Lindsay LaNore: Revisiting recruitment

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By Lindsay LaNore, ICBA

There’s much talk these days about talent acquisition and retention, with the three Rs—Recruit, Retain and Reward—taking center stage. Let’s start the year by looking at Recruit. To that end, we asked Valerie Utsey, ICBA’s chief human resources officer, to pinpoint some key areas we can all consider.

Focus on your brand. Before you start to recruit, Utsey suggests you look at your public image. How does the community bank present itself to candidates? It’s essential to think about your brand in every channel: your website, the local paper, social media and live events. Wherever you have a presence, that’s a place for customers and potential candidates to get to know your bank.

Create a great candidate experience. A candidate needs to be motivated to apply, and that starts with the job description. “Often, it’s just a laundry list of tasks,” Utsey says, “so why not be creative and tell people what they’re going to do? Why do I need to have great communication skills? Because you’re interacting with customers, solving their problems and making their day.”

She also recommends changing skills from “required” to “recommended” or “preferred.” Hire for human skills like character, motivation and energy. You can teach the technical skills, and ICBA’s Community Banker University has great resources that will help them become top performers.

Make applying easy. Think about making your application process easier, especially if you’re trying to reach out to different types of candidates. They may prefer to fill out an application that’s mobile-friendly, and you may drive people away if they have to file an application in person. Make it easy, and if possible, make it mobile.

Power up the interview process. Acknowledge receipt of applications, and let candidates know when you’ll respond. If you are going to conduct three interviews before deciding, tell them that. You don’t want them to take that other job before they talk to you. Once you’ve set up an interview, make sure it’s engaging. Give candidates a holistic view of the bank by bringing in other team members to explain what it’s like to work for you. Show them around the space they’ll be working in.

“Having a visual ties the person to the job,” Utsey says. “If they’re doing 10 interviews, you’ve got to do something that separates you from the others.”

Be flexible. Many people have fallen out of the workforce, so how do you pull them back in? Try offering flexible positions that attract, for example, parents with school-age kids. Prior to the pandemic, Utsey says, the mantra was, “Leave it at the door.” Now, it’s, “How do I bring my whole self to work?”

Stress your mission, communicate transparently and think outside the box. That way, your future employees can bring their whole selves to the workplace, and that is to everyone’s advantage.

Lindsay LaNore ( is ICBA’s group executive vice president and chief learning and experience officer