With the business environment improving, advisors are increasingly turning their attention to hiring. Approach this process thoughtfully or you may find yourself in the frustrating position of bringing in the wrong employees.

There are steps you can take to increase the possibility of a successful, long-term hire. We suggest a six-step process that can serve as best-practice standards for hiring.

Establish Meaningful Criteria

Once you’ve determined it’s appropriate to fill or create a new position, develop a thorough job description and a pay package so there are clear parameters for the hiring process. Often, firms set compensation based on the person they hire rather than what is appropriate for the position. A detailed job description and compensation parameters make it easier to select a candidate.

Post the Position

The job posting can be as important as the interview process because it alone may determine whether someone will apply for your position. The posting should:

  • Set out specific criteria and the desired qualifications.
  • Be exciting by describing why someone would want to work at the firm.

  Local/regional job search Web sites and schools/universities may be the most successful at producing candidates followed by print media, recruiters, and recruiting from the competition. Personal referrals often produce qualified candidates, but they should not be the sole search mechanism.
The Screening Process

Make the interview process more productive by creating a list of revealing questions for consistent use. This promotes a more objective evaluation and helps compare candidates.

Good interview questions will:

  • Be precise. Have a reason to ask each question. Do not waste time with questions you and they know the answer to or that everyone anticipates with a pat answer.
  • Be open-ended. While the question should be precise, keep it open-ended in order to encourage someone to share information that will be revealing. No one learns anything from a yes or no answer.
  • Be behavior-based.  Learn what behaviors you can expect when someone joins the firm. Someone may have the skill to do the job but be behaviorally incompatible.

Make sure questions explore all areas of importance: the candidates’ skills and abilities, attitudes and values, working behaviors (how they work and how they feel they work best), and cultural fit.
Hiring for a technical position? Ask specific skills-based questions. You should also cover values, sociability, and self-awareness. If you expect people to perform well under pressure, ask tough, challenging and even stressful questions.

Aptitude and Attitude

It’s essential to have a process that measures the skills, aptitude and desire/drive of a potential hire. Functional ability doesn’t always translate into a desire to do the job, a drive for success, or passion for excellence.

Consider the following:

  • Psychometric profiling. Personality profiling digs deeper into a candidate’s suitability for a position. Profiles such as Kolbe, DISC, and Myers Briggs will help assess the behaviors you can expect from the prospective employee.
  • Ability/aptitude tests. General skills testing provides important information about the abilities of candidates. Do not assume candidates have abilities and/or aptitudes based on their résumés—or that they don’t have certain abilities because these are absent.
  • Job-specific skills testing. When hiring for a position requiring expertise, job-specific skills testing can help. Consider giving a prospective advisor hire a case study to gauge his or her approach, advice-giving and presentation abilities.
  • Multiple visits. Having candidates come to the office a few times gives you a chance to get to know them. People tend to let their guard down over time, so the more you interact with them, the more likely they are to be themselves.
  • Reference checks. Ask prospects to share one or two managers to speak about their past employment. And, you can ask for non-manager references, such as former clients, colleagues, or professional contacts.
  • Clue into culture.Once a firm feels that a candidate is in the running, the advisors should share a deeper view of the firm culture with the candidate, so that both sides can evaluate it for fit.

Thoughtful Evaluation

Engage in “equal and objective” evaluation of candidates by creating standardized documentation for each step in the process from the phone interview to the in-person interviews. Then, develop a scoring system that allows a comparison point for point.  This does not mean the process is limited to what is on the paper because the natural by-product of a good process will be information that colors outside the lines.

Evaluate the data gathered from testing, profiling, and references and combine that information with your gut instinct and the opinion of other team members to make a decision. If everything seems right and your gut instinct says no, chances are you don’t want to make that hire.

Make the Offer

Before a firm engages a hire or soon afterward, have the position documentation and offer ready. Make a formal offer to the candidate along with an offer letter, a job description, a compensation package, a confidentiality agreement and, where appropriate, a non-compete clause for professional staff. Many firms say they don’t need nondisclosure agreements, yet firms have engaged in litigation over departing employees who took confidential information to solicit client business from their former firm.

 Advisors may not be inclined to develop a hiring process because it requires an investment of time, but a systematic approach to hiring is well worth the effort. Adding the right person can quickly benefit a practice by freeing up time, paving the way to increased and/or improved performance and productivity for the business.

Matt Matrisian is an executive at Genworth Financial Wealth Management