Tracey Underwood of PACE Solutions has practical tips on how to approach the important matter of recruitment from both an interviewer and interviewee perspective – to help engage individuals who will thrive in your financial planning business

Personally, having sat on both sides of the interview table, more often of late from the interviewer side, I’ve experienced many different types of interviews within the financial planning profession.

Given the importance to the financial planning business of getting this process right, my aim in this article is to give you an insight into the dos and don’ts of your recruitment process. The business invests considerable time and effort in bringing new employees into the business and training them in processes and procedures. A constant turn-over of staff can be highly disruptive and costly in terms of time and the negative impact it has on team morale. Therefore, it pays to recruit with the long term in mind, so that you get the best outcome for the business and the individual.

On the flip side, for interviewees, I’ll also cover what you might expect if you’re at an early stage of your career or relatively inexperienced when it comes to interviews.


The Interviewer Perspective


Successful recruiting is not a short-cut process. As the saying goes, “nothing good ever comes out of hurry and frustration, only misery”. None of us are perfect and we’ve all cut the recruitment process short at some point. In some cases we may have been swept away by the personality, experience or skills of the interviewee or we’re desperate to fill a vacancy quickly because we’re under time pressure with other aspects of business like reports, admin etc. that might be demanding our urgent attention. But financial planning is a competitive profession and good people are not easy to find – or keep. It’s important to make sure you keep those who you recruit so ensuring there is a good fit at the start is crucial.

By putting in the time and effort at the start of the recruitment process, this will ensure that over the longer term cost, frustration and time are all reduced.



But, by putting in the time and effort at the start of the recruitment process, this will ensure that over the longer term cost, frustration and time are all reduced. You will boost your chances of recruiting the person who will not only do the job efficiently and effectively but who will also share the business’ values and fit in well with your business and the whole team. This requires patience as well as persistence. Make sure you don’t delay during the process too. If you do, you risk losing out as the candidates may accept other jobs.

There are, of course, things that can be done prior to resorting to recruiting, such as undertaking a cost benefit analysis, process and skills review. However, this topic is enough for an article in its own right so here I will confine myself to talking about recruitment only.



To get the best outcomes from the interview process, as a minimum, you should set aside time to:

  1. Write up a detailed job description including details of the duties involved and the standards expected
  2. Advertise the role or speak to recruitment consultants
  3. Study CVs – and consider social media profiles for candidates too
  4. Filter into prospective interviewees
  5. Create a set of questions for the interviews – and a scoring methodology to compare candidates
  6. Create a competence test based on the role. E.g. for a paraplanner a written financial plan based on a case study would be a good starting point
  7. Carry out the interviews and review the candidates afterwards
  8. Filter candidates based on the results of the interviews. Generally, there should be no more than three individuals who get through to stage two
  9. Set the competence test
  10. Complete psychometric testing
  11. Conduct second interviews, perhaps involving other members of the team

Phew! Although this is only the start, then there’s onboarding to think about (we’ll leave that one for another day!).



When we get caught up in the emotional state of an interview, we tend to make bad decisions. Listen to your gut and your head. You’re looking for the person who can not only do the job effectively, but who will also fit in well with the team. If there’s one unwritten rule to remember it’s this: don’t employ your friends.

If there’s one unwritten rule to remember it’s this: don’t employ your friends


I have very rarely, if ever, encountered a successful outcome when recruiting a friend. There’s already an emotional connection with your friend. You know them, you trust them (right?) but when it comes to working together in business it’s a whole different ball game. When a mistake happens, because inevitably it will at some point, you will find it difficult to confront the issue without it affecting your relationship outside of work. By not treating your friend as another member of the team and by this I mean giving preferential treatment (intentionally or not), this will breed resentment to the rest of the team. Everything then becomes a political landmine blurring the lines of friendship and work colleague. In essence, this is a lose l lose situation and if you want to help your friend, help them find a job somewhere else.



In this aspect, we’re not talking about salary here, but the actual cost of your recruitment process. Take shortcuts, hire friends it’s free you say? Well, it might be free now but it’s going to cost you a lot more in the long run. Don’t scrimp; everyone gives recruitment consultants a hard time, no one more so than me. There are good ones and bad ones out there and you pay for what you get. Work closely with a trusted agency which understands your business, agree a fee and let them do the leg work; they’ll free up some time in the process which is time better spent than from detracting you from what you enjoy doing and where you’re most productively employed.

The Interviewee Perspective

There are a few things that you can do in order to prepare yourself effectively prior to an interview.


Check your social media

Your prospective employer is more than likely going to look at your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all other types of social media profiles. There’s an array of reasons why employers do this but the main one is to make sure you will be a good fit for their company. So, inappropriate photos, videos, discriminatory comments to name but a few, will rate highly with leaving a bad impression on your potential employer.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Be prepared and know your stuff about the firm you are applying to join and even the person who is interviewing you; after all they are likely to have their own social media profile (although keep your conversation to business!).

Never ever think that an interview is going to be a quick chat over coffee.

Do some reading about the company and how it operates, where the industry is going, your potential involvement and provide some views. Do this and you will have lots of ideas for questions to ask. Finally, be yourself and be honest because if you’re not, any good interviewer will see through this.

Keep calm

Let’s be honest, not many people like being interviewed. The thought of being asked questions to which you may not know the answer, coupled with your desire to get the job, gets your heart racing. I can only speak from experience but if you’ve done your homework and thorough research, it will make the process so much more relaxing for you as you have more control and it’s more enjoyable for the interviewer too.

Be prepared to undertake a competence test. You will usually be told about this prior to interview. Rest assured, it’s nothing to be nervous about and generally the interviewer is benchmarking your knowledge and what skills you may already possess for the role advertised. If you know your stuff then it should be a breeze. Also, it is only one part of the overall process. For me, emotional intelligence and strong application skills rate far more highly than technical ability. The former is inbuilt and can’t be taught whereas technical ability can be.

I always mention to candidates that interviewing is a two-way process. Not only are you trying to ‘sell’ yourself to the company but the interviewer is ‘selling’ the company to you. Yes, you want to find the role which suits you and your skillset but the same goes for the interviewer. They want to make sure that whoever they recruit will complement their business. If you are not getting the right kind of positive vibes from the interviewer then is this really a firm that you want to work for? Do they share your values (and vice versa)?

If it is a company you want to work for and you’re successful at first interview then it is likely that you will be asked to undertake a psychometric (personality) test. Of the many tests available, it is likely these will either be Kobe, Insights Discovery or Belbin. They are all very similar and it’s not something that you can cheat. If successful, you will be invited to second interview. The second interview should give you the opportunity to ask further questions and is likely to give you the chance to meet the wider team. If you are aspiring to a role as a paraplanner then this could involve meeting other members of the paraplanner team to ask them about their experience, career route etc. If you are going to be working on a one-to-one basis with an adviser, then potentially this could be the chance to meet that adviser and who will be observing whether this is a relationship that could work.

If you’ve done all that, then you’ve instantly improved your prospect of securing the role.

Final thoughts

For both interviewer and interviewee, recruiting is not a quick process if done correctly. So just remember; slowdown, calm down, don’t worry, don’t hurry and trust the process!

About Tracey Underwood
Tracey is the owner and founder of PACE Solutions. The business provides support for financial planning businesses by focusing on operational practices including; recruitment, compliance, processes, client proposition and business strategy. This is achieved not only through a consultancy process but by hands on implementation to ensure that firms achieve effective results that would otherwise not be achieved through consultation only.


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