You Control More in the Hiring Process Than You Think
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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It is frustrating for us to try and add to our great team when there are so few “good” people in the market from which to choose. We have been looking to fill a client-support associate (CSA) role for almost 10 months. We interviewed people, but none of them had enough experience, weren’t motivated, didn’t prepare for the interview by learning about us and did not ask good questions. Oh, and very importantly, we are an in-office team – all seven of us are here every day. But everyone insists on work-from-home (WFH). We are not averse to finding a great candidate and allowing them to work from home for some of the week.
But to have mediocre candidates who then want full-time WFH is insulting.
What are other firms doing to find good people? We are in a busy metropolitan area – it isn’t NY or Chicago, but it is a vibrant city. We have competition, but we scan the market on a regular basis and find our compensation is mid-range for where we are. We would come up for a great candidate, but none warranted our discussing this.
This is the complaint of our time: “Where is all the good talent?” If firms have it, they want to hold on tight to it. It’s the first time in employment history there are up to four generations working together. You would think the pool to choose from would be quite large and diverse!
Many great firms are struggling with this same issue. But I have a few larger clients who have engaged in reductions in force (RIFs) and there are likely more great candidates entering the market. It is all about level and experience and what, exactly, you are looking for – matched with what they are looking for in their next role. I also know people who have been merged or acquired and are not terribly happy with their new situation and would be open to move.
There are a few factors to consider:
- When you are posting for the role, are you sharing more than just the job requirements? You mentioned the great culture you have developed. What is great about your culture? What could someone expect working there in terms of atmosphere, job satisfaction, employee engagement and so on? Are you sharing enough so that a potential candidate can “see” what the experience working there is like? I understand you are an “in-the-office” team, which means you probably enjoy one another’s company, chat about issues and meet often. Think about what kind of person would enjoy this environment. Don’t talk to people who are less verbal and more focused on “doing the work” and enjoying being alone to do it.
- Be active in the local community. You may be affiliated with a larger firm as you note, but who you are as a team might not be well known. Are there philanthropic efforts to get engaged with, where you could meet people from other businesses (including other financial firms)? Could you hold a networking event focused on financial firms? While you may not find a candidate right away, you may find people who know someone who would be a great candidate for you just by raising your profile.
- Post on LinkedIn – and not just a job posting. If your firm allows it, have your senior members post about what the larger firm is doing, their culture and beliefs. Post updates about what’s happening on your team and in your local office. Be responsive, so someone who would be a good candidate can learn more about who you are and whether you might have a culture that is attractive to them.
- Get the word out through your team members. I work with a senior advisor from a large firm who was frustrated waiting for internal HR to bring the right candidate. She ended up talking to her grown children about the role and they in turn talked to their friends… who had friends. She found a great person to be her CSA; he works closely with her and it’s a great match. Don’t just say “we are looking for this job.” Talk about the environment, the culture, the job expectations, the opportunity and the chance this person will have to thrive and grow.
- Have a clear and concise interview process that doesn’t rely solely on the likability of the candidate. If there are seven people in your firm and culture matters, then I assume everyone participates. Develop a list, and have people ask different questions of the candidate so you aren’t all focused on the same things. Be sure the questions are behavioral in nature – not just “What did you do in this prior situation?” but “How did you do it? Walk me through, step-by-step, why you made the decisions you did and the outcome.” Ask questions about culture and their most and least favorite bosses. Give them a window into what your culture looks like and what matters most to all of you. Give both the candidate and your team a chance to know one another and not just a surface experience of whether we like each other. I’m a fan of using DISC and Driving Forces in an interview process to get a window into how behaviorally and values-wise the person is aligned with the rest of your team or where there might be glaring differences you need to address. If you don’t like DISC, there are other tools. But use something to have an objective conversation about sameness and difference in advance of deciding to work together.
- Lastly, be clear in your postings and in the early stages of the process about any requirements. You said for the right candidate you would consider WFH, but would you? Or with eight team members (once you add this new CSA) would it be awkward and uncomfortable to have one person working elsewhere? If something is non-negotiable, make it that way. It’s okay to have parameters about what’s acceptable in your firm and what isn’t. Be clear up front, because you are wasting the time of the candidates and of your team if you are not.
I hope this helps with your process and the candidate flow. Many firms are struggling to fill roles with the right people for their firm. But many are allowing good people to leave and finding the right fit at the right time. It is a fluid and active process! It isn’t like you can be stagnant and wait for… what? What would you wait for to happen? Even if unemployment goes up again after being at historic lows, it doesn’t mean the “right” candidate is waiting for this to happen! Get busy implementing ways to attract the person you need to your firm.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry, in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. The firm has won the Wealthbriefing WealthTech award for Best Training Solution for 2022 and 2023. Beverly is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. She is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.