4 Ways To Cultivate The Corner Office

How Arizona’s largest credit union acquires top talent for its professional, management, and senior leadership roles.

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union ($3.8B, Phoenix, AZ) opened its doors in 1939 and for 76 years has strived to provide members with exceptional experiences and breakthrough service. According to Dane Als, the credit unions senior HR director of talent acquisition and employee relations, Desert Schools has achieved this, in large part, by hiring the right people, with the right fit, that are committed to the credit union difference.

Today, Desert Schools workforce includes more than 1,000 community-minded, member-focused employees that have repeatedly ranked the organization a Best Place to Work by the Phoenix Business Journal.

The credit union continually focuses on finding team members that fit its values-based culture and takes a collaborative approach to recruiting top talent. Here, Als offers four pieces of advice on how to identify, vet, and hire leadership-level individuals.

1. Maximize Existing HR Capital

For most roles, it makes the most sense for Desert Schools to identify qualified internal candidates.

Dane Als, senior HR director of talent acquisition and employee relations, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union

We have a practice of promoting from within, Als says. This approach allows us to leverage existing knowledge and reward exceptional performance. It also drives loyalty and engagement while providing a career path for employees.

For positions that require a specific skill set or more time for development, the credit union prioritizes things like vision, cross-functional strategy, and successfully driving an entire line of business. This requires a blended strategy that mixes in-house promotion and external hiring.

2. Call In The Reinforcements

Having dedicated recruiters on staff is still a novel idea for many credit unions, but for the past nine years, recruiters at Desert Schools have been responsible for finding and hiring approximately 85% of the organizations incoming staff each year.

The team employs a multi-channeled applicant sourcing strategy that includes Internet job boards, various networking groups, out-of-state sourcing, and social media to fill positions that range from front-line employees all the way up to leadership-level talent.

The recruitment team has a solid understanding of the credit unions values our Big 4, Als says. The team serves as subject matter experts that partner with leaders and their teams to find the right person for the role.


Desert Schools FCU
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: Phoenix, AZ
MEMBERS: 316,794
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 13.3%
ROA: 1.5%

Specialized roles sometimes require a different approach and sourcing strategy. In these instances, the credit union might partner with recruitment agencies or executive search firms to find candidates with broad experience and perspectives who can lead the credit union in an innovative and member-focused way.

Its imperative the individuals leading the credit union understand our vision and values, Als says. Thats why finding the right leadership talent whether internally or externally is so important. Its a significant factor to our ongoing success.

3. Create A Total Compensation Package

Compensation involves more than numbers on a paystub, Als says. Thats why Desert Schools presents candidates with a total compensation package that takes into account incentives and a range of medical, retirement, and wellness benefits in addition to base compensation.

And for an out-of-state executive looking to relocate, Desert Schools touts the benefits of the great cost of living in Phoenix and a climate that enables an active lifestyle year-round.

These two features can be very appealing to candidates, Als advises.

We want to be upfront and set accurate expectations on both sides throughout every step of the hiring process. That way, we never reach the final phases of the process and it turns out were miles apart in terms of expectations.

4. Approach Hiring Through Multiple Phases

According to Als, Desert Schools process is designed to do two things: one, determine if the candidate has the needed skills, experience, values, and competence to perform successfully; and, two, give the candidate as clear a picture as possible of the role and what it will take to be successful.

Both are critical components of the hiring process.

For Desert Schools, it is just as important for a candidate to determine whether the credit union will be a good fit for their career as it is for the credit union to determine whether the candidate will be a good fit for the organization.

In addition to the standard phone screen interview, candidates undergo a series of in-person interviews designed to assess their relevant past experiences, evaluate their written communication skills, and gauge their creativity and problem solving abilities.

Its about drawing out those things you cant always determine from a resume, Als says.

Successful candidates might have secondary interviews with key stakeholders and senior leader roles interview with a panel from the Desert Schools executive team. This is all designed to ensure the cultural fit before either party makes a final commitment.

We want to be upfront and set accurate expectations on both sides throughout every step of the hiring process, Als says. This ensures qualified candidates understand the role we are seeking to fill and we can make sure they connect with our culture. That way, we never reach the final phases of the process and it turns out were miles apart in terms of expectations.

For an executive role, the process from identifying the candidate through making an offer and bringing someone on board is deliberately extensive, but has proven successful, Als says.

Its a thorough process, but its worth it, he explains. In the end, the person selected has made a decision to choose Desert Schools as part of their career, and you know you have someone with the drive to lead employees in a way that improves member lives. Thats why we are all here.

Are You Ready For Strategic Planning?

The most effective planning sessions require prep work, sharp focus, and a true understanding of your credit unions place in the market.

Use this set of essential performance ratios for strategic planning to make the most of your teams time together.



August 1, 2017

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