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Licensed vs. unlicensed

What type of candidate is better?

Jazmyne Behnke avatar
Written by Jazmyne Behnke
Updated over a week ago

At IdealTraits, we help our clients with recruiting needs. Whether it is to help them recruit on their own or we take the recruiting responsibilities on our shoulders for them. Over the years, a primary request we receive from agents is they only want to speak to experienced Property and Casualty licensed individuals.

On the surface, P&C licensed candidates make sense. The candidates are already familiar with the insurance industry. They may need to receive binding authority (if coming from another insurance company), maybe get a quick run-through on how the office does things, and they are off and running to sell X amount of items per month in the agency.  

This seems like a great plan on the surface. You get an experienced licensed sales “superstar” who will take your agency to the next level. But how much of this is true? Do all P&C licensed representatives know how to sell to prospective clients?

When looking for a new representative for your staff, you need to consider the following:


By only looking for licensed candidates, you shrink your candidate pool tremendously. This means you are spending more money on advertising trying to find someone that will fit in your agency PLUS have their license. Unfortunately, there is not a large pool of licensed insurance professionals looking for new opportunities. In the end, it could take months, maybe longer if you aren’t recruiting for yourself diligently. If you do happen to find a licensed insurance candidate to interview, they will typically ask for a larger salary because they understand their value on the open market. And if you hire the wrong person, you could be out upwards of $50,000.


It is rare that we get a truly proactive experienced insurance sales representative applying to the positions. Many times an agent will see that the candidate looks good on paper and will hire them, congratulating themselves on the “mythical unicorn” candidate they have found. Only to find out later, they bring a lot of bad habits with them.  

You will spend about 60-90 days breaking bad habits and another 60-90 days retraining your licensed hire to your way of doing things. In the meantime, you will typically hear: “Why do you do it that way?  We didn’t have to do that at the other agency.” This should make you consider the following: If it was so great over there, why did you leave? If you were so good at your job, why was your boss willing to let you go? This attitude will have you right back at square one looking for another hire.

Sales Experience

In reality, most experienced, licensed candidates do not have the motivation to sell. This is because they are typically more geared towards customer service rather than selling. They may not be strong at cold calling and networking to bring in new business due to their lack of motivation and drive. They want to sell to your current clients and let someone else (possibly you?) bring in the new business sales. Remember:  having the P&C license means the candidate is “allowed” sell insurance. It doesn’t mean they have the “capability” or the motivation to sell insurance. Obviously, in most cases, this type of candidate would not work in your agency. So, what are your options?


We recommend non-licensed sales professionals with high motivation and drive. We also recommend you continue your search for a licensed professional, however, there is a larger candidate pool of sales-oriented candidates out there waiting to get their foot in the door. 

  1. Post jobs ads stating “Insurance Sales Representative - We will Train you!” 

Job ads specifying you will train them get more traction than posting a job ad looking for experienced P&C licensed sales professionals. Plus you will have the advantage of interviewing talented salespeople you wouldn’t have had the chance to see.

   2. Be clear with candidates from the beginning on what the role requires.  

Explain to them the licensing and other requirements of the position and they must obtain their Property and Casualty licensing within 2-4 weeks, otherwise, the position will not be available.  

Do not offer to pay for the licensing. Instead, offer to pay for the licensing once they have passed the exam. This could be paid back immediately to the candidate after they begin their employment, 6 months after, or a combination of the two. The last thing you want to do is pay for the exam/licensing up front and have them go work for the agent down the street.  

It is important you stay in contact with the candidate if they are pursuing their license. It shows you are still interested in them and want them in your agency. If you go radio-silent on them, don’t be surprised if they do the same to you. These candidates are actively looking for employment and will take the position from the company that is showing the most interaction.

   3. Have a training program ready to get them on the right path.   

They should be able to work on their own within 90 days with the right training. A “Road to Success” chart for them that outlines their training journey: Licensing, bonding authority, talk paths, and role-playing.

   4. Employee Loyalty

If you have helped your new hire achieve their financial goals they otherwise would not have been able to accomplish, who do you think they will be more loyal to? You. They will be more likely to go out and network for new business. And based on experience, such as selling cars, mortgage, and/or real estate, they may have a lot of contacts they can reach out to for referrals.

For those of you reading this and thinking “I can’t hire a non-licensed candidate. Their activities will be restricted in the office and training will take months”, take a look at Kevin Mlynarek.     

Kevin Mlynarek, an Allstate agent and the co-founder of ASA (Agency Sales Academy), does not limit himself to licensed candidates. He hires talent. He hires candidates with the right traits. He hires strong sales professionals that he can mold and train into the type of sales representative he wants in his agency. However, he does require they get licensed prior to working in the agency.


Don’t limit yourself to licensed candidates. The cost and time of advertising, interviewing, and loss of production due to breaking the candidates of old habits to learn newer and better habits can be astronomical. Plus you may find yourself looking sooner than later because they weren’t the right fit. The cost of a wrong hire is upwards of $50,000 and 4-6 months of training wasted.

Non-licensed candidates are more eager to listen and learn the right way to do things in your agency. Although they have to go and get the license, binding authority, plus training, you are probably looking at 3 months for an individual to be trained and on the floor, if you are both motivated.      

If you have any additional questions regarding this article please feel free to reach out, we are here to help.

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