Job Req: Entrepreneurs Wanted. Exp. and $50k Required

The next time you get an impossible job req, think of Will Owens. He and a counterpart are looking for 1,413 people this year to become Allstate agents.

Big deal, right? Yes, it is. His agent prospects have to have $50,000 in the bank and want to be their own boss. Ideally they’ll have some insurance experience in their background or at least have held a business leadership role. All of them are expected to foot the bill for their Allstate training.

Then, when they finally start selling Allstate’s auto, home, and life insurance, they’ll be independent contractors who will have to cover their office and living expenses until the business starts making money, which can take more than a year.

Now how easy does it sound? Riiiiiiight.

Even in an economy that has seen thousands of financial professionals laid off, Allstate recruiters have to work every angle to meet their 2009 goal. He oversees recruiting efforts for part of the country. A second senior HR manager oversees another team.

The methods include posting the opportunity on job boards, especially on niche sites like CivilianJobs.com, for reentry military, and BrokerHunter,where a video is available. His recruiters net leads from SalesGenie, ZoomInfo, and LinkedIn then email, and call the prospects. They do direct mail, email blasts, and career fairs. And they, or at least Owens, and other Allstate managers, talk up the company in the media.

In fact, the Allstate push to expand its agent force came to our attention through an angle we thought unusual. Allstate issued a press release about its recruiting efforts in Texas:

“Allstate has launched an aggressive recruitment campaign targeting professionals caught in the recent waves of lay offs and pay cuts. The company plans to sign-on at least 150 new agency owners across the Lone Star state by the end of 2009.”

Allstate’s Texas lead, Todd Martin (his official title is HR Business Partner), in a brief conversation told us the press release had the desired effect. It attracted dozens of inquiries from prospects, not to mention attention from media both in and outside Texas. “Calls, just like you,” Martin says.

The Allstate campaign is not unusual for the company. It’s been doing this for more than a few years as the company targets states and regions where it forecasts the best opportunity for growth. Texas is one of those areas.

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What’s changed, Owens says, is that the recruiting is now done entirely in-house. The company hired 39 recruiters last year to do the prospecting. It’s too early, he says, to tell what effect that and the recession have on both the quantity and quality of the candidates. It takes five to six months to onboard the prospects and get them through the training.

So far, the response is “about the same” as in previous years, Owens observes, though, he notes, there are some geographical differences. Efforts in America’s troubled Motor City — Detroit — produced a noticeably bigger response than in previous years.

We didn’t find out how many prospects Owens and his counterpart, Susan Meehan, also an Allstate HR Senior Manager, figure it will take to get the 1,413 he needs, but it’s likely to be many times that number.

The company has AllstateAgent.com, where prospects are greeted with the headline “Become an Allstate Agent, Agent Opportunities for Entrepreneurs.” The entrepreneurial approach is emphasized throughout the site. There’s an entirely separate site for the personal financial representative opportunities. These are the ones requiring a securities license.

Which of the efforts produces the most candidates? The company’s referral program, Owens tells us. It typically pays bonuses of $1,000 to $2,000 for successful referrals, though there are occasions when the payout can reach $10,000. As you might expect, there’s also a twist to this program: In some areas, anyone is eligible for the referral bonus, employee or not.

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.

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