How to Hire and Retain Good Loan Officers

How much is a good loan officer worth? How much does a bad loan officer cost you? When you think of “how much” with each question, don’t just think in financial terms. Money is a big concern, but it’s important that you consider time, energy, stress and “fit” as well. How much time are you spending with high-maintenance loan officers? How much energy are they costing you? How much stress? Do they “fit” within the culture of your company? Are they aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish? If you don’t put some thought and work into these questions, you’ll find the path to mortgage success very bumpy indeed.

Recruiting, hiring and retaining talented people is a difficult job. The first step toward success is to understand the nuances between recruiting and hiring. Recruiting to seek out talented players who will support your business’s outcomes, getting them onboard, and aligning their personal outcomes with those of the company is the trick. You may have someone in your company who is excellent at recruiting yet falls short in the hiring process. In the restaurant business they have a saying, “Get ’em in…get ’em out… get ’em back!” We certainly don’t want to take that approach in the mortgage business. We could say, “Get ’em in… get ’em going… keep ’em!”

If you invest and commit to a recruiting effort, you must also invest and commit to the implementation of the hiring effort as well. I have seen many mortgage companies make great decisions, while falling short on the implementation process. This has a tendency to remove most of the value of a great decision. While managing, mentoring and keeping talented mortgage originators are important to success, the purpose of this article is to “Get ’em and get ’em going.”

Have you ever wondered why some managers always seem to attract talent? Some managers seem to attract top achievers like a magnet. When you look at the manager and the leadership, isn’t it sometimes difficult to see at first glance what makes the difference? If you look at the internal makings of a great leader, you will find that they are effective communicators, have an incredible work ethic and are masters of managing themselves. In addition to that, they are skilled at connecting the dots of any plan; the dots of getting from point A to point B. These traits must exist in order for any manager or company to recruit and retain top people.

I recently had a mortgage-banking president ask me how to recruit because his company was having a problem landing good people. After I asked a few questions, I immediately saw the problem. I told him that the first step toward expanding his organization was to commit to and invest resources into its growth. A decision and a commitment both in time and money must be invested to get the kind of players who can do the job. You can’t expect to attract top producers to your organizations if you’re not deliberately and diligently seeking them out and tracking your results. Define what you’re looking for and go after it, then track and measure the results you’re getting. The following steps will guide you through an effective and proven recruiting strategy.

1. Profile your ideal candidate. Write a job description. What are you looking for? What type of loan originator? What volume level do you want person to achieve? The more details you have about what you are looking for, the more accurate your end result will be.

2. Develop a hiring plan. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can develop a plan to achieve your desired outcome. This plan must include a timetable for your outcome, the personnel involved in this recruiting process, an all other aspects regarding territory, type of originator, and so on. My recommendation is to have three different recruiting plans. Plan one is for recruiting new loan originators. These would include, but not be limited to, college graduates, UPS drivers, sales route drivers, real estate agents, title company reps, medicals sales reps, insurance sales reps, or anyone else you would approve to train. Second, is a plan to recruit mid-range originators. These include all mortgage originators with some experience and background in mortgage lending, i.e., hard money background, minimal mortgage background, minimum productions background, and other such areas. Plan three would include medium to top mortgage originators who are currently active in the marketplace. These are the players who have existing production and can hit the ground running when they transfer to you company. It’s important that you have completely developed systems for all three plans to ensure the successful integrations of the new hire with your company.

3. Develop a source list. Sourcing is a process of identifying as many probable targets from which you can draw candidates. To make good decisions on hiring the right people, it’s critical to have several sources to contact for leads. To get the type of candidates that you’re looking for, you need as many leads as you can get.

4. Work your leads. Maybe a better way to say it would be “networking your leads.” By networking both your sources and candidate leads, you give yourself a solid foundation of planting the kind of seeds that will reap a great harvest. You’ve got to be out in the marketplace talking to Realtors, builders, and other in order to originate mortgage loans.

5. Interviewing the candidate. Up to this point, all of our efforts have been toward recruiting. The “hiring” aspect comes into play at this stage. While we are still recruiting and selling our value, we are now focusing on making sure that this candidate will benefit our particular team. In addition to that, keep in mind that the candidate is interviewing you as well. It’s important here to establish a rapport by making the candidate feel comfortable. Ask a lot of questions and then listen, listen, listen. You will also want to have the candidate interviewed by other company staff. It’s wise to put a candidate through this because it will give you a more detailed and accurate profile of the candidate.

6. Checking and confirming references. Here is where we want to conduct an investigation to find out the good, the bad and the ugly. Even if you’ve taken the candidate through four different interviews with four different people, it’s important to check references and confirm information.

7. Extending an offer. This is where some negotiating talent never hurts. The toughest types of questions usually revolve around money. Before you make a firm job offer, you should know clearly and specifically what expectations the candidate has about the compensation plan. It’s important to discuss the candidate’s past and current compensation plans and how they want to improve them.

8. Setting the stage for your new hire’s success. Now that you have successfully recruited your top choice candidate, you need to conclude the process by completing the administrative details. You owe it to your newly hired superstar to have all of the paperwork to get him/her started correctly and promptly. Let me emphasize the importance of taking care of people every step of the way. One of the reasons I’ve been so successful in recruiting is by simply practicing “the golden rule.” Respect everyone and treat them the way you want to be treated and it works. I also hold another cardinal rule: If I receive a phone call or receive a resume in the mail, at that point I am doing business with that person and I treat them accordingly. Remember, people always appreciate communication. They will remember and appreciate you for being honest and considerate with this process. This will create a tremendous long-term benefit for you and your company. This takes the old saying, “never burn bridges” to a new level. This new level might read, “Always build bridges.”

Now that you have closed out the process of recruiting and getting the candidate on board, it’s time to really show them that we both made the right decision. You can do this by celebrating their arrival. Make sure that they have a proper place to work with a phone, pager, business cards and office equipment. It’s critical that you set some time aside on their first day to introduce them to the office personnel, show them around, show them how to work the office equipment, and make sure that they get settled as soon as possible. The quicker they get settled and aligned with you and your company, the quicker the loan productions starts rolling in.

By following these eight steps consistently, you will be able to expand your mortgage business in a deliberate and controlled manner. The key word here is consistency. Consistency rules; never stop recruiting. The successful managers at the top are always looking for talent. Make recruiting an ongoing part of your business. Once you master the art of recruiting, you’ll be rewarded accordingly.

Recruiting and hiring talent, managing and motivating talent and getting ordinary people to do extraordinary things are all critical to a manager’s success. If you want great sales people, be a great manager.