Recruiting Techniques That Work

What are the winning questions that help you winnow candidates, and what are your favorite practices?

We asked, you answered. How are you recruiting new advisers? Advisers took our survey and shared favorite questions, techniques and a few methods some peers may not have thought of.

Recommendations dominate the field for recruiting, with 87% of survey respondents saying that’s what they use. A distant second place goes to LinkedIn or other social media (33%), followed by college or university programs (27%) and other (20%), such as marketing campaigns or networking with wholesalers. In a distant last place, 13% said they turn to job-posting websites.

Questions run the gamut, from “Describe how you are an independent thinker,” to “Tell us where you believe the retirement industry is heading,” or “What do you think you will do to impact the industry?” Some advisers look to questions that might yield some personality clues: “Tell us about your hobbies.” This respondent explains, “I want to know what they are passionate about and see if they light up when answering.”

“Prove to me that you can offer value beyond funds, fees and fiduciary,” was one question, while others like to ask, “If you were not doing this, what would you be doing?”

Robert A. Kieckhefer, managing partner of the Kieckhefer Group, depends on some key questions, including one that attempts to quantify just how tough the business can be: “Are you willing to work 80 hours per week for the next three years while you build your book of business?” Kieckhefer explains just what that 80-hour week means: It’s five 14-hour days, and another 10 hours on either a Saturday or a Sunday. Two of his questions dig into the adviser’s ability to connect with people: Do you like meeting new people, and do you get a rush out of winning new business? Do you like helping people succeed and save for retirement?

NEXT: Special questions when recruiting Millennials?

“My recruiting practice with Millennials is no different than any other group,” Kieckhefer says. “If I like their answers to my questions about working an 80-hour week and eating and sleeping this business, I know what I am getting.” Other questions he asks are:

    • Can you leave your ego outside the room and work as a team member?
    • Can you deal with the fact that our team has succeeded in a difficult business and you have not made it yet?
    • Do you recognize what it takes to be a successful adviser in this competitive market?
    • What do you think your chances are of surviving as an adviser? As part of a team, or alone?
    • Do you love this business? Do you eat and sleep this business? Do you get up early to read three newspapers and get on the Internet for the news and futures? Do you check the futures at night before you go to bed?

    Some questions gathered from our survey drill into industry knowledge and background, with questions about the prospect’s potential compliance problems, GDC (gross dealer concession), business mix, any OBAs (outside business activities), or any credit/background issues. “Are you willing to do all your own lead generation?” asks a respondent. “Where are you going to find your next three clients?”

    Getting a sense for the kind of work culture someone would feel comfortable in comes up in some questions: “What’s your ideal work environment, structured or entrepreneurial?” “Please tell me a couple of stories about how some aspect of your work has made you really happy.”

    Advisers, sometimes a wild bunch, were quick to poke fun at our question about out-of-the-ordinary recruiting practices: “Hot tub,” said one respondent, or “premium scotch-tasting for small group of prospects,” said another. “Asking candidates to close their eyes and clearly define how to tie my shoes,” posted a third.

    NEXT: What about an intern?

    Jason Chepenik, managing partner of Chepenik Financial, says their most frequent recruiting technique is the use of interns, a good solution for a small, eight-person shop. “We have two right now from the University of Central Florida,” he tells PLANADVISER. “We always have one or two from the local university.” Some turn into full-time hires after their internship is over. Students receive some compensation as well as college credit.

    Chepenik says the approach is easy and low-cost, and comes with a small bonus:  “It’s fun to teach the young guns how to do business,” he says. “They’re eager to learn, and they bring this fresh energy. They’ve studied finance or marketing, but they’ve never applied it. So we get to teach them how to apply what they’ve learned in school.”

    Over the years, Chepenik says, they’ve had 35 interns. One became a full-time employee for Chepenik and is now a wholesaler in defined contribution, investments only (DCIO) for AB in Chicago. Chepenik’s cousin worked for the firm as an intern in college and now heads adviser marketing for Fidelity Investments.

    One respondent said, “We use our reputation to network.” Another said, “Nothing to report, other than personal referrals are my best source.”

    The industry has seen many changes, and recruiting is no exception. Some cited LinkedIn as a significant change, and others agreed: “There is far more use of social media.” Another mentioned that when referrals are supported by social media, it can be “an efficient way to narrow down our search.” The Internet has definitely made it easier to obtain information before initial screenings.

    Kieckhefer says his business has felt a profound impact from social media and the Internet, but they are still in a discovery phase. “These services are changing every day,” he says, making it possible to connect instantly with literally thousands of retirement plan participants and plan sponsors. While they receive a great deal of information quickly and inexpensively—news flashes, advisory reports, market updates, and personal tips—“we are still just learning how to maximize the potential of the Internet and social media,” he says.

    Our survey found that some techniques, though low-tech and pre-Internet, are still in use, and while LinkedIn is a site many turn to, it’s only one link in the chain. “Resumes don’t tell the story,” a respondent said. “[You] need to meet people! Look for those that stand out as different, not just because they look great on paper.”