Hiring Secrets of a Top Job Creator

Dec 27, 2012

After closing 2007, at Veterans United Home Loans, the leading dedicated provider of VA Loans, we employed a 109-person workforce, all within our centralized Columbia, Missouri location. We will will advance into 2013 with more than 1,200 employees and a 22-office nationwide presence.

As the human resources director for one of the country’s fastest-growing private companies, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the highs and lows, the meltdowns and meaningful moments, and seen the best and worst in people, along with the downright bizarre.

While the previous list would make a great piece in itself, that’s not what I am most passionate about. What drives me is the opportunity I’ve been given, which has been hiring more than 1,000 extraordinary employees in the past five years, leading to recognition from Inc. Magazine as the nation’s No. 29 job creator — No. 1 in the financial and banking industry — and being listed on Fortune Magazine’s Great Place to Work list as the No. 21 best medium workplace.

Results like this are not the production of a boilerplate hiring method or template that fits every company, but the collective achievement of a unit that believes in working as a team to produce a superior end result for the user.

To understand what it takes to assemble a successful entity like Veterans United, read on before you hire your next applicant.

Stay True to Your Company Culture and Values

For the larger companies out there, working with a team of recruiters means there will be inconsistencies in hiring practices; however, to stay on the same page, I implemented a single uniform principle, which is to look at the applicant through the lens of our values first and foremost before hiring the candidate.

There is no room for compromise here. This is what will distinguish between employees who meet expectations and those who are happy, effective and efficient. Even with extremely talented candidates, if they don’t mesh with your company values or culture, you take the chance of destroying your company from the inside out.

At times it isn’t easy, but turning down a very gifted applicant because they wouldn’t fit with the culture or values is the best idea, especially for rapidly growing companies that want to maintain their company culture.

At Veterans United, the employees take great pride in the company’s core values and culture — principles that have been upheld since the company’s inception in 2002. Our values, which include being passionate and having fun, delivering results with integrity, and enhancing lives every day, play a vital role in all areas of the company and how we interact with the men and women we are honored to serve.

Don’t Look at Achievements; Look at the Path That Led There

Interviews are more about deciding who you should or shouldn’t hire, but should give you a glimpse inside a potential employee’s head through the questions you ask. In many cases, applicants have a rehearsed answer for every portion of their resume (after all, they control what they have written). Ask questions that will allow them to showcase more than the achievements listed, but the path they walked to get there.

For example, if you have an applicant who was a previous business owner, there is a huge difference between someone who inherited a business and the person who built a company from the business plan up, while attending college and working a full-time job.

In most cases, asking an expected question, such as three strengths and a weakness, will do nothing more than give you a computed answer that has been over-rehearsed. Find out the path they walked that helped develop that strength.

Find a Common Goal not a Common Mind

Your greatest advertisement for a quality workforce is word of mouth from your own employees. And when employees perpetuate a powerful message of the opportunity your company can provide, referrals will flow through the door.

Much of a company’s sustainable success lies in the quality of  coworkers and work families. And that’s why well over 50 percent of the people we hire at Veterans United come from employee referrals. Our employees want to share the culture and opportunities with their peers and others who they know, and we are happy to have them.

Unfortunately, not every referral results in an exemplary candidate, so when conducting your interviews, look for passion and creative ability. Applicants who are passionate about their profession or the people they serve, with or without your company, should be highly sought after. These candidates are there for their love of the job and who they could potentially serve, and want to do more than use a contact and charm an HR representative into giving them a gig.

Streamline Your Entire Hiring Process

Since 2011, Veterans United grew from 400 to more than 1,200 employees, causing a significant growth in the recruitment team to handle the sheer volume of work. With such growth, and the addition of over 22 new offices, it is necessary to set expectations that keep the company culture in harmony.

To keep the culture and values as the forefront of our process, we rely on constant communication and feedback from all hiring managers, as well as implementing the use of three to four different assessments before applicants even get to an initial interview. A resume screen, online assessment, initial screening interview similar to the one found here, and online references are used to filter potential hires from those who wouldn’t necessarily fit company values or culture.

Doing this allows us to spend time with serious candidates and doesn’t leave us placing time with anyone who noticeably wouldn’t fit the company culture or values. Given the total number of people we hire, efficiency is a must.

While our process has been able to expand to fit demand and our team has had to grow, we won’t compromise on quality. We truly cherish what this company stands for and want to see our success continue. With this in mind, we won’t settle for putting warm bodies in chairs. We expect to produce employees who do well and help the company thrive, which should be the main goal for any HR manager.