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Finding Diamonds in the Rough

This piece originally appeared in the January 2023 edition of MReport magazine, online now.

With roots deep in the real estate market, born during the housing boom beginning in the early 2000s and coming of age during the SFR (single-family rental) Industry Institutionalization of 2013, TalentWoo is a boutique real estate executive search and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) company.

TalentWoo CEO Jerel Cain recently spoke with MReport about how the mortgage industry talent and recruiting landscape is evolving amid a landscape where companies are navigating inflation, a retreat from the housing and refi boom of last year, and other challenges.

Jerel Cain, CEO, TalentWoo

What is the current climate like for recruiting talent in today’s mortgage market? What challenges are lenders facing that will have an impact on recruitment?
Cain: Uncertainty is the biggest challenge lenders face. The talent market is always changing, and because the housing market is such a dynamic environment, today’s candidates have a lot of doubts about their future.

Professionals are less likely to consider changing jobs in an uncertain market if they feel they are “okay” where they are.

At the same time, when candidates are uncertain about their current job or have a limited view of their career path, they are often open to discussing a change. This presents an excellent opportunity for lenders who have a strong message for these candidates.

Companies that demonstrate their stability as an organization, a clear path forward for themselves, and a career vision for the candidate will stand out in the current market.

Are you finding most talent to recruit for mortgage servicing jobs from within the mortgage industry or from other industries? Do they require a financial background for recruitment into the mortgage industry?
Cain: Naturally, we target and pursue candidates who are actively working within the industry, as we believe this creates the strongest candidate base. But we look outside of the industry, too. Quite frankly, there are generally more roles in our industry than there are people to fill them. Sometimes the right person is someone who works outside the industry but have transferrable skills and knowledge that make them an ideal candidate.

I think everyone would agree that, in the end, it’s the makeup of the person and not necessarily specific experience that is most important. That’s where our experience weighs heavily. We engage with hiring managers to discuss what we’ve done in the past and the candidate traits that we believe would align with the roles they are looking to fill. A lot of times, our client managers are pleasantly surprised at how qualified a candidate is and what they brought to their team without having any specific mortgage industry experience.

How is recruitment different today than it was in the past? In general, what are mortgage professionals looking for in an ideal employer today? What skill sets are mortgage employers looking for in recruiting talent?
Cain: Today’s market is unlike any other, and it will continue to change. For example, today’s job candidates have a much broader and often more holistic perspective of what they are looking for in a company. Before, most candidates would just look at compensation and career advancement.

Now, they are weighing many different variables, like the company’s identity, their social presence and impact, and how they invest back into the community and society. They want to know not only what their role will be, but also the roles of others on the team, too.

An increasing number of candidates are prioritizing a company’s benefits and what their work/life balance will be like. More people today want a flexible schedule and remote working options, especially those with families. We advise our clients to stay on top of these trends. Since no two candidates weigh all these variables the same, it takes time, and a seasoned recruiter to be able to understand what’s important for a candidate and determine if they and the role are a good fit.

What is Recruiting Process Outsourcing (RPO)? How does it benefit lenders and servicers? Is there a sector in the mortgage industry that benefits most by it?
Cain: Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is a business strategy in which an organization uses a third-party firm like TalentWoo for recruiting talent. One might think of RPO as a recruitment engine that can be turned on at any time and produce results quickly. When done right, it streamlines and optimizes a company’s recruiting process, shortens time-to-hire, and saves money.

Unlike some RPOs, however, we have the ability to take on a “slice” of the recruitment process, so a company can use their in-house team for certain recruiting functions and outsource others to us. For example, many times, lenders will use TalentWoo for special, time-sensitive projects or recruiting talent with unique skill sets. In either scenario, it just wouldn’t be efficient to use the company’s internal team to address a specific need when you can have an industry expert immediately onboarded and then remap down as necessary.

What impact do market trends have on a lender’s recruiting strategy?
Cain:
The thing to remember is that recruiting is all about people. Of course, recruiting strategies are built around numbers, timeframes, and metrics. But success is about how well you get the right person to notice and consider your opportunity. An organization should also consider how market trends affect potential candidates and be transparent in how they are addressing them. We’ve found that organizations that articulate their positions and plans clearly gain the most credibility with job candidates.

What impact do local housing markets have on talent acquisition? Does recruitment differ in high-priced, urban markets like New York City compared to smaller markets like Boise or Nashville?
Cain: Typically, local markets do have an impact, but I’d say it all depends on the role for which you’re hiring. Most roles will have some market variables associated with them. For instance, we’ve seen clients lose good candidates over a few percentage points of compensation, only because they were successful recruiting in one market and assumed all markets were the same. Being aware of these variables before engaging candidates can save companies a great deal of time and frustration.

That’s another benefit of working with a qualified RPO provider. Because TalentWoo has in-depth industry expertise and knowledge of what is happening across different markets, we can advise lenders early in the process about the type of variables they’ll see, so they have the opportunity to get the best possible talent to fill the roles they need.

About Author: David Wharton

David Wharton, Editor-in-Chief at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has nearly 20 years' experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. He can be reached at [email protected]
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