Commentary By Dan Lewis, Head of Agency Recruiting and Development, Farmers Insurance

My days are all about candidates. Not just because my work is focused on recruiting (it is), but because the two decades I've spent in the business world have taught me that success comes down to two elements: How hard am I going to work? And how good are the people around me?

Your answers to these questions will likely do more to define your success than anything else. Why? Because you can control the outcome, and that's a vanishingly rare business advantage.

As the leader of agency owner recruiting and development at Farmers Insurance, it's my job to think about recruiting from a variety of angles and perspectives to help ensure that we're always refining how we find candidates that are not only good, but good for us. And I've come to realize that while needs vary wildly, good recruiting practices are universal.

Treat every hire like your first.

The first recruit for a fledgling business can be critical. It's the first time the vision for what the business will be passes from the owner to another person. And the cost of that growth is investing confidence in someone else to represent the brand, the vision and the mission to the rest of the world. The significance of that choice focuses our search and helps us pinpoint what we need in that first candidate. And because the stakes are high, we have the patience to wait for the right person.

Imagine approaching every hire like that first one. As businesses grow and time becomes more of a luxury for their owners, it can be tempting to hasten the process and let "good enough" win out over "right for us." That candidate who is just good enough isn't necessarily going to make or break your business, but if they wouldn't have passed muster as the first, they're likely not the best fit now either.

Tap the entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the traits I'm always on the lookout for is an entrepreneurial spirit. When I meet people who are driven and ambitious, even if they don't have experience expressly in the field for which I am recruiting, I take interest, because I know how far hard work goes in any industry.

If your goal is to support growth, especially in a small business, keep an eye out for candidates with an entrepreneurial spark -- even if they won't be working in sales, that drive can make them a powerful motivator for change and growth in your organization.

Anticipate change, act accordingly.

Recruiting is a challenge that's never solved. Whether through growth or turnover, your needs are going to change, and even with the best practices in place, you're occasionally going to have a mismatch between a new person and the organization.

Small business owners should consider recruiting two people, and expect to keep one. This is more practical than cynical. Strategic planning calls for having all of your bases covered, and that means considering the eventuality that a new addition might not work out. That's the root of this advice, but here's the kicker: If both stay, your business will be better prepared to grow into the need for both of them.

Do your research.

People tend to be surprised when I tell them how integral I believe research is to recruiting. And I'm not talking about doing a deep dive on a search engine for each of your prospects. I find research more valuable in terms of tracking down new resources that can lead us to great candidates, and can tell us more about our historical successes and failures.

Dig into your results. If you're finding great people, but losing them to other organizations, revisit your strategy. If you're having trouble finding prospects, focus on building referral networks. Let the data tell you how you can improve.

Recruiting doesn't have to be a hassle or a hurdle. My hope is that with a bit of context and practice, you'll come to see every opening as an opportunity to grow stronger, smarter and more sophisticated.

Published on: Nov 20, 2018
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