Recruiting & Hiring

A Leader's Guide for Hiring and Retaining Diverse Talent

Matt O'Neill, CXO

For an organization to attract top talent, it must demonstrate that it has core values, which everyone from senior leadership down believe and live both inside of and outside the office.  An appealing culture can be the difference between your next superstar candidate choosing your organization as their new job opportunity or selecting your main competitor right down the street. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 400,000 professionals in the insurance industry will retire within the next few years.  It also states that the need for skilled agents and brokers will grow by 10% and by 7% for support staff.  At the same time, according to Pew Research, “only 4% of millennials are interested in working in the insurance industry.” 

So, how does an organization build an appealing culture?

David Friedman, founder and CEO of High Performing Culture ( and the author of Fundamentally Different, defines culture as the specific behaviors that a business leader wants to see taking place in his or her workplace.  Defining these values will allow you to systematize processes from new talent hiring all the way through customer acquisition and customer retention.

Zappos, an industry-leading customer service organization, consciously creates and reinforces a corporate culture to help accomplish its goals.  While Zappos’ corporate culture does not attract every job seeker, the people who do fit in thrive, are highly loyal, and remain engaged and stable in their jobs for years. Zappos’ 10 core values are simple:

  • Deliver WOW through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More with Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble

As a best practice, Beyond Insurance encourages you to define 8-12 core culture values for your own organization.

When defining your values, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. What philosophy or practice best aligns with the reason (the WHY) our organization exists?
  2. Are our values applicable to every employee from senior management down?
  3. To what degree do our current employees embrace our cultural values?

Defining your culture positions the organization to effectively hire based on cultural fit as opposed to skill.

How do you recruit based on cultural fit?

Consider the Zappos’ core values above.  Value number one is, “Deliver WOW through Service.”  During the hiring process, their recruiting team might ask, “Describe a time where you received WOW customer service.”  If the candidate describes a time where he or she received extremely speedy service from a wait staff at a local restaurant, this may be a telltale sign as to what the candidate views as WOW service.  Since quick service is not one of Zappos’ culture values, this response is a sign that the applicant will not fit well in the organization. Instead, Zappos is looking for answers that describe how the waiter builds rapport and engages with the customer.

Similarly, when an applicant gives an example that is out of alignment with your culture, it’s important to probe and discover more about the candidate’s core values.

Try developing a culture scorecard based on four criteria:

  1. Establish your core values
  2. Weight the core values based on the overall importance to your company culture
  3. Define characteristics associated with each culture value
  4. Score each applicant on a 1-10 scale based on his or her cultural fit

The higher the culture score, the more aligned the hire is with your organization’s values and, therefore, will be a better fit within your firm.

Core Value



Weighted Score

Max Score

Deliver WOW Through Service





Embrace and Drive Change





Create Fun and a Little Weirdness














Culture Score:


How does cultural hiring impact diversity?

When professionals discuss “diversity” we often think first of hiring people outside of our gender, religion or race. But that’s only part of the equation.

If you struggle with an aging workforce, you may need to consider adding younger professionals who can help transfer knowledge, skills and accounts. Similarly, if you focus primarily on attracting recent college graduates, your team may have an experience shortage.  Comparable obstacles will be faced if your organization finds it lacks sexual or ethnic diversity as well. 

When hiring based on cultural fit, the hiring process reduces subconscious biases that might be present while reviewing a resume. Considering the college or university the candidate went to, or any first impressions the person makes when meeting the hiring manager become secondary considerations to cultural values.

One Final Thought:

While skills are critical for any employee to succeed in his or her role, if the best, most technically proficient employee is placed into a toxic culture or does not align with your corporate culture, he or she probably will not last long.  Consider the culture you’re asking people to join and ensure they have the best opportunities to assimilate into that environment.

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