Last month, we discussed how placing too much emphasis on technical knowledge can lead to a poor hiring decision.
In this month’s article, we identify/explore several other areas that we have seen be better indicators of Success than purely technical ability. Look for these “SPECIAL” markers of success, in conjunction with technical skills, to find your next special person.
Sense of Urgency - Most candidates think they have this, but few do. Unfortunately, the mindset of having a burning desire to complete things as soon as possible to not keep anyone else waiting is a rarity. You can utilize a personality profile such as Caliper to measure this, though. When we hire, we also assess the candidate’s Sense of Urgency by monitoring how long it takes him or her to complete the various exercises in our screening process. This tells us a lot about how a candidate might react in a busy financial planning firm.
Passion for the Profession – Simply asking a candidate why they chose financial planning as a career can give ample insight (but you have to ask!). Reviewing the candidate’s professional involvement with industry groups like FPA and NAPFA, can provide useful indicators, too. Realize that even those who say they want to help people could have become a doctor, lawyer (well maybe), or an accountant. It is imperative to try and find out what is motivating them. Candidates that discuss altering someone’s life course for the better, and/or describe how they plan to impact the financial planning profession, are who you are looking for.
Empathy – It can be challenging to succeed as a client-facing financial planner if you are not able to understand and relate to someone else’s feelings. Money can be a very emotional topic for some people, and candidates will struggle unless they can develop some level of empathy. To evaluate this, we have an exercise where the candidate must write a response to a client who asks for advice pertaining to a very traumatic situation they are experiencing.
Communication Skills – As mentioned above, developing rapport, earning trust, and getting clients to take your advice is what financial planning is all about. You know when you interview a candidate whether their speaking and writing styles, presence, and advice delivery style can be effective with your clients. If at first glance you don’t think it will fit, consider what they could become with a little coaching. You can also explore tools and training programs such as Money Quotient, Kinder Institute, and Sudden Money institute that are designed to assist planners with creating a deeper bond with clients, and becoming more effective communicators.
Introspection – Socrates said “know thyself”, but alas few people do. Sometimes asking about a candidate’s daily routines can shed some light on this, though. You can also assess their self-awareness through personality assessments such as StrengthsFinder, DISC and interviews. Candidates that ask for feedback, set goals, create bucket lists, spend time meditating, etc., tend to have an introspective nature.
Attitude – Generally you want to hire someone with a positive attitude, who can work well with others. Someone that is motivated by learning from you, and helping build your business (which they could end up acquiring at some point in the future). We often list jobs with an expectation that candidates should have a “no job is beneath them” attitude, which cuts down on the time we have to spend with “entitled” candidates. We also ask about any types of team sports experience, because that is often synonymous with being able to work on a team, receive constructive criticism, and demonstrate effort above and beyond the minimum.
Listening – Even though lack of listening skills is mostly associated with newer planners, there are experienced planners who struggle as well, which causes them to miss this portion in the interviews. I know this because when I attend national conferences and meet someone for the first time, it amazes me how many immediately start talking about themselves. At the end of the conversation, I know everything about them, and they know very little about me. People are often good at fake listening too, by asking a question only to be polite, but really thinking about what they are going to say next the entire time. During the interviews, I will often share a story or some random facts and then later ask the interviewee some questions about it to get a sense for how well they were listening. A well-respected planner once told me that she strives to become almost trance-like when the client is speaking, to be sure they are connecting with every word being spoken. They also shared that one time it got so deep that they were semi-startled when the client stopped speaking, and there was an awkward pause. They now have an associate planner in all client meetings.