Crafting a Compelling Job Description For Your Next Financial Planning Hire

Posted by Michael Kitces on Tuesday, December 17th, 7:01 am, 2013 in Practice Management

Hiring a new financial planner can be a challenge, especially for firms that have never hired a professional staff member before. Even for larger firms that have hired successfully in the past, the process can be daunting. Yet in many cases, a difficult hiring process can be exacerbated with a key mistake coming right out of the gate: not having a compelling written job description (or worse, not having any job description at all).

In this guest post, financial planner recruiter Caleb Brown shares his insights about what it takes to craft a compelling job description for a prospective financial planning hire. It's a look at all the key areas a job description should cover - from a proper "what's in it for the candidate" introduction, to a position summary, current responsibilities, future responsibilities, and what should be discussed as qualifications and benefits - along with some helpful hints, and tips of things to avoid.

If you're thinking about starting the process of hiring a financial planner, this should be a helpful starting point for what to consider when crafting the job description for that future hire. Alternatively, if you've already started the process of hiring, but have been struggling to find the right person - or anyone at all - this article may be a helpful look at whether the problems might be stemming from a job description that is not compelling in the first place.

Caleb Brown(Michael's Note: This post was written by guest blogger Caleb Brown, MBA, CFP(r) who is the Co-Founder of New Planner Recruiting, LLC a recruiting firm specializing in sourcing, screening, and integrating new financial planners into entry level financial planner positions within financial planning firms nationwide. Caleb is the Chairman of FPA NexGen (until 12/31) and a frequent industry speaker on hiring and managing new financial planning talent. Over the course of his career he has hired, managed, and coached hundreds of new planners and firm owners on finding the right fit. You can reach him on twitter at @NewPlnrRec or e-mail him at cbrown@newplannerrecruiting.)

A recent industry survey produced by Pershing forecasts that the financial planning profession will need to add a total of 237,000 new advisers across all business models over the next decade.  The demand for talented individuals entering the financial planning profession who can add value to your organization is at an all time high and climbing rapidly.

There are several things financial planning firm owners can do to attract the best people, and having a compelling job description is a start. Often times, the job description is the first interaction a potential candidate can have with your firm. Just like anything else, firms need to make a great first impression with prospective hires.

The key sections of a great job description are:  Introduction, Position Summary, Current Responsibilities, Future Responsibilities, Qualifications and Benefits.

Introduction, aka “what's in it for the candidate”

Keep the introduction section of the job description focused on what's in it for the candidate. Describe how they can thrive and get where they want to go by joining your organization. Many of today’s job descriptions are too focused on the firm and firm owner accomplishments. No need to spend valuable space listing much of what can be found on your website and form ADV. Use this area to describe what type of candidate you would be interested in and what it takes to succeed at your firm.

Hint: Candidates don't care all that much about how many awards you have won or how long  you have been in the business.

Avoid: Lengthy self-promoting diatribes that rarely make mention of the opportunity for the candidate.

Position Summary aka “high level overview of the role”

Think of this as your mission statement for the new hire. You should use the next two sections on current and future responsibilities to lay out the actual job specifics. After getting the candidate excited about the opportunity in the introduction, you need to use this space to paint a picture of what a day in their position at your firm would look like. If you can't do this, put your hiring plans on hold until you can.

Hint: Describe for the potential new hire who is on the team that they would likely be spending the most time with, and what they would be spending most of their time doing.  For some firms it might be preparing financial plans, while at others it could be client service.

Avoid: Going into too much detail.

Current Responsibilities aka “what new hire will be expected to do right off the bat”

You want the candidate to have a clear understanding of what they will be doing in the role initially; this is important, as it avoids having any surprises, and helps to lay the groundwork for setting role expectations.  This is the section where you can really begin to apply specifics and details to the job responsibilities.

Hint:  It is fine to include the tasks that no one else wants to do, but it should be balanced with some greater responsibilities as well. Remember that the top candidates are looking for interesting work where they can showcase their skills and work with real clients. They know that there won’t be much opportunity for them if they are scanning, researching cost basis, unloading the dishwasher, etc. for the majority of their day.

Avoid: Detail is good, but don’t feel like you have to list every single task you could possibly want completed. If you have hired the right person, they will understand that in a small business environment everyone has to pitch in at different times and engage in certain things that weren't necessarily spelled out in their job description.

Future Responsibilities aka “what a hire can do if they meet or exceed expectations”

This is a key section that should be included, since it reinforces to the candidate that there is a true growth opportunity and if they do well, they can earn an increase in their responsibilities. This section alone can assuage fears many new hires have that they are going to be stuck in the same job for an indefinite time period. They still have to deliver, but this gives them hope that there is something to work toward!

Hint: You need to hire for your immediate need, but always be thinking about what you would like for your new hire to grow into (and no, this is not a guarantee that they will grow into it).

Avoid: Listing a role and/or responsibility you have no intention of letting someone else actually perform.

Key Qualifications aka “framework for the skill set you seek”

Listing the skills you think are needed to succeed in the job is a logical approach. Keep in mind the longer and more restrictive the list is, the smaller you shrink the pool of applicants in an already small pool and the tougher it is to find a good fit. A long and restrictive list  can also scare away someone who could have been a great candidate except they did not meet one of the fifteen items you listed. What we do as financial planners is not rocket science, and much/most of it can be learned on the job.

Hint: Firm owners would be better served focusing their time and efforts on candidates who exhibit passion for the profession, initiative, coachability, and a positive humble attitude rather than seeking out those who hold a series 7 license, and/or prior experience with Salesforce, etc.  All of which can be studied, learned, and mastered.

 Avoid: An all encompassing laundry list of your wishes that describe the perfect candidate in your mind. Remember, the perfect candidate is probably not out there, and if they are, there’s a high likelihood they’re already your competition! :)

Benefits aka “the other perks you offer besides a great career growth opportunity”

This section needs to be thorough, but avoid replicating your employee handbook verbatim. New hires minimally expect reasonable cash compensation, access to health insurance, and a retirement plan.  Anything above and beyond this is great, and should be included because it could set you apart from other employers.

Hint: Check out Angie Herbers' recent whitepaper discussing the most effective benefit packages.

Avoid: Ignoring what other industries are offering as compensation to the talent you are both competing for.

Finally, be careful about overselling the position hoping to catch top talent's eye to "just get in front of them" and subsequently "sell them" on your firm and the position. Financial Planning is a small and growing profession, but word still travels fast if a firm develops a reputation for not delivering on the opportunity they originally offered.

The bottom line is that if you have had trouble attracting the right employees, it could be an issue with your job description; it's a problem we see commonly when working with firms who are seeking to hire new financial planners. Check out a template we created for firms who know they need to improve their description or don't have one at all.


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