Acquiring Outside Talent Begins From Within

The home-grown talent acquisition department at Suncoast Credit Union relies on analytics and communication to keep the ranks full.


Top-Level Takeaways

  • Suncoast Credit Union has a six-person talent acquisition department that works closely with other departments to find and recruit employees.
  • Analytics and networking are two keys to the department’s success.

Not all of the nearly 2,000 full-time equivalent employees at Suncoast Credit Union ($13.5B, Tampa, FL) are there by way of Christopher Townsend. But, a lot of them are.

Townsend is the talent acquisitions manager that has helped the big Florida cooperative hire more than 1,300 of the employees who work for Suncoast at its offices, one of its 74 branches, or at home. He was recruited to Suncoast himself 18 years ago and joined the talent acquisitions department five years ago after stints as a teller supervisor, loan officer, trainer, and youth marketing manager.

Christopher Townsend, Talent Acquisitions Manager, Suncoast Credit Union

My role now feels like the best job in the world, Townsend says. I get paid to help people change their lives by realizing their professional goals and ambitions.

He says his role revolves around meeting with other department managers, developing better recruiting strategies, and discussing changing trends in the market. He also regularly meets with his own talent team to discuss issues they might be having and new ideas to help recruitment. Townsend is personally responsible for recruiting in information technology, legal, human resources, and talent development, as well as director, vice president, and senior vice president positions.

I also do some recruiting for higher-level roles and more challenging positions that involve reviewing, screening, and scheduling interviews for our hiring managers, Townsend says. I don’t typically recruit for entry-level positions, but I’m happy to assist anyone one on our team. We’re an organization that believes in promoting from within. Five out of the six people working in talent started in our service centers, including myself.

Townsend reports to the vice president of human resources and leads a team that includes five direct reports: HR coordinator, HR receptionist, senior talent acquisition specialist, and two talent acquisition specialists.

Suncoast currently has more than 400 active job titles and slightly more than 2,000 positions. It listed 1,972 FTEs in its most recent call report, indicating the member-owned financial cooperative has kept its ranks full during a time of unusual workforce disruption and competition. According to Townsend, the Florida credit union’s retention rate through 2020 was 85%.

A Tracking System + Serious Understanding

Townsend and his team depend on an application tracking system (ATS) to source prospective new employees and communicate with them as well as juggle the data involved with that. Suncoast’s ATS contains more than 75,000 applicant records that recruiters and hiring managers can search by keywords like teller to curate a smaller list of applicants to contact.

We also create geography pools for future opportunities when the talent merits such consideration, Townsend says.

According to the talent manager, the acquisitions team must have a serious understanding of the open positions and locating the best candidates for some positions requires the team to be creative and occasionally go outside the ATS.

3 Tips To Find The Right Candidate For Any Job

After 18 years at Suncoast Credit Union in roles including teller supervisor, loan officer, trainer, and now talent acquisitions manager Christopher Townsend has learned more than a few ways to identify potential employees and make sound hiring selections.

  • Dive deeper. Townsend focuses on key areas when reviewing an application, including:
    • Tenure: If they were in a position for only one year, why? Was it a temporary or contract role?
    • Skillset: How clearly does the candidate’s experience match the role they are applying for? Does it better match another position the credit union is looking to fill?
    • Growth: How will this position aide them in the future?
  • Understand the full employee. Hire employees for their strengths. Then, train them for their weaknesses.
  • Trust the recruiting staff. Recruiters are a reliable source of fresh ideas. Listen to them and give them the freedom to explore and implement new ideas.

Posting opportunities on job boards can bring applicants, but we’re looking for the best qualified so it doesn’t always work, Townsend says. Depending on the position, we might use sources like LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Handshake, and Google. It all boils down to the position and where that market might be found.

Understanding how job-seekers are searching is another, easy way to increase the applicant pool. For Suncoast, that means using generic descriptions at times rather than internal or industry-specific terminology.

Instead of MCC Member Advocate’, we post the position as Call Center Representative’ because we’re targeting applicants who are searching through Google for call center or customer service positions, Townsend says.

The Role Of Analytics And Answers

Analytics helps the recruiters, too. For example, when examining an area that was seeing high turnover in 2020, the talent acquisitions noticed a trend.

Offers given over 24 days before a new hire start date had a success rate of 62.1% when reaching the six-month mark, Townsend says. We did more research and found that offers extended 15 to 23 days before the new hire start date had a success rate of over 80%. That helped us make a better decision of when to extend an offer.

Instinct honed from experience also help the recruiters decide if a candidate is right for a job at Suncoast. Putting that instinct to use begins with the phone screening.

Ninety percent of all position have the same core questions, Townsend says. But there are a few positions that require questions that relate directly to that position at that time. Our recruiters discuss that with the hiring manager to better understand the position and make a better hire.


Suncoast Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.21

HQ: Tamps, FL
ASSETS: $13.5B
MEMBERS: 942,111
ROA: 1.09%

In every case, one of the first questions recruiters ask is: Why do you want to work for Suncoast?

Not surprisingly, there are a few common responses that don’t meet the standards for what the credit union is looking for. These answers, or variations of, include:

  • I need a job.
  • I want full time.
  • I want to get out of the house.
  • I am looking for a change.

These might be honest answers, but they lack our company values, Townsend says. We prefer learning the applicant knows something about us. Maybe they researched or know someone who works here who has shared information about our culture and the positive opportunities that exist.

A Talent Acquisitions Team That Acquires More Learning Itself

In addition to helping other departments flourish, the talent acquisitions team also focuses on its own growth, its leader says.

The quest for qualified talent is always evolving, and we encourage constant growth and development, Townsend says. Diversity and inclusion are the latest considerations. We take classes and read trade articles and books. We want to be contemporary and work at the highest standard.

The quest for qualified talent is always evolving, and we encourage constant growth and development.

Christopher Townsend, Talent Acquisitions Manager, Suncoast Credit Union

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has taken the opportunity to review processes and offer improvements that included refining Suncoast’s online interview techniques, limiting the number of new hires to reduce class sizes, and casting a wider net for remote positions. As they grow their organization’s ranks, Townsend advises fellow credit union recruiters to grow their own networks as well.

I help other credit union recruiters by reading and liking their hiring posts on LinkedIn, for example, he says. By interacting with other hiring posts, it expands their reach through my connections, which could lead to a new career possibility for those who might be looking. Then, use that network to vet new technologies a credit union might add to its recruiting process.

We’re all bombarded by vendors trying to sell new ways to better recruit candidates, Townsend says. If you’re considering changing software or something else in your process, take your time, research the product, and speak to others who use the product or service.


May 31, 2021

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