Interview Powerfully for That New Branch Manager or Loan Officer Position-Part 1

As a Branch Manager or Loan Officer, you’re looking to advance your career or find a better fit for your talents. We get it and want to help you find that new position by providing guidelines for interviewing in the most effective and powerful way possible over the phone and in-person.

In Part 1 below, we give you guidelines for an effective general approach to that first interview.

Part 2 is a separate article, and in it we list 10 of the most commonly asked interview questions and provide you with the best answers/approaches to those questions.

Before you begin Part 1, remember this central principle:
Your goal for the first interview is to get to the second one! 

Guideline 1: At the Beginning of the Interview, It’s Not About You; It’s About Them!

Right from the start of any interview, the hiring authority is looking at you to answer the central question in their mind: Beyond all your skills and experience, are you a good fit for our organization?

Obviously, every company wants a talented and successful Branch Manager or Loan Officer, but not at the price of throwing sand into the gears of their organization due to ego or other problems.  So, this means that your first order of business is to…demonstrate that you’re a team player!

To achieve that goal, conduct due diligence on the company well before the interview. Seek information from a variety of sources – Google, former employees, branch managers and loan officers who are in the know, etc. Find out what the company goals and principles are, their areas of specialty, etc. Then put all that information together. That way, during the interview you can demonstrate to the interviewer that you have an in-depth understanding of his or her company – and are the consummate team player.

Guideline 2: Focus on the Value You Bring to the Table.

Before the interview, sit down and write out a list of the valuable accomplishments, skills and attitudes you bring to the company.

Writing them down will help you create a thoroughly positive portrait of your abilities as a branch manager or loan officer. The list should include tangible accomplishments like production numbers, etc., and intangibles like the ability to create long-term customer relationships, contribute to teamwork, etc.

Then, use the items on that list during the interview to demonstrate your commitment to bringing value to the hiring company. Again, it’s what you can do for them!

Of course, avoid any topic that creates a bad impression in the hiring authority’s mind! These subjects include: 

  • Complaining about current or past employers.
  • Any personal issues (divorce or separation, the need to make money quickly, drug or alcohol issues, etc.)
  • Reluctance to accept training or lack of commitment to learning, etc.

These issues are “red flags” to the interviewer and will get you eliminated from other consideration. And, since they have so much potential to create negativity, avoid talking about these subjects as well:

  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation, etc.

In short, keep the focus firmly on the business at hand, and you’ll have a successful interview.

Guideline 3: Save the Money Talk for Later.

It’s always tempting to talk money, but the first interview is definitely not the time to do it, if you can avoid the subject. Such talk leaves the impression that you’re interested only in compensation and not actually committing to the team concept.

And, equally important, don’t forget that there’s no advantage to discussing money this early in the process. If you ask for too much, you might turn the interviewer off; on the other hand, if you ask for too little, you leave money on the table.

Of course, an interviewer is likely to ask you about compensation because it’s a method of eliminating unsatisfactory candidates. Your best response is to, again, focus on the value you bring to the company by saying something like: “I’m much more interested in long-term prospects with the firm. If you feel I’m a good fit for the job, then I’m sure you’ll make me a fair offer.”

If the interviewer persists in getting an answer, then tell them what your current compensation plan* is while emphasizing that you’re seeking to advance your career in a way that will benefit both the company and you.

*Be honest and don’t embellish your numbers because the interviewer will ask for proof in the form of pay stubs, W2s, etc.

Guideline 4: Ask for the Next Interview!

Assuming you find the company a good or great match, conclude the interview by being politely assertive about asking for the second interview. This is a great idea for two reasons: 1) It obviously improves your opportunity to get to the next step; and 2) it shows the company that you’re not afraid to ask for business from realtors, referral partners, or borrowers!

So, end by saying something like this: “I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me, and I especially like what I hear about this opportunity and the company as a whole. I’d definitely like to meet with you in person about it!”

Now, go on to Part 2 to see how to effectively answer the ten most commonly asked interview questions.

Interview Powerfully for That New Branch Manager or Loan Officer Position- Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we gave you guidelines on approaching that first phone/face-to-face interview with a different company. In Part 2, we provide you with the following:

  • A list of 10 of the most commonly asked general questions by interviewers*
  • Why these questions are asked
  • How to best answer the questions.

This will allow you to maximize your answers and demonstrate that you’re the best fit for the job.

*Keep in mind that different companies and interviewers will ask questions that are specific to their operations and not on our list. Doing thorough research on the company prior to the interview will help you prepare for these questions.

So, read on to see our list of questions and our recommendations for answering them.

Question 1. What can you tell me about yourself?

This is an open-ended question designed to see if you can give a focused answer and stay on point. So, don’t go on and on about your educational background, employment history, etc. Instead, emphasize the specific skills and knowledge that demonstrate you’re the right person for the job and the company. These could include:

  • Leadership abilities
  • Great work ethic
  • Eagerness to contribute to the company and grow with it.
  • Any previous successes or experience that relate directly to the position, etc.

Question 2. Tell me what you know about our company?

We don’t need to tell you that answers to this question are highly important. The interviewer is seeking to determine if you’re professional and serious about the opportunity. This means you should have a fundamental understanding of the company’s strategy, goals, and methods of carrying out their business model. If at all possible, link your answers to personal experience, for example:

  • “What impresses me is the total support of your team in its commitment to get loans closed in a timely manner.”
  • “I’ve always been dedicated to the entrepreneurial side of our business and am excited to your complete commitment to it as well.”…etc.

Question 3. Why should we bring you on board?

This is a standard question and actually a great opportunity for one reason – you can sell yourself as the best person for the job! It allows you to demonstrate that you’re confident and, at the same time, committed to being a valuable member of the company team. In your answer, focus on such areas as:

  • Your ability to deliver results.
  • Your commitment to being a long-term asset to the company.
  • Your ability to work well with others, etc.

Great answers to this question will demonstrate to the interviewer your passion about your career, passion that you want to share with the company.

Question 4. What are your greatest professional strengths and weaknesses?

This standard question has two purposes – one for you and one for the interviewer.  First, it gives you an opportunity to sell yourself. But, second, it can reveal to the hiring authority any “red flags” about your character.

For example, if you say you have no weaknesses, the interviewer may view you as egotistical because everyone on the planet has areas they can improve. The best course to answer the “weakness” question is to focus on a “negative” that can also be perceived as an asset. For example, you might answer: “Well, I’ll admit that I can be impatient sometimes.” This answer shows that you care about the tasks and assignments in your business life and want the highest quality results.

In terms of discussing your strengths, highlight the qualities that relate directly to the job opportunity; for example:

  • Your enthusiasm for the mortgage business
  • Your ability to network and build relationships that will result in a successful referral-based business
  • Your excellent management, sales and communication skills.

In each of these cases, be sure to provide specific examples of how you’ve demonstrated these qualities in your business career.

Question 5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

When interviewers ask this question, they’re seeking to determine if you’re a good long-term fit for the company. Our advice is to be honest. They’re listening to see if you have a realistic view of the situation and to determine if your work ethic and expectations match your career goals.

For example, let’s assume you’re self-sourcing a business from referral networks. In this case, a good answer to the question would be: “I’d like to grow my referral business 25-30% a year and take advantage of opportunities to advance into a producing manager role within the firm.” This answer is realistic as well as showing enthusiasm for the business and a strong work ethic.

On the other hand, a poor answer would be, “I’d like to stop originating so I can manage a team of originators.” This often reflects the fact that the candidate has lost his or her passion for the business and has lapsed into laziness.

Question 6. In what ways do you source your business?

This is a question interviewers ask to be positive you’re a good fit for the company’s business model. Our advice is to give a straight-forward answer. If you prefer working in a leads-based model, find a company focused on this strategy. If your business is self-sourced, find a company with the ideal infrastructure and support for you. If you want to move from one to the other, determine what the positives and negatives are and clearly explain your goals and business plans to the interviewer.

Question 7. What is your year-to-date and last full year’s closed loan volume and income?

Know your numbers and be honest about them. Since you’re in the mortgage business, you should be able to provide these basic numbers. Most companies will require proof of income (recent pay stubs and prior years W-2) along with production reports so they can provide an employment offer to you. Never lie about your numbers because this will usually backfire on you. It’s a simple fact that just as you want to be able to trust the mortgage company to perform as promised, their management wants to trust you.

Question 8. What is the reason you’re leaving/considering a change?

An answer to this question requires a delicate balancing act on your part. On the one hand, you want to share any challenges you face at your current employer. On the other hand, you definitely do not want to be overly negative.  Never, ever bash any employers! That’s a definite red flag for the interviewer. After all, no one wants a complainer spreading negativity around their company like a virus.

The best course to keep your response short, to the point, and framed in a positive way. For example, a good answer is, “I’m looking for a company committed to closing loans in a timely manner.” A terrible answer would be, “’Awful’ is the best way to my company’s underwriting and processing. They never hit closing dates, and it’s killing my business.” That answer reeks of negativity and would turn an interviewer off in an instant.

Another positive example would be, “I’m looking for an opportunity to advance my career, earn additional income, and/or grow a profitable branch office.” This is much better than the negative response, “This company keeps screwing me over and costing me a ton of money and referral partners.”

Question 9. How do you resolve a problem with an unhappy agent or client?

The interviewer is seeking to determine how well you resolve conflicts since they want a person who can maintain smooth relationships with realtors and clients. The best way to answer this question is to emphasize the positive ways in which you prevent problems from occurring in the first place. That is, you might respond to the question by saying, “In my experience, communication is the key to preventing problems from cropping up. One way I do that is by providing automated status updates though emails, videos, etc. to both referral partners and borrowers. That way, I answer questions before they’re ever asked.”

Question 10. Are there any questions you have for me?

This question is usually asked near the end of the interview, and it’s a great opportunity to show your interest in the position and the company. Don’t answer “No” as the interviewer may interpret your response as showing a lack of interest in the job or not enough professionalism to engage more with him or her. Instead, you can ask good questions like this:

  • “Can you tell me what you like about the company?”
  • “The company’s growth plans look interesting. Can you tell me more about them?”
  • “Assuming I fill the position, what would you like to see me accomplish in the first 90-180 days?”

These questions show that your focus is on becoming a valuable asset to the company.