Last month, we reviewed some of the issues that firms should consider when deciding whether to relocate a new hire to join the organization. This month, we continue the discussion by exploring some guidelines on how to handle the process of at-a-distance candidates doing an on-site firm visit and interview, as well as an overview of what we are seeing firms provide in terms of relocation benefits.
Since financial planning positions, at least the client facing ones, are about building trust and rapport, and conveying a certain gravitas, etc., you shouldn’t hire someone without meeting them in person. Phone and video conference interviews are an efficient tool for the early interview stages, but an in-person meeting is a must before making a final offer.
Generally, firms need to be prepared to cover the travel expenses of a candidate they invite to an on-site interview. This includes all the “standard” expenses, such as airfare and rental car (or mileage if it’s driving distance), hotel accommodations, and usually meal costs as well. Sometimes this comes as a shock to firm owners who think these benefits are reserved only for more senior level hires, but with financial planning suffering from a dearth of talent, it applies down to the associate planner as well (especially if you’re hoping they’ll stay to become a long-term senior advisor eventually!).
As I conveyed last month, it is insightful to observe how the candidate approaches this phase of the interview process. It is a good sign if they offer to come visit on their own, whether the firm is reimbursing them or not, but realistically the cost of turnover for a bad fit means it’s not worth trying to save a few hundred or even a thousand dollars by refusing to pay the expense. And from the opposite perspective, if you’re really trying to attract top talent, this is an opportunity to roll out the red carpet and develop a raving fan for your firm, who will say “yes” to your offer letter, and not hesitate to recruit other team members for you as well. One firm we worked with flew a candidate out, put them up in a condo, and provided a car for them to drive around to explore the area.
Planning an on-site interview can take a lot of time; however, your candidate will appreciate the effort. If they don’t, you will know very quickly, and that’s a great indicator it probably isn’t a good fit (saving you the cost of hiring and firing them later!). Develop an agenda, especially for multi day visits, and send it to your candidate prior to arrival so they know what to expect and what to pack.
Key items you should include on the interview agenda are: office and area tour, interviews with management, interviews and an outside-the-office activity with current team members, several meals together, and be sure to build in some free time so they can explore the area on their own. It can also be helpful to have a realtor, or someone from the office, show them around the area. I have found that most realtors will not charge for the time to have a buyer they might be able to earn a commission on at some future date. Again, this makes the candidate, and the spouse if applicable, feel very special. We have seen deals fall through when firms did a poor job of engaging the spouse, and thus the firm lost the candidate to a competitor. It is not uncommon for the leadership of the firms to have candidates to their own homes during these visits, or at least a chance to interact at a meal or local area attraction.
Once the candidate is sold on the area and the opportunity, some items we have seen other firms include in offer letters are:
- Reimbursement or fixed amounts for moving allowance – we have seen as high as $5,000
- Temporary/corporate apartment housing until usually for a few months until longer term solution is secured
- Plane tickets for an additional visit to look at housing
- Signing bonuses to offset breaking of lease contracts
- Travel allowance, in addition to cash compensation, to be used to visit family back home throughout the year
- Housing stipend to help offset increased housing costs (if applicable in your area)
I realize that this may be causing some advisors to roll their eyes, but this is the reality of where the profession stands in the fight for talent. I can assure you that I see both sides of this, and was not offered any of this when entering the profession in 2002! Firms in areas that have a rich talent pool with a plethora of options to choose from, which is not very many places right now, have the luxury of not having to deal with this. But for most firms, ignoring these tips will mean losing out on the best talent.