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Practice Management > Building Your Business

How to Hire for a Financial Planning Residency Program

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Many financial planning firms have found hiring a resident financial planner alleviates some of their pain points and assists with growth. A resident is someone with little to no experience who joins a financial planning firm temporarily to work on entry-level operational and advisory activities while learning the business.

Modeled after what the medical profession has done for over a century, currently there are dozens of firms around the country offering residencies ranging in length from one to three years.

Most firms overlap their residents by a year or so to allow the previous residents the opportunity to train the new blood. This enables firms to get the work they need done without having to offer a path to senior planner for everyone.

If your firm could benefit from a residency, you must start the process early. Assuming you intend to hire a new graduate in May, here are some general timing guidelines for the process.

1. Publicize your resident position. Advertise your opening in August or September (assuming you will hire the following May or June). It may seem early, but keep in mind that many students who will be graduating the following year will already be taking positions with the firm they interned with the prior summer.

Best Practice: Implement an internship program or start your recruiting cycle closer to one year from the expected date of hire.

2. Review resumes. Some firms will accept applications for a few weeks up to a few months. Decide which will work best for your needs.

Best Practice: Put an end date on the application period to ensure that applicants don’t procrastinate and to help you see who takes initiative.

3. Conduct initial interviews. Expect this phase to take 30 to 60 days. The interviews can be via phone or using a video tool such as Google Hangouts. If candidates are local, you should still consider interviewing them via phone to get a sense of their phone skill level.

Best practice: Have the candidate initiate the call to gauge timeliness, organization and professionalism.

4. In-person interviews. Estimate beginning these sometime in January. Not everyone should make it through from Step 3. If you aren’t ruling out a fair number of candidates, you need to refine your initial interview screening process!

Best Practice: Have the candidates meet with various people in your firm at different times. Be cautious about holding group interviews; this may feel like a way to expedite the process but it also encourages groupthink.

5. Administer screening. Remember that the candidate you like the most is not always the best fit. You should assess the candidate in multiple ways to develop a complete picture of their capabilities.

Best Practice: Utilize any and all tools at your disposal: work style or personality profiles, software exercises, case study assignments, role-playing exercises, etc.

6. Make a decision. Once you have gathered the data you need to make a decision, schedule a staff meeting and have everyone review each candidate and rank accordingly. Plan for a week at most here—you don’t want to overthink it.

Best Practice: Engage a consultant, business coach, recruiter, HR professional, corporate/industrial psychologist, etc., to serve as a sounding board.

7. Extend offers: Ideally, your offers would be made the first week of February, still several months in advance of the actual start date. Be aware, though—some candidates will have taken other positions, and others will not accept because they want to wait to see what other offers they can secure. Don’t let these people distract you; you do not want anyone coming to work at your firm if you were not their first choice.

Best Practice: Overnight the offer letter to the employee, along with a video of you saying how excited you are about the possibility of the candidate joining the existing team.

This can be a very time-consuming process so make sure you are clear on the position you are hiring for, what process you will follow and what questions you intend to ask each candidate before plunging in. The candidates you are interested in hiring will easily spot a firm that does not have it all together and is shooting from the hip as they go along.


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