Help Wanted: How Do You Hire the Right Candidate for Your Wealth Management Practice?

Posted by Angela Sarver

June 30, 2015 at 10:00 AM

hire the right candidateMaybe your star performer is moving away. Or maybe you realized on the morning drive to your one-person wealth management practice that you could generate more business if you didn't have to spend so much time on paperwork. Whatever your circumstances, hiring a new staff person can be challenging.

So, what steps can you take to hire the right candidate for your firm? Here, I'll suggest some hiring criteria to help in the decision-making process, as well as data-gathering techniques to consider in choosing the best candidate for your team.

Prepare for the Interview

Many of us feel that we're excellent judges of character and ability. But during an interview, a candidate typically puts his or her best foot forward. You'll see only one side of this person—not all facets of his or her personality. How will he or she really behave once in the workplace? Rather than rely solely on gut instinct, it's better to first establish what's important to you in the ideal candidate. Then, use these criteria to evaluate candidates during the hiring process.

Top 10 Hiring Criteria

Establishing your hiring criteria can help refine your candidate pool, narrowing it down to those candidates with, for example, the desired experience, education, and minimum licensing standards. Here, I've compiled 10 criteria you might consider as you navigate the hiring process.

1) Education. Determine if the applicant has the education level, industry knowledge, licenses, designations, and/or training necessary to succeed in the position.

2) Prior work experience. Experience consists of both knowledge based on prior employment and transferable skills. It directly influences how long it will take an applicant to hit the ground running.

3) Technical qualifications/experience. This refers to proficiency with Windows-based programs, such as Word and Excel, and other software, such as Morningstar® Advisor WorkstationSM.

4) Verbal communication. Be prepared to evaluate how the applicants present themselves in the interview.

  • Are they clear and concise when answering questions?
  • Would they be able to communicate with clients and employees at all levels?

5) Enthusiasm. Is the individual highly motivated about the position? This can be evaluated in both your phone conversations with the candidate and the in-person interviews.

6) Team-building/interpersonal skills. Do you think the applicant will work well on a team? Will he or she fit in with your clients and other employees in the firm?

7) Initiative. Do you think the applicant will seek new ways to contribute to his or her success in this role? Will the applicant show initiative and assume responsibility for tasks not directly assigned to him or her?

8) Time management. Do you believe the applicant will effectively handle multiple tasks in a changing environment? Will he or she be able to complete tasks in the required time frame?

9) Client service. Do you think the applicant will deliver the service you and your clients expect? Will the applicant be responsive?

10) Salary expectations. Based on your firm's current overhead, determine the salary you can afford to pay. Then, evaluate the salary range your applicant seeks and decide if it is competitive for the position. Consider whether or not the individual requires benefits and, if so, which ones. Remember, total compensation includes:

  • Base
  • Incentive
  • Benefits

Data-Gathering Techniques

Once you know what you're looking for in the ideal candidate, it's time to start gathering data on your prospective employees. Some find it useful to start the interview process with a screening call.

Phone interview. Before scheduling an in-person interview, a prescreen phone call can be a time saver. During this brief phone call, ask a consistent set of general questions (i.e., the same questions for each candidate) you've decided on in advance, such as:

  • What about the position interests you?
  • What is the greatest strength you'd bring to the role?
  • What is the greatest challenge you'd face in the role?

Jot down the responses on each candidate's résumé, so you can remember who is who when you revisit your notes later. Further, this is an opportunity to listen to the candidate's phone manner and get an idea of how he or she might represent your firm as the first line of contact.

In-person interview. Ask each interviewee to fill out an application. This is a good way to obtain references and salary history. Further, it will provide the objective data—professional experience, educational background, and internal behavioral traits—you need in weighing your decision.

Predictive Index (PI). After you've identified a candidate who seems to be someone you seriously want to consider, you might ask him or her to take the PI survey. This is a useful tool that provides you with information about the candidate's motivational factors and behavioral traits. The PI takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, and a summary report of the results will be automatically generated. These results can help you determine the fit between a candidate and the position, as well as be a source of additional questions to pose during a second interview.

Reference check. Reference checks can be used to obtain reliable and accurate job performance information about prospective employees. When you check references, try to speak with at least two people, one of whom was/is a direct manager or supervisor of the prospective employee.

It's important to gather the facts:

  • What were the candidate's dates of employment?
  • What was the candidate's title?
  • What were the candidate's responsibilities?
  • What is your relationship to the candidate (peer, subordinate, superior)?
  • How long have you known the candidate?

Next, choose questions focusing on the candidate's job performance (choose six to seven questions):

  • How would you describe the quality of the candidate's work?
  • (For superiors) What performance areas did you have to work on?
  • What are the candidate's strengths? Weaknesses?
  • How would you compare the candidate's work with the work of others who performed the same job?
  • What kind of environment did the candidate work in?
  • How much do you think the candidate contributed to your company or department?
  • How would you describe the candidate's ability to communicate?
  • How does the candidate handle pressure/deadlines?
  • Does the candidate get along with coworkers? With managers?
  • If applicable, how well does the candidate supervise others? What is his or her management style? Describe the candidate's success in motivating subordinates.
  • How does the candidate handle conflict?
  • Do you think he or she would be good in the position we're considering him or her for?
  • What motivates the candidate? How ambitious is he or she?

Finally, get to the bottom line:

  • Why did the candidate leave your company?
  • Would you rehire this person?
  • Would you recommend this candidate?
  • What kind of work is the candidate ideally suited for?
  • Did the candidate have any problems we need to be aware of?
  • Do you have any additional information to share with us about this candidate?

Hire a Star

A wise man once said, "When picking a team, choose the best people if you want to win." Using the objective hiring process outlined here, my hope is that you will be able to hire a star, not just an employee. To be sure, the best candidate is a person who will be satisfied in the job. And a satisfied employee will be more likely to stay with your practice longer and to have a hand in helping your practice grow—as he or she grows along with it.

What do you consider to be the most important hiring criteria? How do you ensure you hire the right candidate at your practice? Please share your thoughts below.

Creating a “Sticky” Culture: Why You Need an Employee Value Proposition

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