting group, MarshBerry. The key is to have a plan, target nontraditional candidates and be open to looking outside of the insurance industry.

13 Tips on How Agency Principals Can Think Differently about Talent

1. Avoid the shiny object.

Don’t automatically look for tall, good looking athletic types who like to golf. Some people interview really well but don’t turn out to be great producers.

2. Interview someone trying to sell you something.

Many people receive multiple calls from various salespeople every day. Instead of hanging up, when someone calls you with a sales pitch, take five minutes to interview them. “Say, thanks for calling me. I’d really like to ask you a bit about your background.” Interview them for five minutes. If they are good, set up a formal interview with them. “You have sales candidates calling you. Why not invest five minutes of your time to see if they are any good?”

3. Always be looking for candidates. Recruit throughout the year.

Don’t wait for a job opening to begin looking. Like sales, you have to be recruiting all the time. Make a list of two dozen people in the area that you may or may not know, for example. Call them, introduce yourself, tell them you have heard good things about them and ask to have coffee with them. Make it clear that it is not an interview, it is a get-to-know-you meeting. If you do this twice a month, you will meet with 24 people a year who are potential candidates. In addition, you should ask them for referrals of other people who may be interested. When you build a pipeline of producer candidates, it will be easier to hire someone when you need one.

4. Change the job description.

Instead of advertising a standard job description, define the expectations for success. In the ad, define what success looks like at your agency versus what experience is needed. For example, the ad might read: We’re looking for someone to complete an onboarding and training program in 90 days, build and get approval of your business plan in the first 30 days, obtain insurance licenses in the first 60 days, set up and go on 60 new appointments, sign up 10 new accounts, generate at least $50,000 in revenue, renew at least 90% of your accounts in year two, etc. “You may receive less applicants, but they would probably be better ones. Just because you hear from a lot of applicants doesn’t mean they’re good. Consider creating two job ads to see which one gets better applicants,” said Vondrasek

5. Create an interview process.

Everyone on the interview team needs a role and a purpose. Prepare for the interview rather than pulling employees out of their offices at the last minute. The interview process should be consistent so every employee involved understands their role.

6. Develop a candidate evaluation scorecard.

Create a scorecard for everyone involved in the interview to compare notes. Sample questions could include: Was the candidate prepared for the interview? Does their experience with new business development appear to match what’s needed? Then you can all talk about that when the interview is over. “It is about getting everybody aligned in the interview process.”

7. Ask better interview questions.

Interviewers tend to talk too much and not ask enough good questions during interviews. Ask questions that are thought provoking rather than those that require a simple yes or no answer.

8. Call other references.

Know what references you want to call, then ask the candidate for their contact information. See what connections you have in common on LinkedIn and call them. Call their former boss, coworker or people you have in common. A candidate’s references will only say nice things about them, which won’t be very revealing.

9. Experience a real-life scenario.

Set up a phone interview. When the candidate calls, don’t answer. Let the phone go to voicemail to hear what he or she sounds like. Then call back. Explain that you missed the call on purpose. See how they react — some people laugh, while others are offended.

10 . Put the candidate on the spot.

Prospects put producers on the spot every day, so when an interviewee arrives at the office, ask the receptionist to keep them there for about 10 minutes. Have them wait in the reception area, then take them on a tour of the agency to see how they interact with employees.

11. Assign homework.

Give interviewees a task, such as asking them to research a certain topic, read a book about sales or draft a business plan for your agency. It doesn’t have to be highly detailed but ask them to tell you who they would call on and why. “Before you hire them, don’t you want to see their thoughts?”

12. See proof the candidate can actually sell.

If it is the final interview, listen to the candidate sell. Move them into a different office, have them call pretending to be a prospect and ask them to give a sales pitch to you. Listen to them try to sell you something to evaluate how they do.

13. Money ball versus eye ball.

This refers to the movie “Money Ball” when the Oakland Athletics baseball team started using data and analytics to make more informed decisions. Use personality assessments to help take emotion out of a decision and make a “money ball decision” along with the other information you have already gathered about the candidate.


Reprinted with permission from The Standard, Copyright 2018, Standard Publishing Corporation, Boston, MA. All rights reserved.

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