DALLAS — What does it take to hire truly great staff for your firm, and how many steps are involved? Speaking here at the 6th Annual Employee Benefit Adviser Summit, EBA Contributor Jack Kwicien, a managing partner of Daymark Advisors, provided some tips for hiring truly expectational talent.

He says that if your organization is in a sales slump, it might be that, “you have the wrong people in the seats.” Recruiting the right people, he adds, is part of the sales activity, as you are selling candidates on an opportunity. So, “there’s an art to this.”

To begin, Kwicien suggests you look for candidates with a pattern of success in school and athletics. Athletics is a particularly key indicator as it shows a candidate likes to win. Other indicators to look for are:

* Experience in prior sales. It doesn’t need to be benefits specific, but it should be in selling intangibles.

* Networking skills. Can they work a room? “If it’s not somebody you want to have cocktails with, then why did you hire them,” Kwicien says.

* Technical proficiency

* Public speaking skills. As revenues change, you will want bigger clients  who are more sophisticated, and your staff needs to be, too.

But where should you turn to find them? Kwicien says it important to look for candidates who are not actively looking for a job. If they have a resume on Monster.com, it likely means they aren’t happy where they are, and “what makes you think they will be happy where you are?”

Instead, Kwicien suggests looking at industry vendors and competitors who might not be hiring, current account management personnel and trusted business advisers, such as bankers and CPAs, who have a “vested interest in your business being successful.”

Revealing interviews

During the interview process, it is important not to ask hypothetical questions, he says, as anyone can accomplish something hypothetically. He also suggests that recruits go through a pre-hire project in which they prospect with 25 employers. “If somebody balks at this, not your [next hire],” he says. “If they aren’t going to prospect before you hire them, [they are] not going to do it day after.”

Verification of what job candidates say is also very important, Kwicien says, as people often inflate success, especially on interviews. He suggest you ask to see their tax forms and 1099s. He further suggests a home visit interview, to “figure out what’s going on at home before they get on the payroll.”

He acknowledges that all of these steps do take time, money and effort, so the weak candidates must be eliminated early. “This is process, that’s why you need to eliminate the weak ones at the beginning,” he concludes.

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