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  • Writer's pictureDarin McCarthy

Recruiting High Performing Adjusters

The Big Three: Conflict Tolerance, Empathy, and Grit in Claims Adjusting

In the world of claims adjusting, the success of an adjuster isn't solely determined by their technical knowledge or their ability to communicate effectively. While these skills are undeniably crucial, there are three foundational characteristics that often go overlooked in the recruitment process: Conflict Tolerance, Empathy, and Grit. These are what I refer to as "The Big Three."

1. Conflict Tolerance:

Claims adjusting is inherently rife with conflict. From disagreements with insured parties around coverage, contractors around the scope of repairs, or attorney's around the value of a third party negligence claim, adjusters are constantly in the line of fire. It's essential for adjusters to not only handle conflict but to navigate it with professionalism and poise. Conflict avoiders tend to not return phone calls, often overpay on claims and have a general dissatisfaction for the profession, negatively impacting team morale. It's akin to someone with a fear of heights signing up to clean skyscraper windows. Not a good fit. Claims Adjusters who know how to effectively manage conflict often rank among the top performing adjusters because they understand how to take ego out of the discussion and work toward resolution where emotion does not drive decisions.


Recruiters should consider bolstering their interview processes to include assessments of a candidate's ability to handle and resolve conflict. Personality assessment testing can also help in determining if a candidate has the right conflict tolerance for the job. These will help ensure that the company isn't investing in an employee who might buckle under the pressures of a fast paced claims environment.

2. Empathy:

Empathy isn't just about understanding and relating to someone's feelings; in claims, it's about an adjusters attitude around taking care of others. Customers recognize when they are just a claim number and perhaps the lowest hanging fruit in the insurance industry is changing, the well earned perception by the public, that by having a claim, they are going to get messed over in some way. I can think of few other industries with as many opportunities to excel in this one characteristic alone. If it's important to the adjuster to take care of customers, the should have plenty of examples to share.

I would be remiss to not add that empathy alone does not translate into success. Adjusters must strike a balance between relating to customers and exercising their fiduciary duties and responsibilities, especially as it applies to fraud prevention.


Recruiters should prioritize candidates who demonstrate a genuine understanding and concern for clients while also showcasing a discerning eye for details. Ask for examples of how the candidate has shown empathy toward others in both an adjuster position and in their personal life. A few minutes of discussion should ferret out if the candidate can relate to the struggles others are going through and most importantly, takes the actions needed to demonstrate a true care for the customer's plight.

3. Grit:

Claims adjusting isn't a 8-5 job. When disasters strike, adjusters are on the front lines, often handling significant spikes in claims volume. This requires not just resilience but a commitment to the customers who are relying on you to manage their claim properly and quickly. The ability to be steadfast in the midst of chaos, the ability to own one's case load and take responsibility for it and most importantly, the ability to be focused and emotionally mature demonstrate to the customer and company that when things get difficult, you are calm and in control.

A candidate who recalls events that were highly challenging and wears the experience as a badge of pride, having survived/thrived in the chaos and difficulty, should be taken seriously. If, on the other hand, the candidate appears defeated from these past experiences or otherwise views them in a negative light, you are likely dealing with someone who will fall short of expectations.


Recruiters should pursue candidates who have a proven track record of perseverance and determination, especially in high-pressure situations. A candidates attitude around these experiences should tell you how they will approach them within your organization. Interview questions should delve extensively into the value the candidate puts on self reliance and ownership of the task at hand.

In conclusion, while technical skills and communication are vital in hiring high performing adjusters, they shouldn't overshadow the importance of The Big Three. For claims operations to thrive, recruiters should shift their focus and ensure that they're bringing aboard candidates who possess these foundational traits in abundance.

About the Author:

Darin McCarthy, with nearly three decades of experience in the claims industry, is the founder of McCarthy Claims Consulting. He has been at the forefront of claims operations, leading teams and spearheading successful start-ups. Darin's unique insights into the challenges faced by start-ups, combined with his expertise in claims adjusting, make him a sought-after speaker and consultant in the insurance world.


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