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Article: How My Firm Hires Great Employees

Originally published in Advisor Perspectives Newsletter, March 19, 2013
By Teresa Riccobuono

Even if I didn’t watch the news, I could tell you that the economy is improving. My clients (financial service professionals) have started to talk about hiring team members, a sure sign that people are starting to feel more confident in the future.

Adding a team member is a big decision. If you have been thinking that the time is right to add man (woman) power to your roster, here are a few things to consider:

Before the interview:
Adding someone to the team is a little like getting married, you are making a long term commitment. Good planning and preparation are key to success.

The ad you place must be compelling enough to generate interest, and specific enough to exclude unqualified candidates.

Does the idea of running an ad bring shivers down your spine? Look at alternatives. Who in your client base may be a worthy candidate: a stay at home mom, a recently retired person, a client who has a child or grandchild who recently graduated from college?

What about your service providers? That great salesperson or restaurant server already has certain skills you may find hard to develop in someone new.

If you do go the route of running an ad, consider Craigslist or something similar. Place the ad under the Finance section. This in itself will eliminate some unqualified candidates.

If you don’t want to do the work yourself, consider one of the local hiring agencies that cater to the financial services industry. Don’t know where to find one? Ask me.

The interview:
To prepare for the interview, develop a few scenarios the candidate will likely encounter in their job. In the interview, paint a picture using these scenarios and ask the candidate to solve a problem, such as coming up with a creative gift idea or a relationship building strategy. Including one or two negative scenarios in the mix reveals how candidates problem solve. Make sure the scenarios are pertinent to the job.

When you are interviewing a candidate, don’t just concentrate on the qualifications. I generally ask very little about the content of their resume. I want to learn about their hobbies and what they are passionate about. If all of their free time is spent in solitary activities, it is likely they are not the best candidate for a relationship manager position, but they might make a perfect analyst. If they spend a good portion of their time in large group settings, will they be happy in your four person office?

Make the interview process enjoyable for both you and the candidate. Ask interesting and unique questions. I have a list of twenty questions (just coincidence) that are not typical interview questions. Getting their answers to a handful of these questions gives me a good sense of who the candidate is.

My four must haves from a candidate:

  1. The ability to hold up their end of the conversation. If they can’t talk with me, how are they going to develop a relationship with my clients?
  2. They must ask good questions. This tells me they are curious and interested.
  3. They must appear to have common sense. How well did they prepare for the interview? Were they prompt? How did they behave while in your office?
  4. They must tell me they want the job. If an interview ends and I don’t hear enthusiasm for the job, I wonder if they are interested.

Have you heard of the thirty minute interview? Here is my thought on this. If I am planning to spend eight hours a day with this person, hopefully for a number of years, I want to take my time to get to know them. Anyone can be on their best behavior for thirty minutes. Just watch your kids. When they want something, they know how to behave. A thirty minute interview seems to me a little like speed dating.

Make sure you know what you want. A detailed job description is a must. If you have other team members, involve them in developing the job description.

Consider this an opportunity to rearrange job duties. When one of my advisors was looking to add a team member, one of the existing team members spoke up and said that she would like to add to and eliminate some duties from her job description. She was thrilled to add those things that she was interested in while eliminating things she didn’t enjoy.

Although not everyone you hire will last, when you do hire someone, assume this person will be with you for life, and treat him or her accordingly. Make the commitment to invest the time and energy to train this person, help him succeed, support his efforts, keep him challenged and help him take pride in his accomplishments.