How to Hire Top Talent Right From the Source: an Interview with Dettmann's Amber Radloff


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Amber Radloff’s phone rings all the time. “Can you tell me how to hire an Amber?” is a question she is asked all the time. Radloff is Chief Business Officer for Wealth Management Advisor Karl Dettmann at Northwestern Mutual. “It’s like we share a brain,” she jokes.

Radloff has worn many hats in in her 15 years at Northwestern Mutual—starting as the receptionist and working in new rep support, becoming the managing partner’s assistant, serving as RACE coach, assisting with training and much more. Given her breadth of experience— along with her years of experience working side by side with Dettmann to break many company records— it makes her a natural person to go to for answers.

Dettmann regards her very highly, calling her a business partner and seeking her input to guide the practice. “Amber is dedicated and highly engaged in what she does. She runs the practice like it is her own business. Her high level of investment allows me to focus on generating revenue. I can let go of the details knowing she never misses a beat,” says Dettmann.

She is asked routinely: How do I find and hire the right person? How should I train them?

Here she sheds some light on how you can find your own “Amber."

Be open about the role and your expectations Radloff says not to hire one person and expect them to do it all well. “A phoner won’t likely be a strong back office person,” she says. Write a clear position description and communicate well about what your priorities are. Hire for the position you most need and focus on training for the core responsibilities.

What is the role Blurring the role and making it ever-expanding can create disappointment for you and your new hire. “If you’re hiring someone off the street, they know what you know or less!” she laughs, emphasizing that it takes time to learn a new role. Expecting someone to know his or her entire role in just days and then adding more responsibilities (such as managing your email) too quickly can cause you to lose good talent. Describe your own role, in addition to your new Associate Financial Representative’s (AFR) and hold up your end of the agreement.

Radloff recommends if you hire a phoner, train them to do all of your phoning right from the start including appointment reminders, setting annual reviews and phoning Qualified Suspects (QSs) to set New Seens. “It will be harder to have the person get comfortable phoning only current clients and then later expecting them to add on new dials which are more challenging,” she said.

Use Strategy When Interviewing Radloff said it often surprises Financial Representatives (FRs) when she says, “be the last person who interviews a potential hire. Don’t get attached to someone’s personality. Let an unbiased office manager or recruiter start the process with the main pool of candidates. Then, pick someone who shares your values and work ethic and have them interview top candidates next,” she explains.

Use screening tools such as the Culture Index and the Kolbe Index to learn about the candidates’ personalities and ways of taking action. Eliminate any candidates with poor fit. Only once these steps have been taken, Radloff said, should the FR should step in and interview the top candidates. “Always go with your gut. You’re going to get a feeling. Go with the feeling and the vibe that you get—not the person’s pretty resume paper or smiley face,” she adds. When interviewing, “be yourself!” she emphasizes. “Be honest and open,” she adds.

Maximize All of the Tools Available “Use the SET team if you still can,” explains Radloff. That way your new hire can focus on training and you will continue to have support. “You don’t want to overwhelm your new staff person and lose your new hire by having them doing the job while at the same time training for it,” she says.

Training is EVERYTHING Radloff recommends finding a rockstar AFR in your office to help train and mentor your new hire. Make a training plan and follow it. Take great care in communicating well and supporting the growth of your new hire. If you treat your AFR well, she said they will pay you back by doing great work and growing with the practice.

Paint a Picture for the Growth of the Role “When I know that Karl cares about every hair on my head and if I got up on the wrong side of the bed I will do anything to help. The more excited about the practice he gets, the more excited I get,” she says. “He treats me like a business partner. Not an assistant,” she says. If you are part of the business it’s a career, she explains. “People treat it too much like a job—clock in and clock out—because they feel like an assistant,” she says, adding, “When you find the right person, let them get out on the front lines and help make decisions.”

Seth Godin, author of a book that describes how to create engaged employees like Radloff called Linchpin: Are You Indispensable, writes, “The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.” Amber cares deeply about Northwestern Mutual, her clients, the practice and her colleagues—and it runs both ways.

Coaching Tip Engagement starts with you! Are you engaged? Start by stoking enthusiasm in yourself by reading Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth Godin. If the book inspires you, get a copy for everyone on the team and actively foster each person learning how he or she can become indispensable.