Advisors IFP

Hiring the Right People at the Right Time

by Chris Hamm

In an industry driven more and more by technology, automation, and artificial intelligence, success still hinges on something very tricky:  humans.

Ugh, humans; we’re a mess. We bounce back and forth in a never-ending cycle between failure and success, mediocrity and greatness, logic and delusion, and just about every state in between. We come in all shapes and sizes and, when we mix with other humans, the result is sometimes brilliant and sometimes disastrous. However, we need humans to run a business.

You can deploy all the technology and automation in the world, but the success of an enterprise starts and stops with the people you hire. Since I began working for my parents (around 6 years), we’ve gone from about 15 employees to almost 50, with another 15 or so on the way in a few short months.

We’re celebrating this growth, but it’s also a trying process for everyone involved.

Finding the Perfect Employee

Many employees at IFP have come and gone as we’ve ramped up from 15 to 50, giving us what feels like a more educational experience than any MBA curriculum. Did you know that some people aren’t driven by money? Some prefer a healthier work-life balance or a simple pat on the back every now and again. Sometimes a single bad seed can put the operation of your business into jeopardy. Employee and management egos can singlehandedly run a company into the ground. I didn’t understand these lessons 6 years ago, but I do now.

With so many different types of people in the world, picking the right ones for your business can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, you never become perfect at it, but you can put some precautionary steps in place to mitigate hiring mistakes and increase the odds of adding valuable team members.

An Example

IFP is currently hiring for a few different roles, but this week we were conducting final round interviews, led by one of our divisional presidents, with candidates for one specific role that will report to him. After all the interviews, we decided that one of the candidates was the clear winner, and I believe our divisional president is preparing a job offer for him as I write this. As I reflected on how we found him, I wanted to share a few tips that got us to this point in the process.

Tip 1: A Dynamic Job Posting

If you peruse the various job posting sites like Monster or LinkedIn, you’ll see that many company job descriptions are boring and fail to reflect why candidates should be excited about the role and the company. A dynamic and unique job posting with a bit of personality helps the position stand out from the crowd. During our recent job description template revamp, we did this in a number of ways.

Providing Some Background

First, we wanted to create a succinct and engaging ‘About’ section for the company. In that section, we concisely explain:

  1. what our company does in layman’s terms,
  2. what our vision is, and
  3. why the candidate should be excited for the opportunity.

Here’s our updated job description based on those parameters:

We are a financial advisor support firm that provides services for financial advisors in all areas of their business: compliance, technology, marketing, operations, practice management, and more. Our goal is to be the easiest and most frictionless firm to work with for financial advisors and we are looking for creative and talented people to help us perpetually strive toward that goal. At IFP, innovation and user experience drive everything that we do. We are growing fast, and as we grow, we are excited to provide current and prospective employees new and exciting opportunities.

A Q&A Session

Beyond the ‘About’ section, we also wanted to concisely explain the job responsibilities and expectations. So, we created a sort of Q&A format for our job postings wherein we ask and answer questions that candidates might pose. Instead of providing canned answers, our goal here is to be as authentic as possible. Check out some example questions from our job postings below. The text in brackets would be the hiring manager’s answers.

What exactly is the job?
[Brief general description of the job and what department the position falls under.]

Who does the employee report to?
[Name of their direct manager.]

Why is this position needed?
[Give specific details explaining why this position is currently needed and how the position fits in the future of the company, which may include data-driven information.]

What type of software or unique skills are required?
[Simple list of bullet point requirements.]

What are some of the preferred skills and/or software experience that may not be required but strongly desired?
[Simple list of bullet point preferences.]

The candidate I referred to earlier specifically commented that he appreciated the tone and authentic content of the posting, saying it gave him a better feel for the company and the role. At least one person appreciated it!

Tip 2: Curate a Hiring Committee

Another strategy we recently started using was selecting and curating a hiring committee for each role we’re trying to fill. The committee typically involves the hiring manager and one or more people from our executive team, although it occasionally includes someone in a completely different department. We like to sometimes have input from an ‘outsider’ that has proven to be a good judge of talent at our firm.

Each member of the hiring committee participates in all in-person interviews with the candidates so that everyone’s opinions are based on their personal impression of the individual.

Tip 3: Be Structured, Efficient, and Streamlined with In-Person Interviews

When you have completed the initial screening process for employee candidates, which at our firm includes a resume screen by HR and a phone screen by the hiring manager, it’s time to bring the finalists into the office. During last week’s round of finalist interviews, we deployed the tactics below, which made our decision by the end of the week very easy.

1) Ask the same questions to each candidate.

This one is fairly simple and something we haven’t always done in the past, but it may become something we do more consistently based on our interviews last week. While prepping for last week’s interviews, our divisional president, and the hiring manager for the role being filled, prepared a basic list of questions he wanted to ask each candidate. By the end of the week, having asked mostly the same questions to each candidate, we found it much easier to compare the candidates and decide on a clear winner.

2) Debrief immediately after each interview.

Too often during the interview process, we have failed to gather our hiring committee and discuss everyone’s opinions on each candidate. We now schedule debriefing sessions at the end of each candidate interview to discuss our thoughts and reflect on their qualifications.

This small adjustment to our interview workflow allows us to document everyone’s perspectives while they’re top of mind and quickly decide if the candidate should move to the next step in our hiring process.

3) Schedule interviews close together.

We believe that hiring decisions should be discussed and executed on when they’re fresh in everyone’s minds, so we try our best to schedule candidate interviews as close together as possible. Last week we spoke with all the candidates over two days and it was, as a result, much easier to compare and contrast their respective pros and cons.

Closing Thoughts

Finding qualified candidates and properly vetting them is no picnic. From the moment they interact with your business to the moment they get hired, it can be an experience that transcends a cookie cutter process. However, there are guidelines and templates that can separate the less desirable applicants from the gold, but it takes some seriously dedication and time from your team.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please reach out to me at [email protected] Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time.

Posted by: Chris Hamm | September 20th, 2018 at 1:15pm.