When interviewing for a financial planning job opportunity, it can be easy to get caught up in the process. Especially if it’s your first job interview. You want to answer the questions “right”… You want to put your best foot forward… And you want to make a good impression. But the reality is, a job interview should be a two-way street. The firm interviews the candidate, but the candidate is also interviewing the firm! Unfortunately, though, few prospective financial planners really interview the firm they’re applying to work at. And as a result, too many new financial planners wind up in bad first jobs – whether it is a sales job, an admin job, or something else that involves little real financial planning – all by failing to ask good questions of the firm during their interview process!
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, I discuss the 10 best questions that you, the financial planning job seeker, should be asking the prospective firm before you take the job, and what answers you should be looking for in response! And why just looking for a fee-only RIA is not actually the best way to find a good financial planning job opportunity!
First and foremost, though, if you want to find a good financial planning job, you will need to do due diligence on the firm yourself. To start out, there are three particularly valuable sources of information. First, check out the firm’s website. Realize that some great firms may not necessarily have a great website, but see what you can learn about them online. Who are they? How do they work with clients? What can you learn about the founder and the firm’s leadership? Second, look up their regulatory information, via BrokerCheck or IAPD. Do they have any infractions? If they are an RIA, look up their Form ADV Part 2 and see what you can learn about them from this document. Finally, get a copy of the actual job description itself, and really read through it. It stuns me the number of times I hear new advisors unhappy in their jobs, but then I see a copy of the job description, and it says they were going to do exactly what they’re doing now (but they didn’t really read it themselves before saying ‘yes’!)!
The next step is the interview itself. If you’ve done your due diligence well, not only will you be prepared to ask great questions, but the prospective firm will likely be impressed you took the time to look up information about them. When the opportunity comes in the interview, be ready to speak up and ask your questions. A few important questions to ask include asking about the software the firm uses, how often they update financial plans for clients, whether they’re growing and where their new clients come from, what a typical week looks like (for someone in the position you’re applying for), and whether they think it’s important to get the CFP marks?
Notably, it’s not necessarily about whether the firm is a fee-only RIA, but whether they really put a focus on financial planning, regardless of their business model. In fact, the value of these questions isn’t just the exact answers that the firm provides, but what the answers reveal about the overall attitudes and culture of the firm (regardless of whether it’s under a broker-dealer or at an RIA), whether they’re really serious about financial planning, and whether the job you’re applying for is really a good way to get CFP experience, or if it’s just an admin or sales job instead!
In the end, the reality is that there are no perfect answers to all of these questions. Most advisory firms are small businesses, and the truth is that this may be a new scary process for them, too. But, ultimately, the sense you should get from the interview is that the position is really about financial planning and it’s not simply a sales job. And if it’s a growing firm, and they take planning seriously, it may be a great first job, even if it’s not the perfect job! So, if you find yourself interviewing for a new financial planning job, hopefully you’ll find these questions helpful, because ultimately a successful interview is not just about the questions you answer, but also the questions you ask!