As your company grows, one of the most difficult things to do is to build up your team. We’ve all heard how hard it is to find good help, but in our industry, that takes on a whole new meaning.
Working in the mortgage space, on any level, can be a unique job, to say the least. It can be a very stressful environment, for a number of reasons, whether you’re a loan originator, an assistant, underwriter, processor, account executive, whatever. As a result, the mortgage industry brings a unique set of challenges when it comes to your company’s culture and how to grow and add employees without disrupting that. Hiring someone who even minimally derails your company culture, to any degree, will not only do harm to the position you need filled, but it will harm the productivity of every other employee and have significant impact on your company as a whole. The effort and energy you might waste hiring and training someone, only to find they are not a good fit for your company’s culture, and then have to do it all again with someone else, is only one example of the time and money lost because you didn’t put your company’s culture above all else when adding a new employee.
One of the very first things to do when you want to add to your team, whether it be an assistant, a processor, someone in marketing, another loan originator, etc. is to discuss it with the team you already have in place. Make sure they know the intent, why more help is needed and what the impact or result would be for them. You need to address if someone is being replaced, if their tasks are being cut, are they being promoted, etc. That kind of transparency will not only help to reinforce your existing culture, but it will make them accomplices in solving the problem. They will know people who could be qualified to work at your company and fit into your culture. These could individuals they already spend time with and can already tolerate for dozens of hours every week … and they will help you find these people. They want to be working with, and spending that kind of time with people they already know and like.
That makes the people on your team today some of your best recruiters for finding more employees in the future. They will go out to their neighborhood groups, their PTA groups, their social media communities and help you find more help. They also become excellent gatekeepers in that sense, and will do everything in their power to make sure that you never make the mistake of interviewing, and possibly hiring, someone who would disrupt your current company culture. Your existing employees want your office culture to remain intact, or get even better, just as you do.
So, when it comes to matching candidates that your existing team already sniffed out to fit in with your current culture, always start with a personality profile. There are plenty of them online, for free, and can be done by the candidates in a very short time. They will all do it if they are serious about wanting to work at your company.
Yes, you should look at resumes to see if a candidate has the essential skills, like being able to work a computer, but nearly every candidate should and will these days. Most of what goes on in your company, barring stellar sales skills, can likely be taught. You probably already have manuals, handbooks, flow charts or diagrams of the workload and job tasks, so this isn’t the thing to focus on. You can teach someone how to be a loan officer assistant or how to process and underwrite loans. You cannot teach them a better personality. If their personality sucks, it will always suck. A personality profile will not only ensure that they could fit into your company culture nicely, but it will also help ensure that you never have employees with identical or near identical personalities in your company or in the same department. This will help you eventually assign tasks and duties that suit those employees’ personalities best, and it will also help prevent having two people with identical personalities butting heads for one reason or another on a regular basis.
Extend that culture-centric process to your interview process, as well. Don’t do traditional interviews where someone sits across your desk, you proceed to ask boring questions about where they see themselves in five years, and they respond with even more boring, semi-canned responses that they learned to sculpt in every other boring job interview they ever had. We’ve all been through and seen that process and not only is it boring and unproductive, but it doesn’t reveal anything about whether or not someone would fit into your company’s culture. Try having a lunch meeting with your existing employees, or even just those who would work closest with your candidate, and the candidate and just have a casual conversation. Talk about things that don’t have anything to do with the job or your company. Talk about things outside the office like spouses and kids or sports and vacations. This will help reveal things about them that will help you determine if they really would fit into the culture, and if your existing employees would want to spend that kind of time with this person. Your office culture is likely very familial and this is a person you are considering adding to that family.
They say you don’t get to choose your relatives but you do get to choose these people and that’s a good thing since you probably spend more conscious time with them than your family, anyway.
Make sure your candidate also really knows what they are getting themselves into if they accept a job with your company. What they need to know about the other employees, the work, the environment and the overall culture are all important. Do you have a dress code? Is your office pet friendly? What does their future work space look like? What kind of hours or schedule will be expected? Make sure they know everything and go in with their eyes open, so that there are no surprises, and you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting and keeping happy employees that fit into your company’s culture.
All told, I believe the company culture to be one of the most important things in a work environment. The mortgage industry lends plenty of its own stressors in the day to day, so I want to do what I can to minimize stress and drama in every other aspect for everyone on my team. My mortgage company has no set schedule for employees. Just get your work done. We have no dress code. We only ask that you do wear clothes. It is a pet friendly environment and you’re going to find at least a dog or two any time you’re in our office. Our waiting area is more like your living room than an office lobby and we congregate there often. Our company culture is designed and reinforced with the idea that people should want to come to work every day, want to be around the other employees and will therefore be more productive and more fun to be around. And it works.
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.