During the course of my life I have been honored with the opportunity to know some fantastic leaders and a few who left a lot to be desired. The great leaders, those who seemed to be surrounded by relationship and financial success, had a confident humility about them. They believed they knew a lot, maybe more than most, but not everything. They also surrounded themselves with other leaders who could essentially help them grow in certain areas. This humility separates the good from the great in my eyes.

I spoke with a ‘C’ level hiring manager a few weeks ago who professionally said, ‘I know everyone in my market so I doubt I will need the help of a recruiter to fill these positions.’ Sadly, this isn’t the first time I heard this from a hiring manager and our recruiters servicing other markets hear this from time to time as well.

This blows my mind. Dazed and confused, I thought it might be time to share my thoughts on the matter.

First things first. Knowing someone’s name or meeting them once at a networking event or even working with them directly in the past doesn’t mean you know them as a candidate. Adam Eckels, the “A” in AJ Consultants often says, “I know who Jennifer Aniston is, but that doesn’t mean we’re dating”. While comical, it’s a great analogy. People often won’t share personal details about their career wants and needs with their closest co-worker, but they will with a recruiter. You may know someone, but it’s our goal to know them as a candidate and we often meet and exceed our goals. We pride ourselves at intentionally being in the right place at the right time.

While recruiting provides a comfortable living (this week), it’s not just a job to me or the recruiters at AJ Consultants. It’s a career and when we’re not on the phone calling candidates and clients, we dedicate our time to learning the minutia of recruiting and the subtle nuances of the targeted markets we service. Who’s growing and who’s dying? Is a recent merger or acquisition going to create problems or eliminate them and who will be affected? Etc. We live it and love it and dedicate our professional lives to interpreting this chaos. We know more than most when it comes to finding, acquiring, and retaining great talent. Time has proven our value to the clients we serve which is why we continue to grow as a result.

Having said that…

We, the masters of our domain, still don’t know everyone in our markets. We strive to, but we always fall short of our goal of ‘knowing everyone’. How is that possible? Because the talent pool, despite its shrinking status, will always be a living breathing juggernaut of change and confusion. Every talent isn’t at every networking event. Every talent isn’t on LinkedIn. Every talent isn’t listed on corporate websites, and talent always ALWAYS moves around. The talent economy is in a constant state of flux, so while you may think you know everyone today that will change tomorrow. I guarantee it.

Therefore, no one knows everyone. Not even those, like us, who dedicate their time to the cause. However, with the utmost confidence I can say we know more than most. Whether we are actively working on a search or not, we are ‘recruiting’ talent every day so when our clients honor us with a search we know who to call. The value of a great recruiter is centered in the heart of this truth…we know these talents as ‘candidates’. So, the next time you need a great talent and you have no time to waste qualifying the people you think you know, please consider calling a great recruiter like those at AJ Consultants. Chances are, we’ve already invested our time so you don’t have to and you’ll be “dating” Jennifer Aniston or Brad Pitt before you know it!

Football season is here!! That means it’s time for our second annual Super Bowl contest. We have challenged some bankers to predict the two teams who will make the Super Bowl and who will win. If anyone guesses correctly, we will award the winner with two tickets to see a regular season game of their choosing next season! (In the event of a tie the winner will be chosen on a final score guess.)

Without further ado, here are this year’s contestants…


Christopher Marcoux –Commercial Lender- Middleburg Bank
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Patriots will win. (27-24)


David Twiss- AVP Commercial Lender- Enterprise Bank
New England Patriots vs Dallas Cowboys
Patriots will win. (34-28)


Sean Dannaker- Financial Service Representative II – Penn Liberty Bank
Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Packers will win. (27-21)


Joseph T. Baptista Jr. – President & Chief Executive Officer- Mechanics Cooperative Bank
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Patriots will win. (31-27)


Marilyn Tressel- SVP Senior Credit Officer- Boston Private Bank & Trust Company
New England Patriots vs San Francisco 49ers
Patriots will win. (21-17)

Thomas Doane, PHR – SVP Human Resources- Avidia Bank
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Packers will win. (28-21)


Michelle Wyandt – VP/Special Credit Projects Officer – AmeriServ Financial Bank
Indianapolis Colts vs Green Bay Packers
Packers will win. (31-21)


Robert Maloof – VP Manager Commercial Credit Dept.- Cambridge Trust Company
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Patriots will win. (27-17)


Jeff Pfeffer- Senior Relationship Manager/ Middle Market Lending- TD Bank
Denver Broncos vs Green Bay Packers
Broncos will win. (38-35)


Rob Dunton- Commercial Lender- American Bank
Miami Dolphins vs Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles will win. (35-32)


Tim Jefferis- SVP Commercial Lender- Penn Liberty Bank
Philadelphia Eagles vs Indianapolis Colts
Eagles will win. (38-14)


Ron Briggs – AVP CRE Relationship Manager- US Bank
Indianapolis Colts vs Seattle Seahawks
Colts will win. (34-17)


Good luck to all!!



A few months ago we added a section to our blog page called “Ask Us Anything,” in which people could ask us questions anonymously. We are going to answer the top two questions we were asked in the last few months. We will continue to answer your questions a few times a year. (Read to the end of this blog to hear about our Super Bowl contest, which did have a WINNER last year.)


1. Do you think community banking is dying?

There is over-regulation of banking. Things tend to get pushed to the extreme. For example, our own John Morris bought his first home in 2006 and the bank said they would lend him double the amount he was looking for and the process was very simple and fast. Fast forward to today, he is trying to put an addition on his house, the process started in April, and four months later, he still hasn’t closed.


Banks seems to be buying, selling, or merging, blaming a lot of it on the extreme regulatory costs which might be true. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a new bank emerge but many have disappeared. These changes can result in less customer service to the smaller business or individual. For instance, big banks are pushing businesses under a certain size as well as individuals with under a certain amount of investable assets to call centers. It is our belief that there will be a reemergence of community banks over the next several years because “the little guy” will demand a higher level of customer service. And let’s face it; there is a lot of money to made here.


2.  How much of a raise can I expect to make a move?

The truth is, whether you like it or not, your new compensation will be based off of what you are currently making. Just like when you buy a car what you are willing to pay is based off of Kelly Bluebook, and when you are putting an offer in on a house, you look at the current owner’s purchase price.

Another way to look at it is, if you are lucky enough to receive an annual raise, your current employer doesn’t base your bump off of a made up number. They look at where you are now compensation wise and apply a percentage. Other folks in our industry do not always want to say this and people do not always want to hear it, but it’s not worth sugarcoating.

So your possible bump or raise if you make a move, will not typically be based off a pay grade or market value of others, it will be based off of your current compensation and market value for you. It’s not a set number, it’s a percentage. We here have those percentages down to an annual science per market that we cover. If you would like to discuss that in more detail…give us a call.”


***Stay tuned for next month’s blog, our Super Bowl contest! Send your picks to rroppa@ajconsultantsllc.com.  You must provide the two teams you believe will make it into the Super Bowl AND which one will win. If anyone guesses correctly, we will award the winner with two tickets to see a regular season game of their choosing next season! In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by whoever guesses closest to the final score of the game.


I started working at A J Consultants in April of 2012. I did not yet know the recruiting business or the banking business. I picked it up pretty quickly and love what I do. Most of my job here is to research, primarily finding potential candidates who fit open jobs. Just as I have watched my job grow and change, (I still mainly research, but I also do other things, like write for this blog for instance), I have seen the need for jobs change, especially during this last quarter.

When I first started working here, the majority of what I was searching for were commercially driven positions. Over the past few months I have noticed a dramatic change. Yes, banks still need and use our services to find quality lenders and credit experts, but they are also asking us to fill many unique jobs as of late. For instance, in the past quarter, we have worked on the following positions:

– IT Specialists
– Loan Servicing
– Call Center Manager
– General Counsel (for a banking institution)
– Loan Operations positions
– Director of Consumer Lending
– Mobile Banking experts


You may think to yourself that it sounds overwhelming to go from searching for mostly the same type of person all the time to an array of different people. The truth is, I enjoy my job, but of course, like any job, it can get monotonous especially when you get comfortable and confident in what you are doing. I really love the challenge of helping to fill these new types of positions. It helps me to learn more about the industry and just shakes things up.
As to why there has been this change and uptick of new jobs being available, I have limited insight as I am not a recruiter. I can of course speculate that the IT and mobile banking positions are in demand because of the obvious change we have seen in the past few years of banks moving towards technology… As for the other positions, I’m going to let my bosses/ owners of the company field that one.

I feel it comes down to a few things. One would be the improvement of the market. Banks are not only hiring more people, but hiring in a variety of spots and not only willing to, but wanting to farm those searches out for numerous reasons.” Adam Eckels, Co-Owner at A J Consultants said. “Not only that, but I feel over the years our clients understand what we are capable of from a search prospective. They realize we do more than just place Chief Lending Officers and Portfolio Managers. Our connections go beyond that.”

John Morris, Co-Owner of AJ Consultants also weighed in. “Outside of mergers & acquisitions, turnover in these types of positions is not as high as lenders etc. Supporting that, there are typically only 1 or 2 of these positions within a bank. What we are seeing now is that banks have neglected succession planning. Therefore, when people retire or move on for another opportunity, the bank does not have a person to take over the role thus sparking the need to fill from the outside.”


Things are changing a bit around here and in the market. They always are in banking and in recruiting. 🙂


Every day people ask me, “How are you seeing things out there?” Bottom line, the first half of this year has been nuts!

It’s busy here, it’s busy out there, frankly it seems busy almost everywhere. It’s a damn good problem to have. It’s a problem we can see evidence of other industries having too.

For example, a couple of people on our team are having work done on their homes. Finding a contractor who has availability has been a nightmare. A couple of years ago, you told those same contractors “I have money I want to give you and I need work done,” and they would have been lining up, not hiding.

I digress though, this isn’t a spot about how busy it is or general contractors, it’s a spot about some trends I have noticed thus far while navigating the Wild West of recruiting circa 2015. In no particular order…

The hiring process has quickened.

The bank hiring process can sometimes be absurdly slow. In years past the interview process had the urgency of 20 inning Major League Baseball game. Not typically the case thus far in 2015. This year’s clients have understood that the stakes are high, candidates have options, and timing is of the essence. No more 5+ conversations over the series of months. Well, at least not as much as we used to see it anyway.

Longtime employees are moving.

Some of our placements this year have involved moving candidates with 10 to 20 years experience with the same bank to a new bank. This is abnormal for a few reasons.
1.) The typical employee does not stay anywhere, let alone a bank, for 10 to 20 years anymore.

2.) These longtime employees don’t typically jump easily.

Candidates are realizing a few things. In some cases they need a change. In some cases they have watched their bank change and therefore it’s not the experience they worked so long and hard for. In some cases, these employees realize that their loyalty is not being reciprocated by their employer. In most cases it’s a mixture of the above.
LinkedIn, corporate America’s new place for tired quotes.

I love LinkedIn, it really blows my hair back, but some days it feels like nothing more than pictures of lions with quotes about hard work and leadership attached. That has increased a good bit this year. I like lions as much as the next red blooded American, but if folks were great leaders or hard workers…they probably wouldn’t have time to post 2 Lion picture/quotes a week. It reminds me of a slightly more adult version of that picture that dawned many elementary school walls. You know the one…it said “Hang in there” and had a picture of a kitten hanging on to a tree branch.

While I am on this rant, I want to lump other picture/quotes into the equation. In general LinkedIn has become fertile ground for pictures of dynamic business, sports and celebrity talent, with quotes attached. Sometimes the quotes do not even belong to who they are attributed to or they are ones that have been cribbed (JJ Watt).

Big bank bankers moving to smaller institutions.

Tony Pica from Capital One to Capital Bank. Lindsey Rheaume from JPMorgan to Eagle. Jerri Fellerman from Wells Fargo to Eagle. Joann Tobin from Bank of America to Cardinal. The list goes on.

Well there you have it…some stuff I have noticed from my world thus far in 2015. Have a great rest of the year and summer.

We’re recruiters and deals are our game. However, sometimes hires fall through. The reasons are varied and sometimes complicated. Here are the top reasons why a candidate declines an offer.


1. Money- Ah. Money. The thing that makes the world go round. Yes of course we have to talk about the obvious first. It is essential that money expectations are clear throughout the hiring process, but sometimes the deal can fall through even with the best management of this topic. Candidates change their mind about what they believe they deserve, hiring authorities come in with a number lower than we were thinking, plus about a thousand other reasons money can ruin a deal.

2. Benefits- Sometimes an employer just cannot offer benefits, such as health insurance, 401K, stock options etc., which measure up to what the candidate already has or believes they deserve.

3. Vacation time can also be a deal killer. Companies are usually very regulated about what they can offer in terms of paid time off, and sometimes it does not come close enough to what the person is receiving in their current position.

4. Counter Offer- The dreaded word for a recruiter. People choose to stay with their current employer because when they resign they are offered more money, incentives, etc to stay. We have discussed in length before why counter-offers are almost always a bad idea, so I won’t get into it now.

5. Miscommunication about the job. Either the recruiter has not explained the job correctly to their candidate, or the hiring manager has not explained the job correctly to the recruiter, or something in-between.

6. All of a sudden the hiring bank is up for sale or merging with another bank and chaos ensues.

7. The hiring manager takes a new job. This usually ends things pretty quickly for obvious reasons.

8. Sometimes people get too comfortable during the hiring process, especially if there have been multiple interviews. This goes for candidates and clients alike. Sometimes things can seem golden– the hire is inevitable. Everyone gets along great, but then they get too comfortable. Perhaps someone drinks too much during a meet-up at a restaurant, or brings food into an interview, or the hiring manager takes a call during the meeting, or a new hire gives their new boss a not-so-nice hand gesture, (this last one has happened to us before, we’re obviously not proud of this one…) The bottom line is, both parties need to remain professional throughout the entire hiring process.

9. Commute. It depends on the person how much commute comes into play when accepting a new job.

10. Personal Issues like health problems, whether personally or those of a family member, an unexpected death, an injury… Unexpected things come up in life.


Like in any business, things do not always go according to plan. As recruiters, our main defense against deals falling through is making sure that both parties are on the same page from the first conversation. However, we are in the business of people, and people can be unpredictable.

When we call someone to recruit them, they hold most of the cards. They don’t have to even listen to our pitch, they can hang up, or simply say no thanks. Most of our candidates are passive ones who do not need to leave their current position. So why do many of them decide to go to a job interview? We always ask them this question. We wish the only reason was because we’re just that charismatic and cool, but in truth, there are many reasons why a person looks at other opportunities. Especially a passive person. These are some of the answers we receive:

Let’s get the obvious reasons out of the way first:

• Money
• Commute
• Better Opportunity

And then there are less obvious reasons:

• Change in senior management.
• Size of bank- Some want to work for a bigger bank, some smaller.
• Change in the size of companies/customer the banker will work with. Some want to move up or downstream.
• No room for advancement. The old “I have hit a glass ceiling” we call it.
• Discovering the personal negatives based around “loyalty”. Sometimes having loyalty to a company or manager equals being taken for granted. i.e. not getting a fair raise, not being considered for a promotion, etc. Many times employees sit back and watch as people get brought in, fairly or unfairly (that is not the point here) at hiring pay scales, bigger titles, better roles, nicer offices…whatever. At first the loyal employee is numb to it, but eventually, their senses are awakened.
• The work atmosphere is “cliquey,” and if you are not a part of the core group it can be difficult to get anything accomplished. It can also take a social toll and make it emotionally difficult to work in this type of environment. AKA: High school never ends.
• Hostile work environment. Pretty self-explanatory.
• Their bank isn’t lending. Lenders want to lend. DUH.

We realize that some of these reasons are beyond the control of the bank. For example, if someone is unhappy because they do not enjoy working for a big bank, there’s nothing that management can do to fix that. However, the social problems and advancement problems can be rectified. Our advice to hiring managers? Listen at exit interviews and take note of why the person is leaving. On the other hand, many times a person will not be completely honest about why they are leaving a job in order to not burn a bridge. A combination of listening to ex-employees reasons for leaving as well as the input of outside sources can help you to realize big reasons why people are willing to leave your bank. If these reasons are things you can control or improve, it is in your best interest to do so.