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Assessing Soft Skills

Assessing Soft Skills

As we discussed last week, soft skills are crucial when finding the best candidate for your insurance business. Ninety-two percent of talent professionals believe soft skills are just as important if not more than the technical skills needed for the job. At The James Allen Companies, we believe both are essential, but soft skills can mean the difference between a good hire and a bad one. In fact, one study found 89 percent of bad hires lack the necessary soft skills needed to succeed in their place of work.

Considering how essential soft skills are to choosing the right candidate, it might surprise you that only 41 percent of businesses have a formal process to evaluate those skills. It’s time to start a soft skills evaluation process that can result in more successful hires.

Determine what skills are needed: Decide and list the skills needed for the position you’re hiring for and the company culture. Do you have a collaborative culture or do people work on their own? Does this position require persuasion to sell a product? Identifying what skills are needed for the job will help you come up with the process of evaluation.

Engage with your candidate. Interviewing a candidate is a great way to get to know a person on a professional level, but if a candidate is going to be working with you, you need to know them personally too. Don’t just interview with them, interact with them. Set up a meeting in an informal setting. This is a much better way to pick up on those key social skills you need at your company.

Standardize your interviews. The questions you ask one candidate should be the same ones you ask every other candidate. When selecting questions to ask candidates, choose behavioral questions that ask the candidate to draw on their past experiences and situational questions to gauge how they might react in situations they may encounter on the job.

Challenge them. This is similar to situational questions except you’re actually watching them in action. Give them a task such as planning a campaign or selling a product. Watch them perform the task and let them walk you through their process. This is a great opportunity for you to observe their soft skills in action.

Consider tech-based analysis methods. There are a lot of online services that can help you systematically evaluate a candidate’s soft-skills. These are great for eliminating bias in the process but can add time to the candidate’s application process which can be a turnoff to some candidates.

Evaluating soft skills is a difficult task, but is incredibly important for the hiring process. If a candidate lacks the skills your business needs, they can have a negative impact on your business. Recruiters at The James Allen Companies identify candidates that have the necessary communication, persuasion and other soft skills your company needs. We find candidates that are already successful and can transfer their skills to your business for continued success. Give us a call today to see how we can help your company identify the candidates with the skills you need to help your business prosper.

The Value of Soft Skills

The Value of Soft Skills

A successful insurance business needs a diverse group of people with diverse skills and talents. “Hard skills” are easily measured with proven success and practice, but many skills that make an active and successful team member are not so easy to define. Communication and critical thinking are increasingly important as more and more positions are automated—these skills can set a candidate apart and make them more successful as your employee.

Importance of Soft Skills

Soft skills are the interpersonal attitudes that define an individual’s character in a workplace environment and can help determine how a candidate might fit in with a company’s culture. In a Global Talent Trends survey conducted by LinkedIn, 91 percent of talent professionals said they believe soft skills are important to the future of recruiting. The decision of hiring a candidate or firing an employee can ride on that individual’s ability to leverage soft skills. Additionally, 92 percent of talent professionals believe soft skills are just as important as hard skills, and it was found that up to 89 percent say poor hires often lack soft skills.

Essential Soft Skills

Some soft skills are more desired than others and finding candidates with those skills is like finding a piece of hay in a stack of needles. With so many people focusing on how to develop their hard skills, the development and refinement of soft skills can go by the wayside. Some soft skills are even harder to find and understand than others. LinkedIn identified the following skills as the most in-demand relative to their supply:

Creativity is not limited to the artists and musicians of the world. Creativity is a highly desired skill because it can never be automated, and it allows people to solve problems with relevance and novelty. Without creativity, there is no innovation, and to succeed today, you need to be more innovative than the competition.

Persuasion is less about manipulating others, and more about defending ideas and explaining why they matter. This a skill needed for sales, but also in management. By being able to communicate the benefits of an idea with genuine reasons and thought, a successful leader can influence decisions to push innovation forward.

Collaboration proves a person’s ability to work on a team. How that person communicates with others, how they trust and whether they tolerate new ideas and compromise with others can indicate how much of a team player the individual is. Collaboration is key to a successful team dynamic and one weak link can throw off the entire team.

Adaptability can go hand-in-hand with collaboration. An individual needs to be flexible and OK with change. They need to be prepared for new people to join the team, receptive to criticism and innovation and stay calm even in stressful situations.

Time Management can mean the difference between managing a workload or drowning in it. Being able to prioritize tasks can result in increased productivity and faster decision making.

A candidate’s soft skills are crucial to their possible success at your organization. The James Allen Companies’ recruiters understand the value of soft skills. With our nearly 30 years of insurance industry recruiting and over 40 years combined overall staffing experience, we are the experts at placing candidates who are able to communicate, think on their feet and influence change. The James Allen Companies is the answer to recruiting the candidates with all of the skills required to help your insurance organization advance. Contact us today to see how our insurance industry-expert recruiters can help your business with your next hiring project.

What Makes a Successful Leader?

What Makes a Successful Leader?

In the hyper-competitive insurance industry, to be on top, you must have a sharp team running your organization and you must have strong leaders guiding them to success. Without the right leadership, your company may suffer from increased turnover and lower profit. Luckily, there are a few qualities of successful leaders that you can identify during the hiring process to help determine the good from the bad.

The Costs of a Bad Leader

Just one poor leader can cost your insurance company more than $125,000 per year; a poor leadership team can result in millions of dollars lost. Poor leadership structure can create a 5 to 10 percent productivity drag, which can be detrimental to the culture of the business, resulting in a lack of vision or strategy, a culture of mediocrity and low employee morale. Dismal managers are not motivators, and that won’t work for your bottom line. In fact, a lack of good leadership can cost your company about seven percent of your annual sales, can decrease customer satisfaction and can cause up to 32 percent of your organization’s turnover.

What Makes a Good Leader

It can be difficult to identify a good leader because leadership styles are as unique as the individuals doing the leading. However, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, good leaders can be defined by a few key characteristics: honesty, the ability to delegate, commitment, confidence, creativity and intuition. Successful leaders also possess key traits such as the ability to self-manage, effective communication, being accountable, a passion for fostering innovation and agile learning abilities that allow them to manage a team fairly and efficiently while maintaining, even improving, company culture.

Leaders have a habit of staying curious, meaning they allow curiosity in their employees. They prioritize wellness and have the ability to listen and ask questions when necessary, valuing the health and well-being of the people they work with.

With nearly two decades in identifying and placing leaders in the insurance industry, the recruiters at The James Allen Companies recognize the qualities of successful leaders. If your company is in need of leadership, we can connect you to the candidates that will get the job done. Our access to passive talent who have proven their success gives your organization the foundation for continued growth.

To find out how we can help your business grow, give The James Allen Companies a call today.

How to Create a Top-Rate Salary Range

How to Create a Top-Rate Salary Range

Money can’t buy you love. We believe that to be true, but we also know when it comes to finding candidates to fit into your business, money might be able to get you the best candidates. When it comes to accepting a position at a new company, 43.2 percent of candidates will be convinced to leave their current company for another if it offers them a better salary. If you aren’t offering the right salary to passive candidates, you might lose them. Here are some quick tips to help you determine a proper salary range for open positions at your company.

Determine the Market Rate

When hiring new employees, you need to sell the candidate on your company. You can’t do that when your company is hiring for lower pay than the company they already work for.

To avoid this, it’s important to find out what other companies will pay for the same candidate for the same position or find out what the candidate is currently making. Audit other companies to find out what other benefits they might offer and what the similar position’s duties are. Also, find out where the position ranks in that company compared to where it ranks in yours.

Analyze the Position

Once you’ve completed an audit of similar companies, ask yourself a few questions about the position you’re hiring for. How does this position add value to your company? What are the requirements you’re looking for? What would you expect to be paid for this position?

Look at the requirements and daily assignments and how this employee interacts with the rest of the team. You need to make sure you can fairly determine a compensation plan that is fair to the position. Make it flexible so you can fit it to match the candidates you might hire.

Don’t Forget the Most Important Factor

You’re not just hiring an employee, you’re hiring a person. You have to focus on the technical skills, practical knowledge, experience and personality. You have to determine the value of the individual you’re interested in hiring. Don’t go in hoping to hire at the lower end of the salary range you’ve established. Go in hoping to hire the best candidate that can help your business grow.

At The James Allen Companies, we know that hiring is an important aspect of your job. To help your company grow, you need the best candidates and we can help you find them. By ensuring your offered salary ranges and compensation plans are fair, you can be sure to find the best candidates in the business.

Hiring in 2019: The Struggles and the Solutions

Hiring in 2019: The Struggles and the Solutions

Last week, the Great Insurance Jobs’ 2019 Insurance Industry Employment and Job Outlook report was released, giving us insight into the future of hiring in 2019—and it’s set to be an interesting year. A record-breaking 2.7 million people work in the insurance industry right now and the unemployment rate for the industry is only 2 percent; however, Great Insurance Jobs estimates 400,000 jobs will need to be filled by 2020 due to the high number of people retiring this year.

Here at The James Allen Companies, we are prepared to take this hiring challenge head-on. Based on this year’s findings, we identified 5 of the most pressing hiring issues facing this insurance industry and their resolutions.

  1. Too many unqualified candidates. We know the insurance industry is a great one to be a part of, and more people are starting to catch on. One problem facing the industry is the number of applicants who want to join the party but aren’t qualified for the position, or who lack insurance industry experience. When using common search methods like job boards to find talent, you’re only targeting active candidates. That means you will spend the majority of your time sifting through hundreds of unqualified candidates trying to join the game but not understanding how to play.
  2. Finding qualified people in my area for the right price. Depending on the area you’re in, your options for local talent looking for positions may seem limited. When it comes to compensation, salary grades and relocation costs, finding the proper candidate can seem like a losing battle.
  3. A lack of talent for technology-based careers. Technology-based careers in insurance are growing exponentially. These careers are expected to be one of the top five most in-demand insurance positions in 2019. It can be difficult to find this talent if your company has never had to find it before—and to make things more difficult, every industry needs the same talent. Technology professionals are in high demand in every field, making these positions incredibly competitive.
  4. Inadequate recruitment budgets. Open positions at your company take time and money. Many companies are faced with recruitment budgets that are too low to be effective. Much of those budgets are used determining which talent acquisition and software are worth using since there are so many available. Those who participated in this study also said they had a difficult time convincing high-up management staff to increase the budget to find the right candidate.
  5. Starting pay for sales positions. In the insurance industry, 20 percent of careers are in sales. Much like technology-based positions, other industries are fighting for the best sales professionals out there, leading to aggressive competition. Compensation for these positions have to be compared not just to insurance industry standards, but other industries as well.

No matter the hiring issue, the recruiting team at The James Allen Companies has the solutions. When it comes to investing in new talent, you want to make sure you get the best return, and partnering with our team ensures the best ROI. We face hiring challenges head-on and use our tried and true search methods to find the best candidates for you every time. We keep up with industry standards and know exactly where to find the candidates you need. We stay aware of market trends for pay and compensation to help you make an informed decision when it comes to picking the type of candidate who will work best for you.

By partnering with the recruitment experts at The James Allen Companies, you will have access to the best network of qualified, passive candidates in the market. With access to the best recruiting technology out there, we can find the right qualified candidate for you to keep your business ahead of the game.

Give us a call to discuss the recruitment solutions we can offer you and your business today.


Investing in your business’ future: A culture of education

Investing in your business’ future: A culture of education

“Education is the key to success.”

We’ve all heard the phrase and know how true it can be. You’ve taken the time to educate yourself on the insurance industry and have probably earned at least one of the many specialty designations there are to earn—perhaps the CPCU or another certification. Your career has advanced because of education. Are you helping your team do the same?

As generations retire and new ones take their place in the field, talent gaps in the insurance industry begin to widen. Many new hires are straight out of college with a bachelor’s or master’s degree but without the same level of knowledge of those retiring. It is crucial that you invest in the new generation of talent to narrow the talent gap and watch your business become successful.

A Culture of Education

We talk a lot about business culture as part of what makes a business successful; after all, if your employees are happy, they’ll be more efficient and more eager to help the team grow. Making education and additional training part of your company’s culture will make your employer brand that much stronger.

What is a culture of education and how can it benefit your business?

  • Improve Motivation: Opportunities to earn new competences show employees you believe in their abilities and align them with the company mission therefore making them feel part of the team and increasing their work ethic.
  • Encourage Innovation: Encouraging education and training also emboldens your employees to think critically and come up with innovative ideas to help push the company forward. The culture of education provides confidence to employees and makes your team stronger.
  • Maximize Employee Potential. When you encourage employees to earn new designations, you invest in your team. These employees may want to move to upper management levels which means they can promote the same work ethic and values to any future teams.

How to Create a Culture of Education

You can begin to create a culture of education the moment someone new joins the team:

  • Hire curious people. People who want to learn will learn and they’ll encourage others to do the same. Encourage people who want to ask questions to do so. They may find solutions to problems you never knew you had.
  • Focus on skills, define behaviors. Allowing employees to refine old competencies and earn new ones will help them succeed at the technical aspects of their jobs. However, by focusing on new behaviors you want your employees to develop, you can greatly improve the success of your business’ culture.
  • Communicate goals. To get everyone on board with your new goals and culture, you must first tell your employees what those goals are. Encourage management on all levels to keep employees updated on company progress and allow them to communicate their successes.
  • Lead by example. To encourage your employees to learn, you should be learning too. As a manager, you should be showing them you’re actively finding ways to improve your skills and earn new designations or competencies. Share new knowledge with your team and send them ideas for trainings they can do with you. Let them know you value your continued education as well.

At The James Allen Companies, we specialize in finding you new talent who appreciate the chance to learn and grow. We identify candidates with a thirst for knowledge not satisfied by their current position. Filling one open position with one knowledge-hungry candidate can drastically change the culture of your business and help kickstart a culture of education in your office.

Contact us to learn more.

What do candidates really want?

What do candidates really want?

We’ve talked a lot in the past few blogs about the importance of selling candidates on opportunities at your company, but that’s often easier said than done if you don’t know what candidates want. As markets change and new generations take their places in the workforce, expectations for employers change—and it can be hard to keep up. To help you out, we’ve broken down many benefits and perks today’s candidates are looking for when seeking new opportunities.

How important are benefits?

Recent studies show that benefits are among the top factors candidates consider when looking for new opportunities, but also that employers aren’t offering the incentives employees really want.

While only 10 percent of employees said benefits are the most important factor when accepting or rejecting job offers, 80 percent said they would take a job with good benefits over one with more money and 55 percent said they would accept a job with lower pay if there were better benefits. Benefits are vital for recruitment and retention, and by keeping track of the benefits candidates are interested in, you can set your business above the rest.

The benefits candidates want

Candidates value many things in the workplace. Competitive pay immediately comes to mind, but these days, the additional benefits and perks are even more important than financial gain.

Regarding traditional benefits, 88 percent of workers say health benefits are important to them. These benefits can include medical, dental, vision or any other health-based benefit or perk. However, only 44 percent of employers actually offer these benefits. That number is even lower when it comes to mental health benefits. Only 15 percent of employers offer these benefits to their employees.

Paid time off and paid parental leave are also cited as key factors to employees looking for opportunities. We all know how important it can be to take a few days off to take care of personal or family business or just get away from the office, but unfortunately, only 36 percent of employers offer paid time off and only 13 percent offer paid parental leave. These benefits, including the opportunity for flexible schedules, are especially beneficial for those with children or other personal responsibilities.

Additional benefits candidates look for are bonuses. Just over 40 percent of employers ranked bonuses (especially holiday bonuses) as a preferred perk. Sign-on and retention bonuses can also encourage candidates to accept your offer and continue to perform above expectations for years to come.


Recruiting and keeping employees can be hard when you don’t understand what they want. At The James Allen Companies, we stay up-to-date on market trends so we always know what candidates need. By partnering with The James Allen Companies, we will help you identify the right candidates for your business and help you identify the benefits you need to get those candidates on board. Give us a call today to talk with a recruiter about attracting and retaining the candidates you need to help your business grow.

How You’re Striking Out With Candidates

How You’re Striking Out With Candidates

In our last blog, we talked about how to perfect your candidate pitch by writing the perfect job description. The job description is a key factor in getting candidates interested in your company’s position, but during the hiring process, every pitch matters and serves as an opportunity to sell your business to candidates.

With the US employment rate at its lowest in 18 years, we are facing a candidate-driven market with more jobs than candidates to fill them. For you, this means more competition for those star players.

Unfortunately, many companies haven’t adapted to this new market and still hire like candidates are desperate for employment. They’re not! Even after a candidate expresses interest in your company (based on that initial job description) it can be really easy to strike out and lose that candidate’s attention.

Strike One: Wasting the Candidate’s Time

There are a lot of ways to waste a candidate’s time and in this market, is that a risk you can afford?  A lengthy application and interviewing process are common ways to lose your candidates’ interest fast. Only 40 percent of candidates are willing to complete an application, especially if you are requiring them to include education and past experience while also asking for a resume.

Another way to waste your candidates’ time is to put them through the ringer of too many interviews. One, two, maybe even three interviews depending on the position could be appropriate, but the more you add, the more time you’re wasting. It’s also exhausting for candidates to take the time to attend so many interviews and potentially lose money or productivity from their current career to do so.

Strike Two: Failure to Sell the Opportunity

Don’t ask a candidate “Why do you want to work here?” Tell them why they should.

Candidates want to be sold on your businesses’ culture. They want to see that employees are staying for long periods of time and they want to know why. They want to know they’ll be listened to and understood by management. Allow candidates to meet current employees who can share their experiences at the company. Your current employees are your best testimonials and your biggest asset in the hiring process. Also, when evaluating passive candidates, realize they will have expectations for a fair and reasonable increase in their current salary.

Strike Three: Not Making A Decision

Hiring candidates can be difficult, but you eventually have to make a decision—and sooner is better than later. Candidates can tell when you’re not confident in your hiring decision. The more interviews you schedule, the longer it takes, the easier it is for them to lose interest in your opportunity.

You may have to get a little creative in regard to the type of candidate you will consider. Comparing your candidate pool to the perfect vision in your head is opening yourself up for disappointment. It’s important to remember candidates must have a reason for change. Passive applicants are open to exploring opportunities that will allow them to progress and grow their career. If the position they are evaluating is exactly the same as they have, then it will be difficult to secure their services.

Just like in baseball, hiring can be “one, two, three strikes you’re out.” Just like you are judging whether or not a candidate is right for your business, they are evaluating whether or not you are right for them. You sold them on the initial pitch, but you have to keep the momentum moving forward throughout the hiring process to make sure you don’t strike out.

The James Allen Companies works with you diligently to identify, evaluate and secure passive, qualified insurance talent. Call us to discuss your staffing needs.

How to Perfect Your Pitch to Candidates

How to Perfect Your Pitch to Candidates

With 2019 Major League Baseball season set to begin in just a few days, I got to thinking about the team dynamics of a baseball team. A baseball team has a 40-man active roster of both defensive and offensive players (batters as we call them). The nine men on the field playing defense all have their part defending the bases and monitoring the outfield with the catcher calling the shots for the pitcher. Every player is important, but the one that really determines how the game gets played is the pitcher.

Every team needs a good pitcher to throw those perfect no-hitter games. Think of your company in the same way. You have to be that perfect salesman, or pitcher, in order to get the job done. So how are you at pitching your company to potential candidates when there’s an open position at your company?

So, how do you make that perfect pitch?

The Details Matter

Selling your company to potential candidates begins with the job description. That initial pitch to your candidates needs to get them interested in the opportunity. Here are some basic tips to help you write the perfect pitch for your candidate. 

  • The job title. This is an obvious starting point for a job description as it literally tells a person what the position is. A good job title should reflect the nature of the job and the ranking order of where the position falls on the company’s roster.
  • A breakdown of daily tasks. Paint a picture for your candidate of what their day will look like in this position. You can include a breakdown of tasks by percentage, or, if the position is more flexible, explain what tasks will be completed throughout the course of the position.
  • The desired skills and competencies. These should be listed separately since they are two different things, however for the sake of time, we’re putting them together. Skills are activities that can be learned and measured over time like proficiency in Microsoft Office applications or other types of software. Competencies are the traits a person should be able to display for the position such as leadership or communication skills. 
  • Define the benefits. Telling candidates what they get from your company can set your company apart from others. If you offer good health insurance or paid time off, candidates will be more eager to pursue a position at your company.
  • Salary ranges. It always comes down to numbers. Candidates want to know they’ll be paid based on their experience and for the work they’ll put into your company. By offering a range, you can give a candidate a good idea of what their skills might be worth to your company.

Additional tips

Now that you know what elements you need for your perfect pitch, here’s some additional tips on how to make your pitch the best one in the league.

  • Spell check. Before handing over the job description to the recruiter who is helping you fill the position, check for any spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Make sure you check your formatting too. Big blocks of unorganized text can be an instant foul play in the eyes of a potential candidate.
  • Avoid cliches and focus on keywords. Don’t use terms like “rockstar” or “best-of-the-best” in a job description. Focus on terms that can actually be defined and measured so you don’t scare away candidates. You don’t want a candidate reading your job description to roll their eyes and move on to the next opportunity.

A decent job description can help set your company’s open positions apart from the rest, and while it’s only the first inning in the hiring game, it’s an important part of getting candidates interested.

At The James Allen Companies, we understand how important a good job description is for a candidate. With over 40 years of recruiting experience we know what can make or break a good pitch to potential candidates and can provide feedback and expertise on how to make your job descriptions perfect no-hitters.

Job Boards Don’t Work. We Do.

Job Boards Don’t Work. We Do.

It’s no secret the insurance industry is facing a talent shortage. An estimated 60 percent of the workforce is expected to retire in the next ten years and only about five percent of the incoming generation is interested in the insurance industry. These factors combined with an increase in technology-based positions result in a shortage of dedicated quality applicants for open positions at your company.

Due to these facts it is challenging to locate and secure the best candidates for open positions at your company in a timely manner. To find those candidates many internal recruiters or HR professionals choose to utilize the most common form of talent acquisition: online job boards. However, online job boards lead to more problems than solutions.

The problems with online job boards

Job boards are the go-to resource for active candidates searching to make a career change. These sites are flooded with millions of job seekers each day. When you post a job, it gets pushed to thousands of job seekers in a matter of seconds.Because of the high volume of traffic on these sites, you may receive resumes of active candidates for your open position.

While the idea of a plethora of candidate options may sound appealing, most of that traffic will be a waste of your time. Job boards tend to push postings to job seekers based on keywords in the job description without really understanding the actual requirements of the role. Because of this, you run the risk of receiving applicants who think they fit the frame of the advertised position (i.e. a job classified as management or sales) but have no relevant experience in the insurance industry. Job boards are ineffective when it comes to delineating truly qualified talent.

Based on keywords alone, you may receive applicants, but take into consideration the job seekers following the classic “apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for because you never know what will happen” advice. Now you have more unqualified/underqualified applicants on your hands eating up valuable resources.

Do you have the time to comb through all of these resumes looking for the one or two candidates who might be a great fit?

Even with high traffic, another limitation of online job boards is the type of candidates that apply. Job boards are swimming with countless active candidates searching for employment, but most of the time, those candidates aren’t the ones you need. The ideal candidate for your position is most likely a passive candidate, one who is happy, gainfully employed and successful in their current position, but if they are approached the right way may be persuaded to take a look at your career opportunity.  

We are the solution

So now what? You know a job board isn’t going to help you find the correct person to fill open positions at your company, but what will?

We will.

At The James Allen Companies, we don’t post advertisements in hopes that the right applicant will knock on your door. Instead, our recruiters are out searching for the appropriate candidate and knocking on their door. We know how to find those passive candidates who would be an excellent fit for your company given the right opportunity.

Wetake the time to interview and evaluate candidates, getting to know the person behind the resume. By doing so, we can analyze whether or not the candidate has the correct skills, personality and previous success to meet your company’s needs. We focus on delivering only qualified candidates to your door.

Nothing costs a business more than an open position. Instead of wasting your payroll combing through endless stacks of resumes, we use our nearly four decades of experience to find you better candidates faster, saving you money. While using online resources to find candidates that fit your business is tempting to many, partnering with The James Allen Companies is your best chance for finding quality applicants. We are the experts at locating, obtaining and delivering candidates that best fit your needs. To learn more about us or speak with one of our experienced recruiters, give us a call at (573) 334-3688 or visit our website jamesallenco.com.