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Practice Management > Building Your Business > Recruiting

A Better Way to Interview Job Candidates

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What You Need to Know

  • Resumes can be overrated and should be utilized only with other vetting processes.
  • Candidates usually have good intentions, still,
  • There are specific interview techniques that can discover a person's problem-solving abilities.

Historically, resumes have been a large part of the hiring process. After all, what could be more helpful to understand a candidate’s experience and capabilities than a chronological account of their work history for hiring firms to use as a guide to developing interview questions and gather more information?

Yet as much as firms rely on these pieces of paper when hiring a new team member, they need to understand that a resume review is not the most effective way to ensure a good hiring decision. Resumes can be overrated and should be utilized only in conjunction with a more comprehensive candidate vetting process. Here’s why:

Self-Perception Biases: When people have time to prepare a story about themselves, it (almost) always is going to sound better than reality. It’s just human nature.

Our firm sees this all of the time — job seekers say they are detailed, organized, punctual, hardworking, etc., which doesn’t tell us anything about whether they actually are a fit for the position. It only shows us how they perceive themselves.

Measurability: Even if job seekers list specific measurable accomplishments (which is a good sign), such as sales goals, experience with software programs, problems solved, ideas implemented, etc., it is difficult to verify.

Approach interviews with the assumption that people always have the best intentions, but sticking with the “trust but verify” approach has kept a lot of employers from making a poor ­hiring decision. References help, but companies have become more tight-lipped about a previous worker’s specifics, only sharing generalities, such as position, title and dates employed, to avoid potential lawsuits that might arise from sharing negative feedback.

Unreliable Predictability: Past experience doesn’t necessarily predict future success in a new position. Every firm is different, and even small nuances can have a substantial impact in terms of job fit. There are many variables in each situation, and some people only can succeed if everything aligns.

Nor does this just include outside candidates. We have seen firms who had a great experience with an intern so they promoted them to an associate planner. But the person struggled because they weren’t able to make the adjustment of not having a set schedule, laid out to-do’s each day and daily deadlines to meet that they had while an intern.

Therefore, if you are prone to be wowed by flashy resumes, design a screening process for each role in your firm where the job seeker can ­demonstrate if and how they can help solve problems that need solving for your firm to grow.

Finding the Best Skill Sets

Here are exercises to screen for problem-solving skillsets you need: Financial plans completed quickly and accurately: Provide a case study, and have a fixed time limit to complete it. Make sure the case has some omitted and conflicting data to replicate what clients actually provide. This also gives you great insight into how the applicant deals with uncertainty, asking questions and making assumptions.

Prioritizing meeting preparation for several new clients: Provide a one-page brief on each client situation and have applicants rank them in order of who they think will take the most time and should work on first.

Develop new client onboarding (or other) process: Have them provide a flowchart, checklist or some other process they have created in the past. Have them walk you through their thought process.

Close warm leads: Have them role-play a mock prospect interview with someone on your team while you observe. Write out some likely objections from prospective clients to see how applicants address them.

The key is to design an interview process where the applicant has to demonstrate their skills, not just talk about them. It may not be time to retire resumes, but consider these suggestions as you design your hiring process and hone interview techniques.

Caleb Brown is co-founder and CEO of New Planner Recruiting and hosts The New Planner Podcast which you find at


Photo: SvetaZi/Shutterstock


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