Secret for Hiring Self-starters: Try Before You Buy

Prudential’s recruiting method, called the Career Development Program, allows people to stay in their current jobs throughout six months of training — mostly online, and at the candidates’ own pace — to earn the professional designations required to become a certified life insurance agent and financial advisor.

Prudential launched the CDP in 2009 as a small-scale experiment, but it’s worked so well that it’s now the only way the company hires new financial professionals, some 3,400 of whom have done the training so far.

“Our managers like this approach a lot better, because it shows them clearly how committed and conscientious each candidate is before that person is hired,” says Caroline Feeney, Prudential’s newly appointed president of agency distribution.

The dropout rate is high. Roughly 60% of candidates don’t make it through the demanding combination of course work, exams, assessments, and exercises Prudential requires (and pays for). “Either they decide somewhere along the way, or we do, that it just isn’t going to work out,” Feeney says. “But this way, we find out early, before we bring them on board and they end up quitting or being fired.” By letting the company test-drive candidates, and vice versa, before they’re added to the payroll, Feeney says the CDP costs much less than the company’s old hiring method — largely because it has chopped turnover by about 40%.

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