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It’s time to hire. Now what?

Liz DeCarlo

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Members share their recruitment strategies and insights.

When it comes to hiring, each advisor has their own process. Some outsource the whole thing; others feel more comfortable handling everything themselves. Some trust the interview and testing process; others rely ultimately on a gut feeling. Recently, we asked two advisors to share the ins and outs of their process with other members who are considering adding staff.

Catherine Gough, FPFS, has been in financial services for 22 years. Her 11-person staff includes advisors, paraplanners and administrative staff. She is a one-year MDRT member from Shrewsbury, England.

Craig Palfrey, CFP, has been in the financial services profession for 18 years. In the past seven years, his organization has grown from a three-person practice to 16 members. The nine-year MDRT member from Cardiff, Wales, has advice, client relationship, technical and business support teams.

How did you know it was time to add employees?

Gough: We were at capacity. There wasn’t enough time to do everything and give clients everything they needed.

Palfrey: The firm I was working for insisted on it. They recognized that to see more clients, you need to have support staff so they partially funded it. Very quickly, the individual we hired, who is still with me today, was adding value.

How did you decide what type of employee you needed?

Gough: At first it was support staff. Then I was doing all the suitability letters and as more research needed to be done, it became clear we needed a paraplanner because of the type of work.

Palfrey: The firm recommended a paraplanner/administrative person to allow us to focus on seeing clients.

Do you participate in the hiring process or do you use an outside recruitment agency?

Gough: In the past I’ve done the recruitment myself, but now I use an agency to do it. The agency puts the ad together and does the initial evaluation of candidates. By the time they get in front of me, there’s been some screening and shortlisting.

Palfrey: We’ve tried agencies twice before, but both times we’ve been disappointed with them. In our experience, they don’t do enough for what you invest. There’s no screening or checking of the individuals put in front of you to make sure they fit your culture and values.

If you use an outside recruiter, what’s the key to making this work?

Gough: It’s important to do your due diligence on the recruitment firm you’re going to use. I’ve had some agencies where it felt like they’d send me a person as long as they had a pulse. My current agency understands me, my business and the qualities the person needs to have.

Can you explain your hiring process? Are you actively involved?

Gough: Once I have the CV of someone I’d like to speak to, I have a telephone interview. I want to hear how they’ll be with clients on the phone. It’s about a 15-minute call. If I’m comfortable, I’ll arrange for them to come into the office. In the meantime, I’ll also send them the Kolbe evaluation. When they come in, I have a face-to-face meeting with them and our office manager does a competency assessment. He might have them write a letter to a client or do a review of a valuation to see if they can find the mistakes we put in it.

Palfrey: It’s taken some time, but we have now built a process and the main thing the team insisted on was that I stay out of it! We have a telephone interview stage, then face-to-face interviews in the office. During the second interview, the candidates have to present on something they’re passionate about. They spend about a half day meeting the team too. We believe heavily in the use of Kolbe to ensure the person has what we think are the core skills they’ll need for the job. In a recent addition to the process, our team began searching the individual on social media to check them out.

How do you handle it if you realize the person isn’t the right fit?

Gough: We try to coach them and train them to understand what they’re struggling with. But if it isn’t going to work, we deal with it quickly.

Palfrey: We exit them quickly after learning from experience.

What advice would you give to others who are hiring?

Gough: Don’t rush into taking someone on. Talk to other people. Use an outside agency or other people on your team to help with the recruitment process. Try to use a competency-based assessment tool.

Palfrey: Create a process that is robust and repeatable and doesn’t involve you hiring on your gut. Chances are you’ll be attracted to someone similar to you, and that is probably not what the business wants or needs. If I was still in charge of recruitment, we would probably have a team of wannabe financial planners and I would still be trying to get these people to do the other jobs that need doing. 


Catherine Gough at

Craig Palfrey at


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