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Advisory Firms Putting Job Candidates Through the Wringer

With scores of applicants for every position, companies can afford to be extremely choosy when hiring. It’s all about ‘getting the right people on the bus.’

April 9, 2010
Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Latest News

Advisory firms may be starting to put out “Help wanted” signs again, but in another sign of the times, they’re also putting candidates through a grind before making an offer.

Indeed, with lots of candidates and few openings, advisors say they’ve toughened up the entire hiring process. Many are crafting tighter, more focused job descriptions. Others are asking candidates to submit to personality quizzes and psychological profiles. Some firms let employees grill job candidates.

Most advisors say they’re taking a lot more time to evaluate prospective hires.

Norm Mindel, a principal at Forum Financial Management, said hiring candidates used to be a quick process. But recently, his firm, which manages about $500 million in assets, spent nearly six months hiring an administrative assistant.

Part of that lengthy process was no doubt due to the hundreds of applications Forum Financial received for the position. But Mindel also said he wanted to be sure that the firm found the right person, even though a number of the applicants were overly qualified.

Toward that, Forum Financial brought employees into the process.

“We had all of the associates sit and meet with every candidate and give us their feedback,” he said. “They each spent an hour with the candidates. It took a long time.”

In the end, he said, the added time was well worth it. He’s not alone in that belief.

“We’re seeing some interest in hiring,” said Mike Watson, director of practice management for TD Ameritrade Inc. “Advisors realize there’s a ton of talent out there, but they want to make sure they’re getting the right people on the bus.”

Giving good directions helps. Previously, many advisors didn’t write proper job descriptions, Watson said. Now many are taking the time to make sure that a job description actually describes the job—with specifics indicating what tasks an employee will be expected to do.

Mark Balasa, a financial advisor and co-president of Balasa Dinverno Foltz , which manages $1.5 billion in assets, said his firm hired two employees in recent months. He described the process as more deliberate.

Now candidates are interviewed by more than half a dozen employees. They also meet with every employee on staff. He said candidates are also required to take personality tests.

“This process is always an evolution,” he said. “There’s more vetting in terms of narrowing down the pool in terms of how we interview. All of those things continue to evolve.” 

Filed by Lisa Shidler of InvestmentNews, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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