Here’s the reality – there is a shortage of qualified candidates who are interested in making a transition to a new credit union. There are a variety of reasons for this. Some people, thankfully, are very happy in their current roles. Others may be close to retirement themselves as demographic realities take hold. Many other highly skilled executives are valued by current employers and have been provided supplemental retirement benefits or long-term incentives that make leaving their current role unappealing. The ultimate result is that even strong credit unions with solid reputations are having difficulty attracting “A” candidates to opportunities. For credit unions that aren’t as strong or may be headquartered in less appealing locations, the challenges are significantly higher. If your credit union has an important role to fill, none of the above is not an option. The reality is you may not be able to wait for a perfect candidate who may never appear. That’s a difficult recognition for many and it often comes after a long, time consuming and stressful recruitment process. Fortunately, the situation is truly not that dire. There are great people out there looking for their next opportunity. It’s just a different market for talent than it was a few years ago during and shortly after the Great Recession.

Every situation is different but this is my perspective. Flexibility is the key and you should try to remove any unnecessary barriers for quality candidates. We often hear candidate requirements that should likely be guidelines: a bachelor’s or master’s degree, a specific number of years’ experience, a threshold for experience with a specific asset size. Credit unions have built extensive screening practices for candidates and many of them are important. But, as you inevitably shift from screening multiple qualified candidates to recruiting the talent you need, you should think about how you will attract the best candidate pool.

Credit unions sometimes appear to be “playing not to lose”. They want a candidate who no one will object to and who doesn’t challenge the status quo. Credit unions take candidates through multiple layers of panel interviews to make sure no one raises a concern. It’s considered most important to check every box of qualifications. While that may be comfortable, it doesn’t necessarily position you for the greatest success. You should be hiring the candidate who can really make a difference. Hiring is not easy and the results are sometimes difficult to quantify. Is it a successful hire if someone stays for ten years and never rocks the boat? How do you calculate the opportunity cost of passing on the candidate who would have really pushed performance? We know credit unions have changed dramatically in the last ten or fifteen years. Hiring practices will need to change with the times and environment. None of the above is truly not an option.

Jim Hansen

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