When setting out to recruit a new financial planner for their firms, owners must first identify what problems they are trying to solve with a new hire in the first place. Some of the most common bottlenecks we see are replacing someone who left or was promoted, increasing capacity to serve more clients, reducing the workload of another team member, or finding and developing an internal successor.
In this month’s article, we discuss how to flesh out a proper job description to ensure you hire for the responsibilities you need done, and that actually attract the candidates you want to attract. Because each year, we review hundreds of job descriptions (JD)… and they all look alike. Most begin with something to the effect of, “seeking CFP® certificant with (insert # of years of experience here) to work with our clients and provide great service…”, or “seeking (insert title- e.g. Associate Planner, etc. here) to put together plans and support senior planners…” What we have learned is that this is not necessarily the best way to promote the position because as it stands, titles and years of experience do not tell a hiring firm very much about the candidate.
The primary issue is that right now, in our profession, there is little consensus on what financial planning truly is, and what you must do to call yourself a financial planner, much less any consistency on titles for the various career stages within a firm. And while the CFP Board of Standards recently released a white paper describing the ideal career path for a CFP and corresponding titles based on career stage, the approach is certainly not yet widely adopted.
Therefore, asking for an “Associate Planner” or someone with “3 years of experience” is not an effective recruitment strategy, due to lack of common established standards. This stands in stark contrast to other professions like medicine and accounting, where employers have a much better sense of what they are getting when hiring for a Tax Manager, or what a hospital can expect a 3rd year resident to be able to do. They have set forth very clear educational, experience, and job function expectations, because they have solidified what accountants and doctors do, what it takes to call yourself one, and have a formalized career track of how to progress along the way. And most importantly, these career track structures for other professions are largely the same from one organization to the next, so it does not matter as much what hospital or accounting firm someone came from, because there is a consistent standard of what can be done for a given job title and years of experience.
To put this in practical perspective, here is a scenario we had encountered with two candidates. Both were CFP® certificants stating they had 3 years of experience, which was accurate based on the resumes they provided to us. As we delved deeper into their corresponding candidacies, though, through our proprietary screening process, it became clear that one candidate had a much high quality of experience. Remember, it is not the time that matters, as much as what went on during that time in the role.
In this case, both were presenting themselves as Associate Planners with 3 years of experience, but it turned out one was primarily an assistant type who had spent most of the last three years calculating life insurance needs analyses, pulling quotes, and completing insurance and annuity applications. The other candidate, however, had spent the bulk of their time in the previous role preparing financial plans and co-delivering them during several hundred meetings throughout the 3 years, which was the higher quality experience our client was seeking. Firms that fail to delve beyond job titles and years of experience alone may fail to eliminate the lesser qualified applicants sooner rather than later, wasting valuable time in the interview and vetting process.
Notably, an unfortunate aspect of these scenarios is that the candidate who spent the time working strictly on the insurance needs and the administrative side was not intentionally trying to mislead, as in fact was adamant that they were doing “financial planning”… because that is all they knew and others in their organization had told them. Furthermore, it is also worth noting that the CFP Board granted both individuals the CFP credential based on these work experiences… even though one was obviously much more qualified than the other.
Thus, the more specific a firm can be when promoting and discussing a position with potential candidates by detailing what the candidate’s actual responsibilities will be, the better. For example, ‘for you to succeed in this position, you will need to be able to or have had experience with…’
Some examples as a guide to get you started (though not all of these will be applicable based on the position you are hiring for):
- Has developed recommendations and delivered multi-disciplinary advice to high net worth clients individually.
- Acted as first chair (primary advisor) for at least a few dozen clients.
- Has completed at least 30 full financial plans in MoneyGuidePro.
- Developed prospective clientele from your own network and converted to retainer clients.
- Managed Associate Planners and interns.
- Researched and implemented equity positions in client portfolios.
Let people who are not capable of what you are looking for (or do not want to be capable!) to self-select out.
Notably, if you take this more laser focused approach, and are not generating any interest from candidates, your expectations might be too high (at least for the compensation being offered), and/or what you are seeking doesn’t exist. But that’s not better than the alternative that we see too often –firms do not fully know what they want, and then employ a big tent (anybody could work) approach that leads to a lot of wasted time and effort.
Stay tuned for next month’s article, on what questions you can ask to avoid hiring someone who does not have the quality of experience you are seeking.