From making a good first impression to not making as many impressions as you should, it pays to avoid these common pitfalls when the recruiting process is starting its cycle.

Painful as it may be, consider it a courtship process and treat it as such. Check your ego at the door and be sure to not move too fast. You just may end up with a happier clientele and better paycheck in the process.

Oh, there's nothing like a good first impression. Let's first agree that we all have busy lives. Or at least I hope so. With families, clients and hobbies come numerous obligations, a full calendar and a lot of priority setting. Managers juggle just as many meetings, if not more than advisors do. Not only are there constant meetings, whether by phone or in person to the cooperate offices, there's the general staff meetings, individual meetings and of course recruit meetings. Being the full-time conduit between the sales force and the home office is a large time commitment.

As a recruiter that deals with different managers day in and out, I know all too well that the good ones are usually booked for weeks on end for lunches, breakfasts and after-market recruiting meetings.

Yet, when setting up a meeting to meet with a new candidate I rarely get a cancellation. Why? Well, it comes back to the rule of first impressions. There's no time like the first meeting to make a good first impression.

The managers tend to realize how important it is to make the advisor they are meeting feel wanted and that they are a priority to the prospective firm.

However, the advisor cancellation rate on first meetings is quite high. Nearly 35% have 'something pop up', an 'emergency', a 'last minute client meeting' or 'just forgot.' I've got news for the serial no-shows though: The street and number of people who are on it is getting smaller. Do it enough times and people consider you a disrespectful tire kicker who isn't worthy of their time.

One of my recruiters recently approached a manager about a team in the greater New York City area. The manager wouldn't get back to her about prospective dates for quite some time. That team generates around $1.8 million in commissions with $160 million in assets. As is turns out, the team had scheduled at least five different meetings with this same manager in the last few years and never showed up. "I'm not sure I'm willing to look past all the no shows at this point," the manager said. "Seriously, I have about 60 recruits in my pipeline right now who actually have a genuine interest in this firm and my offices. Why on earth would I block out yet another slot for people that just don't show?"

I happen to totally agree with the manager. I make a point to have any recruit I represent who pulls a cancellation make a call directly and explain her reasoning. This way the manager can tell it's a true story and they don't feel slighted. Because once one feels slighted then the cancellation game begins and nobody wins. The cancellation game is when both repeatedly try and one up the other by cancelling. It's totally childish and should be avoided at all costs.

The second common recruiting mistake is coming across to the hiring firm as being "all about the money." Most of the firms that I deal with will walk away happily if you give this impression. It certainly behooves you to be knowledgeable about what deals are out there and what firms are offering the top deals. Yet, if you care about nobody but yourself during such a vast transaction, chances are you aren't putting your clients first. This is unacceptable. That's what gives Wall Street a bad name, and reputable firms tend not to want to be around it. Time and time again, my firm has advisors wanting to take a look at a formal deal without the firm doing a thorough due diligence on them, and it just doesn't work that way. While a manager would love to hand over a huge check without 50 meetings and 100 pages of paperwork, he can't.

Switching firms really isn't all about the money, like some may think. Switching has to make sense to your clients, your business, your family and yourself. The money will follow. The money-focused advisors tend to rush the process. Where most firms would just love you join them today or tomorrow, chances are the process is around three to six months out. Firms and managers raise a red flag when someone wants to leave within two or three weeks for no particular reason.

I had a $5 million-plus team not too long ago from whom several firms walked away. The reason was that the team had a date planned for their move. The firms just couldn't accommodate the deadline. Their business was quite complex and it would take much more time to make their respective platforms suited for the team's book. Exceptions take time and the team ultimately went with a firm that paid them much less than their competitors. I believe it was the right decision for all parties, yet they did walk away from potential millions.

The third most common mistake advisors can make in the recruiting process is by thinking that 'they are the only game in town.' Oh, the arrogance! One of my managers put it rather eloquently when he said: "There's a lot of guys that I would love to work with, but nobody that I need to work with."

Just like nobody wants to marry an a*****e, nobody wants to work with or for one also. Some of my clients have a rule about it and will not even meet with people who the street deems as arrogant. Oh, yes, and word travels fast. You do it at one firm, and someone is going to hear about it and spread it to the next.

One of my recruiters had tried to introduce an old time advisor in the Chicago market about a year ago to a client. The client was quick to say no to meeting this 30-year industry veteran after the cancellation of the first meeting. The firm made it clear: The broker's $4 million in gross wasn't worth his cancellation, especially when they put it together with his reputation on the street for being incredibly arrogant with a nasty temper.

The fourth common mistake many advisors make is moving too much. Clients are understand why their brokers move and just how much money is involved for them. Several clients reached out recently to a manager, John, who I know in New Jersey. They asked if they could be reassigned with another advisor at the firm after their broker left. They all indicated that they liked the present firm and didn't really understand why their broker was leaving yet another place, so just wanted to be left alone there.

Four years ago, the steadfast rule was no hiring advisors with a record that indicated more than three firms in seven years. Now, the rule of thumb is not to hire an advisor who has moved three times in 10 years. Not only are you becoming a poor candidate for competing firms and diminishing your value, but your clients start to wonder if you're a quality employee or not. Three times in 30 years not so bad; three times in 10 years shows there is an issue.

The two last common mistakes advisors make during the recruiting process is not using a recruiter and not looking at more than one firm. I don't care if you have been in the business for five or 25 years, it's best to have someone in your corner who's not only independent, but knows the political navigation of the key firms when you are ready to look. A good recruiter can not only guide you to the best offices in your area, but get you a better deal-through a position of strength-than you would have gotten alone. Make sure you are knowledgeable about who is representing you as well. You want the best for your clients, your family and yourself? Then be sure and use the best representation. Most of the good recruiting firms enjoy exceptional relationships with the top management at these firms and if there's a problem, they are more likely to pick up the phone and resolve it.

Also, make sure the recruiting firm that you use has multiple clients in whom you are interested. I never understood the firms that only have one client. I believe it's a disservice to advisors. Talk about trying to push a square peg in a triangular hole. Not all firms are right for all brokers and vice versa. It would be like you only being able to sell one product. You are a trusted advisor to clients namely because you are an expert on a plethora of investment products and vehicles. While one firm may have better insurance, another will have the best managed money capability and your clients trust you to know this. Same goes for the recruiting world.

When you interview at more than one respectable place, you can get a flavor for what the firms are like. Use this to your advantage when it comes to deal time. You would be amazed at how much that extra 5% upfront can add up to when the firm knows that you are shopping around and wants you even more. And worst case scenario, you will become familiar with the other player in your marketplace. This can help you during competitive bids between firms with your own prospective clients. It's not corporate espionage, and at least you will know who you are up against. With a little consideration for others and a lot for your clients, you can avoid these common mistakes. Good luck and may the best firm win.


Carri Degenhardt-Burke runs Degenhardt Consulting in Jersey City, N.J.
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