By Bill Thon
A mortgage originator is, in essence, a sales professional. Responsible not only for selling a loan product, the mortgage originator is also responsible for providing the invaluable service of matching the client with the right loan product.
And though the number of mortgage originators jumped about 42% during the height of the most recent real estate craze, today’s originator, as well as those individuals responsible for recruiting them, must learn to pinpoint the unique and highly specialized skills an originator should embody in today’s climate. The mortgage originator must sell the product, translate intricate details of loan products into lay terms, extract pertinent information about each borrower’s economic, psychological, and risk profile, and analyze market trends, all while building relationships, holding the borrower’s hand, and addressing the borrower’s concerns.
Most importantly, he must have a long-term approach to his career as a mortgage originator.
But finding mortgage originators with “staying power” is not as simple as throwing 42 percent more bodies into the water and seeing which ones resurface. Though this approach might effectively weed out those looking to make a quick buck, the company that takes a specific, intentional approach toward recruiting long-lasting mortgage professionals will build a stronger, less turbulent team that can withstand the industry’s inherent cycles.
Identifying the “Quick Bucks”
“Describe your pipeline for the next three months.”
“What has been your past production?”
These are typical questions a mortgage recruiter asks during the interview process. If the mortgage originator’s pipeline is large enough and past production impressive enough, the recruiter moves on, excited to have such an aggressive, ambitious player on the team.
But this line of questioning does little to identify the “quick bucks,” those professionals who set loose on the public like a pit bull on steak, but then fail to maintain stamina once the going gets tough. “Quick bucks” might excel at sales, but they are not interested in nor do they possess the skills necessary to develop relationships to sustain mortgage careers. As such, “quick bucks” will either jump ship when a better opportunity arises, or retire when the industry turns south.
A recruiter interested in building a long-lasting team should instead ask questions that reveal whether the interviewee has envisioned the future. To make sure the loan officer has long-term plans to remain in the industry, ask questions like:
“Where do you see yourself in five years, and how do you want to get there?”
Strong candidates will indicate that they not only understand the cyclical nature of the industry, but also welcome change. The seasoned mortgage originator understands that the industry is about building long-term relationships with attorneys, real estate agents, CPAs, and clients-relationships that will help the mortgage professional weather the storms. Strong candidates will articulate client-centric behavior and skills. They understand and can demonstrate that they are more effective when part of a team, not as lone wolves. They understand the benefit of relationship-oriented industry tools, such as in-house lending opportunities (joint ventures and marketing service agreements), lead-conversion business systems (Home Buyers Marketing), and client contact and retention systems (The Turning Point).
Finding the Connection Litmus Test
To succeed in the mortgage industry, a mortgage originator must be skilled at building relationships. More than grilling the originator about past production and product knowledge, the recruiter should focus on whether the candidate can build relationships. If the originator can develop a feeling of camaraderie with the recruiter, the originator will know how to make the same personal connection with a borrower or referral source. After all, the originator is not a used car salesman; he is responsible for securing a person’s dream house, and the originator must understand the deeply personal nature of the job to earn the trust, confidence, and business of today’s skeptical buyer.
Bill Thon is a career recruiter who has recruited for GE, Countrywide and other mortgage companies. Most recently, he was lead recruiter for Metrocities Mortgage. Bill can be reached at mail@BillThon.com.