Character first: The core of Fairway sales manager's recruitment philosophy

He prioritizes good character over resumes

Character first: The core of Fairway sales manager's recruitment philosophy

The right team can make all the difference. Alex Ihler (pictured), sales manager and loan originator at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp, understands this better than most.

Ihler sat down with Mortgage Professional America and talked about his unique approach to recruitment, one that has played a pivotal role in his success.

“When I started off, I was only six months into the business. To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was doing at that point,” Ihler recalled of his early days in the industry. “We did not have a presence in Austin, Texas. We were located about an hour north of Austin, and I realized very quickly that I was stepping on toes everywhere I turned.”

Despite the challenges, Ihler’s vision for growth was clear. He recognized the untapped potential of the Austin market and took the bold step of establishing a presence there.

Read more: Fairway Independent continues expansion into reverse lending

“I kind of proposed the idea of me going down to Austin and opening up shop... and they were all for it,” Ihler said. “Austin was a great place to get your foot in the door. And over the last eight years or so, I had the opportunity to help build a team in a branch down there.”

His background as an educator has also been a cornerstone in his business strategy.

“In terms of coaching people and helping them grow and become better and creating a cohesive unit and that type of a thing, I think one of my strengths is people. One of the guys I teamed up with was years in the business mortgage originating, and I think that combination of our skill sets really helped create a lot of success because he had the depth of knowledge in the mortgage industry, and I came in with a fresh perspective, a lot of drive.”

Over the years, Ihler’s team in Austin grew, but it was their uniqueness that stood out. Unlike many in the industry, his focus wasn’t solely on hiring experienced mortgage professionals. Instead, he adopted a more holistic approach.

“One of the things that I learned early on when I was coming down to start the branch and meeting with The Wood Brothers, the branch managers at the time, was that he didn’t recruit mortgage people. He recruited people,” Ihler shared. “He looked for good human beings who would be loyal, trustworthy, and would operate with integrity. [People] who would treat people right and know how to work with people and do right by others and not necessarily put themselves first all the time. And so that’s the recruiting model.”

Ihler’s emphasis on character and potential over experience has not only shaped his team but also the culture of his branch. He believes in nurturing and educating his recruits, ensuring they not only understand the business but also align with the company’s values.

“We adapted. If you look at the guys around me who have helped build this thing, one guy was a used car salesman,” Ihler said. “Another guy was a missionary in Honduras. Another guy was an elementary school PE teacher at the local private Christian school who waited tables on the weekend. So, we all came from very different backgrounds.”

Read next: Gateway Mortgage offers insights into growth strategy

Elaborating on their unique recruitment strategy, Ihler revealed, “That was a big piece for me in terms of us growing this thing. We went after people with the mentality of ‘let’s go find good people and teach them a business.’“

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