The war for talent is escalating. More than 400 first-round interviews were recently conducted at the annual conference of Gamma Iota Sigma, the industry’s risk management, insurance and actuarial science fraternity. There were 50 insurance organizations onsite but very few insurance brokerages.

Many firms are missing the gold mine in their backyard. Local colleges stocked with budding talent are some of the best places to find awesome, entry-level candidates. And an internship is the most successful tool for recruiting college students. It’s no accident the 75 scholarship winners you’ll read about in this month’s feature “Building on the Future Today” all came from internship programs at insurance brokerages.

But finding a strong source for talent is only the beginning. How you approach promising candidates is critical to engaging them in an industry that often fails to reveal its true depth. To have a real shot at hiring the best, insurance brokerages have to be dedicated to keeping it real and creative in the recruitment process and beyond.

The status quo is no longer enough, because the status quo is not good. And the kicker is insurance brokerages are oftentimes competing against blue-chip employer brands in their community and/or the financial services arena. That means brokerages have to take their game way up. They need to create experiences that engage candidates in an inherently personal way and meet them where they are.

Leading with “The Why”

Gamma Iota Sigma is on 67 college campuses. It serves as the industry’s premier collegiate pipeline of students already interested in pursuing a career in insurance. Contrary to popular belief, students do not have to be majoring in risk management and insurance (RMI) or actuarial science to join Gamma. Actually, the fastest-growing student segment of Gamma is non-RMI and non-actuarial-science majors. This shows business school students are recognizing the different paths available in insurance and the growing diversification of roles needed inside insurance organizations.

Attending the Gamma conference were 19 of The Council Foundation’s scholarship winners. After speaking with many of them, along with others among the 75 winners, I found a common theme. They all said working at an insurance brokerage is surprisingly dynamic because the business focuses on problem solving for clients’ corporate risk, understanding risk transfer mechanisms, insurance products and much more they never expected. They felt the work used a great balance of creativity and technical skills and loved that it makes a difference in the local community. But you’d never know it going in. 

Arguably the most powerful void right now in insurance talent recruitment is created by employers not leading with the “the why.” That means speaking to the purpose of the work while at the same time showcasing the dynamic evolution of data, analytics and technology that is shaking the insurance industry up from the inside and out. This is such a missed opportunity. Experiences are the foundation, not just for the future growth of your company’s client base but for your existing and prospective employees as well.

Young people today are all about the gig economy—they focus on being in the moment, getting the most out of that gig. So employers have to provide killer experiences in a moment to hook them. A friend of mine works for a company that uses virtual reality goggles during recruitment events to immerse candidates in the day-to-day feel of working at the company. He said recruits were drooling on themselves over it. I get tactics like that aren’t realistic for everyone, but the message is employees want to “experience” the action and be part of an industry where there is a lot of it. The insurance industry is cool and edgy once you are in it, but as we all know, it is not cool and edgy when you are not in it.

The Gamma Student Recruiting Survey recently polled 710 students on how they view insurance industry recruiting. One student offered up this simple suggestion: “Give AWESOME presentations when you visit campus. Insurance is a business that literally saves the economy from collapsing. Many presentations from insurance company representatives I sit through are dull; speakers are not engaging. So send the right people to speak on your behalf, number one. And, two, talk about the innovation that is going to take place (i.e., smart contracts, data analytics, artificial intelligence, user experience, evolving and new risks like cyber, dramatic shifts in how risk is measured and evaluated, new tools).” Listening to 20-year-olds is key.

In addition to re-imagining the focus of the recruiting pitch, firms should pay attention to the experience interns have once onsite. There is no point in trying to build a strong employment brand on the back of a weak candidate experience, as it will never be truly effective.

One common theme cited in the survey as a top cause of bad candidate experience was frustration caused by the lack of communication and transparency during the recruitment process. When we think of recruitment, we instantly think about the process from the employer’s perspective, not the candidate’s. Employers have so much on their plate, they frequently leave job seekers wading through unclear application instructions, minimal job descriptions, and missing communications, including confirmation and rejection notices.

Unsurprisingly, students’ top request for improving the candidate experience is more communication throughout the interview process with an emphasis on knowing the timeline of the hiring process and notification if passed over.

Working with these students over the past few months has been both an enlightening and humbling experience. The future of the industry is out there. We just need to engage them by leading with the “why” right out of the gate.

Cheryl Matochik, SVP of Strategic Resources & Initiatives, administers The Council Foundation Intern Scholarship Program. cheryl.matochik@ciab.com