How do you hire your brokers?

Do you still rely on ‘gut feel’ about a good salesperson, or are you turning to analytic assessment tools to measure whether or not a salesperson is a good fit for your organization?

Brokerages are increasingly assessing clients’ risk profiles through sophisticated computer modelling and statistical data analysis, but how many are taking the same analytical approach to hiring new brokers?

“We tend to make decisions in the first minute of interviewing someone and then we spent the next half hour justifying the decision we’ve already made,” said Lorie Phair of LePhair Associates Ltd., which provides training and consulting services to insurance companies and brokerages. “That’s because we are human beings. We like people who are like us.
“If you have a producer who’s a social guy, comfortable and he’s been successful, and he’s interviewing another sociable guy who’s been successful, and they’ve got some good vibes, the interviewer may say: ‘I like that guy, I need to find a way to bring him into the company.’
“An assessment tool brings a little more objectivity into the equation. It forces us to step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s understand this person. Let’s see what it will take to help them be successful in the role.’”
Assessment tools for hiring brokers are especially valuable in light of a recent study that indicates the urgency to recruit new brokers into the field -- and how these new prospects are currently found. (continued.)  


The Insurance Institute of Canada issued a report on demographic trends in the Canadian property and casualty industry earlier this year. It found that out of 18 listed occupations in the insurance industry in Canada, brokers had the third-highest “recruitment urgency score” (60) of all of them (46 was the industry average). 
Both in 2009 and 2012, the most important source of information regarding a respondent’s first job in the industry came from a family member or friend working in the industry. 
This can often lead to brokerages “taking a flier” on someone, only to find out that they may not be a good “fit” for the sales culture. Assessment tools can minimize the frequency of this happening.  
Large brokerages have been using statistical metrics for some time to assess potential recruits to the brokerage, but increasingly small brokerages have started to use analytical assessment tools as well.
“I am seeing more and more small brokerages do this,” Phair said. “The impact of a bad hire is probably greater for them. They are trying to become more sophisticated with their business operations. They are also trying to develop leadership within their companies, improve their performance overall.”
Assessment tools aim to match the right personality traits with the right role within an organization. They will measure candidates’ personality characteristics and compare them against benchmarks associated with a successful broker model.  Reports go to the hiring brokers, who will see how far or how close the candidates’ traits come to the model.
For example, in a test for behaviours, one might find a measure of a candidate’s ‘attitude.’ One end of a scale indicates a personality of someone who likes and trusts people, doesn’t want to upset people, and takes what they say at face value. The other end of the scale may represent someone who is relatively more skeptical, cautious and doesn’t take everything people say at face value.
Based on models of successful broker traits, brokerages likely want recruits to score higher on the people-pleasing side of the scale, for example. But in the role of an insurance adjuster, an insurance company may wish a higher score on the more cautious, skeptical end of the scale.
Of course, rating personalities objectively represents only part of the equation.
Assessments should represent only one-third of the hiring decision, said Phair. “Other factors can make a person a good or bad fit – if they have oodles of experience, for example, or if they have a proven track record,” she said. “If they have a particular niche that’s going to work for you, those are all factors that need to be weighted.”

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