How to Attract the Best Talent to Your Bank [Podcast]

March 20, 2017 Drew Walters

Maria Abbe sits down with Mike Schaefer, Director of Talent Acquisition at PrecisionLender, to discuss best hiring practices for banks.


Takeaways for this episode include:

  • How your bank can approach hiring.
  • How to maintain and grow your organization's culture through strong hiring practices.
  • Some insight into how PrecisionLender looks at hiring.


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Podcast Transcript

Maria Abbe: Hi and welcome to the Purposeful Banker Podcast. The Podcast brought to you by Precision Lender, where we discuss the big topics on the minds of today's best bankers. I'm your host, Maria Abbe, content manager at Precision Lender and today, I'm joined by Mike Schaefer. He's our director of talent acquisition. Thank you all for joining us. Thanks for being here, Mike.

Mike Schaefer: Maria, thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to talking to you about hiring great people for banks.

Maria Abbe: Awesome. For all of you listening, Mike leads our hiring efforts here at Precision Lender. We take our hiring very seriously because our company culture is extremely important as I'm sure it is for all of you. We want to make sure that it remains strong as we grow.

Today, we're going to be sharing how we approach hiring and how you can keep your company culture alive as you grow your bank and bring on more employees. Mike, let's start from square one. You see resumes come in day-in and day-out. You have numerous conversations with candidates on a daily basis. With so many applicants coming in and, I presume, banks are encountering the same issue, where do you start?

Mike Schaefer: Yeah, Maria, that's a really good question. You hit the nail on the head. I'm seeing quite a bit of resumes right now. Obviously, as we are hiring here at Precision Lender, but throughout my years of experience, I've seen a variety of different resumes and different types of backgrounds.

I think the number one to keep in mind when you are looking to evaluate and attract a candidate to an organization or a bank for this instance is, why are you going about hiring that person?

I think, first-and-foremost, there needs to be strong conversation of what specifically the candidate is going to be working on. What projects are they going to be impacting? More-or-less, how are they going to impact and fit within the company culture.

Before going and reviewing a resume, those are the real three key attributes that are important. As you go about assessing candidates and looking through resumes and applications, then you have a more clear understanding of how does this person fit into XYZ position? How does this person fit into the culture that the bank is looking to hire that individual for?

From there, I see resumes from online postings. I feel like, for the most part, the market for job seekers is trending towards LinkedIn. I think that's probably the most widely used tool for resumes and more-or-less finding your career and that next opportunity.

Maria Abbe: Yeah. It sounds like before you dive into hiring somebody, you really have to be sound in what you're looking for. You have to know what your company culture is and you have to know the position pretty well.

Mike Schaefer: Absolutely. I think the number one thing that when employers go to look to hire, is they want to hire right the first time. What they don't want have happen and specifically here at Precision Lender, is we want to hire people that career goals align to the company and align to the position as itself.

One of the things that myself and many talent acquisition and HR leaders across the world are discussing, "How do we keep our talent? How do we keep them from leaving?" Specifically, as it relates to IT, we know that every 24 months essentially, professionals are changing jobs.

I think it's our job and the company's job to make sure that we're providing those candidates with career path, with leadership options, anything that can impact that inside or outside of the office is really key and critical to attracting the best candidate.

Maria Abbe: Before you have to retain the talent, you have to figure out or define a good applicant. How do you define a good applicant?

Mike Schaefer: That's a really good question and depending on who you ask and what type of bank is looking for a candidate, everyone's a little bit different, right? Again, as I talked about earlier, as I go about evaluating a candidate, I want to keep in mind our company culture. Will this person fit in with the various groups? Will they fit in with a marketing team or a client development team or specifically a software development team, right?

Number one, I'm keeping that in mind. Secondly, I want to understand what is the candidate's career goals. I think that's the number one thing is being able to understand that and where they're trying to take their career is really important. That's one of the very first things that I look at when evaluating a candidate.

Secondly, there's a couple different things that you can look at is career history. Do the skills align exactly to the position that we're looking for or are they closely aligned to what we're looking for? Secondly, what does their longevity look like within their various positions? Have they worked their way up within a company? Have they bounced around to numerous companies?

Just trying to understand it and build a story from there will better help understand where the candidate has been and where they're looking to take their career moving forward.

Maria Abbe: Yeah. I love that. One of our core values is be human. It sounds like that's kind of the approach that we take to our hiring too. It's not just about checking off boxes for skillset, it's looking at the entire person as a whole and what their career goals are, where they've been and where they see themselves going.

Mike Schaefer: Exactly. We're not necessarily keying on specific skills or tools or technologies. I think you hit the nail on the head there. The way that we have our process set up and our application set up, is it's an opportunity for the candidate to share who they are, kind of where they've been, as I mentioned before, and where they're headed.

That gives us an opportunity to get to know them just outside of the piece of paper, right? It's their opportunity to show who they are. They can talk about the various experiences they've had. Maybe some failures that have shaped them to be a better person or a better professional in their job.

Those are the types of things that we're looking for when we evaluate a candidate. Additionally, those that are hungry to learn. Here, within our culture, we constantly are sharing ideas. We are constantly sharing knowledge. We're trying to push ourselves, every single day we come into the office.

With the way that our application is set up, people have the opportunity to share those types of experiences and what they really value most in a career and specifically, with an employer.

Maria Abbe: Great. Now, how do you think a bank or an outside institution can also take this approach to hiring?

Mike Schaefer: Yeah, that's a great question. I think that other banks can take this approach in a lot of similar respects. I think, number one, just trying to understand again, I sound like a broken record here, but understanding what is the candidate trying to achieve? What is that position that they're applying for? Are there examples or instances in previous roles or jobs that they've been able to perform the work?

I think outside of that, company culture is really big. I think that's a really, really big topic that is going on right now and especially given the climate of IT professionals right now, specifically, where in some instances it's a negative on employment. I think right now, banks need to kind of think outside of the box a little bit in terms of, "How do we go out and find the best talent to our organization?"

I really think taking a step back and assessing, "Where are we at with culture? What are some of our goals and initiatives for the year?" I think that will really help hone in exactly what it is that they need to hire for.

Maria Abbe: That's a good point. On the flip side of that, we're currently in an employee-driven market, meaning the power's really in the hands of those who are looking for a new job because they have multiple options and many different choices out there. How do you distinguish yourself as an employer, as the best, and attract that A-player talent?

Mike Schaefer: I think this is probably one of the most talked about topics right now in the IT world and specifically as it relates to software development. As I alluded to earlier, there are multiple opportunities, multiple openings that need to be filled. In fact, there's more jobs than there are qualified candidates. When we talk about an employee-driven market, that's exactly what we're talking about.

There are more jobs and there are not enough people to fill those jobs. I think it's very critical for companies and banks specifically to understand what is their secret sauce? Why would someone want to come work for Precision Lender? Essentially, that is going to be your main selling point to a candidate.

Most candidates right now as they go about their job search and as they interview, they have multiple options and multiple interviews going on at one point in time. It's very critical that the company can determine what are their strengths and what their weaknesses?

I think being able to build a proposition that allows a candidate to fully understand a bank or an organization is important. Here, at Precision Lender, we have an open culture. We talk about our goals. We talk about our projects.

We're able to explain those to candidates that when you come here to Precision Lender, here's what you're going to work on. You're going to work on AI initiatives. You're going to work on larger projects with larger banking institutions.

We're very transparent. I think that that has allowed us to attract some of the best talent here locally in the market. It also helps too, from a technology perspective. Fortunate enough for us, we are on the cutting edge of technology. That's very attractive as it relates to an IT professional.

The last thing that I think is really important, this goes for functional skillsets as well as technical skillsets, if you have to have a good company culture. You have to have a good mission. You have to have everyone pulling on the same side of the rope in order to be successful.

I think if companies can understand their sweet spot and where they thrive really well, they need to be able to build out a plan to show that and be able to attract candidates that way.

Maria Abbe: I see. Yeah. It's honing in and finding your purpose, really. You talked a little bit before about employee retention. Can you share with us how you think an institution should handle that? Should handle employee retention?

Mike Schaefer: Yeah, that's another hot topic right now in the market. Obviously, there are lots of opportunities. There are a huge abundance of candidates, right? One of the things that we're talking about here at Precision Lender and I know other companies are, is what plans do we have in place to uphold our promise?

When we go to hire a candidate, we're basically committing to them that we're going to grow your career. You told us that you're trying to go here, we're going to get you there. Well, how are we going to do that?

Essentially, what we've been able to do is build out monthly plans where managers are sitting down with their team members and they're going through their goals, whether it's a short term goal, a medium term goal or a long term goal.

What we've come to find is that the more communication amongst leadership and the individual contributors, there really is not a large margin of error of, are we missing out on something? Is there a problem that's snowballing that maybe we should go talk to that person?

I think that as we go about attracting people and talking about how to go out and find A players, it's even more important of how do we keep the A players.

A statistic that's out there right now is 86% of people in the IT industry, they're open to hearing about an opportunity. If you think about that, that's probably the majority of your team that you're working with right now. Someone's willing to take a call from a recruiter or listen to another company that's trying to hire.

The more that we can be pro-active in talking to individuals about how are they doing? Do they feel like they have career path in front of them? The better off we're going to be able to understand, how do we coach them? How do we lead them? I think that that's really important for other companies to understand.

Maria Abbe: Yikes! That's a staggering statistic.

Mike Schaefer: Yeah. It's pretty remarkable.

Maria Abbe: Yeah. I like that though and I think to share a little bit about our core values, one of them is create an environment where people are authentic, and then, also be open and direct. I think giving your employees the ability to do that, to feel like they're being heard and to actually listen to them, I'm sure makes a world of a difference.

Mike Schaefer: It sure does. I think that goes to my earlier point of how do you attract the best talent and candidate? I think right now, people want to be a part of a team. They want to have a voice. They want to have say-so. I think you hit the nail on the head there.

One of the things that we do really well here at Precision Lender is, we allow people to do that. Everybody has an opinion in the end of the day. We value that. We honor that. Essentially, sometimes we might not go with that opinion, but you have the opportunity to voice that.

I think that that's the majority of what individuals are looking for right now when they go about their job search is how do I add and how can I add the most value to an organization? What skillsets can I bring to the table that's going to make an impact?

I think that that's something that we've done really well is we've been able to build teams that have strengths and weaknesses and compliment one another very well. I think being able to share those ideas only makes us stronger in the end of the day.

To those that are listening out there and trying to grow their culture and grow their acquisition plans, keep that in mind. People want to be treated fairly. They want to be a part of a team. I think that's something that we've done really well here.

Maria Abbe: Now, banks hire a lot of technical positions like developers. We are currently in the process of hiring more as well. How is hiring for those technical roles different than the other functional positions?

Mike Schaefer: Yeah. Some of the main differences versus a technical person and a functional person is most technical people, they want to work with the latest and greatest tools and technologies. Being able to talk about the latest and greatest is obviously something that we have here and I think is an advantage for us at Precision Lender.

As you go about assessing that talent, we're looking for individuals that have that want and desire that have maybe worked on these technologies before or have done some work on the side. There are multiple code repositories out there like a GitHub, for example, where people will build side projects and upload their projects. Those are things that we can look at and have access to.

As we go about assessing talent and vetting that talent, that's a tool and a measure that we have in place. Additionally, we don't have a typical interview process where you show up and we're going to have a list of 20 questions that we're going to rapid fire off at you. That's something that we found that is actually kind of counterintuitive.

The way that we go about vetting technically is, we have an assessment. Most companies nowadays are moving to an assessment where it's essentially take home tests. We want that person to be comfortable when we give that test out. We want them to put every inch and every muscle into being able to complete the assessment.

We found that it shows what level of involvement does the person have within our organization or how bad do they want to work at Precision Lender? We have examples where someone maybe isn't able to answer the question the right way, but they're able to show us how they think through they would answer the question.

For us, that's very advantageous as opposed to just sending off an assessment. "Hey, here's 20 minutes. Go finish it." We found that sending a homework assessment has been very beneficial in helping us understand technical abilities.

Maria Abbe: Where can an institution go to find the best talent? I know you mentioned LinkedIn. Are there any other resources?

Mike Schaefer: There are multiple resources out there. I would say that the most widely used one is LinkedIn but I think the personal network is extremely powerful. You're 60 times more likely to find your next job through a friends, family, and co-worker network. I know from my experience in the past in recruiting, that that's traditionally how I've been successful in finding A-players is good people know good people.

Being able to spiderweb out and grassroots marketing, I think it's been around forever. I don't necessarily see that going anywhere, but outside of that, I would say that LinkedIn is where the majority of job seekers are headed.

I think there's a lot of advantages of it. It's an up-to-date CRM system. You can learn about companies. You can follow blogs. You can look at other people that are working at XY&Z company or bank, for example, and see what they're doing. I think that LinkedIn has a lot of advantages as opposed to just a traditional career site.

Maria Abbe: Great. Good. Mike, thank you so much for sharing all of that with us. That will do it for us today. Thank you all for listening. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our resource page at If you like what you've been hearing, make sure to subscribe to the feed in iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Play, or Stitcher.

We would love to get ratings and feedback on any of those platforms. Thank you all for listening. Until next time, this has been Maria Abbe and Mike Schaefer and you've been listening to the Purposeful Banker Podcast.

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