We have gotten a huge number of applications for our financial planner assistant position and almost as many questions from our fellow financial planners: “How did you get so many people to apply to your financial planner assistant position?” Well, today we thought we’d share both the elements of the job posting and the elements of how we screen candidates so you can see our process and possibly apply it to your own firm or team.
The Job Posting
First of all, you have to understand who the job post is for: It’s not for you. Too many job postings are long lists of brags about the company, followed by a long list of demands of those who might apply to it. Companies too often miss the opportunity to tell the candidate what’s in it for them and to set expectations for the hiring process. In our case, we list out the compensation for the position clearly and in full, along with providing additional information on the company’s benefits and career path for those candidates who want to take a deep dive.
We also make it clear that the qualifications for the position are nominal, rather than “perfect.” Too often, a position will have a significant and substantial list of “like to have” qualifications listed as requirements, when in fact the position doesn’t require such stringent things. Asking a ditch digger to have a bachelor’s degree in physics is just overkill, so if the position doesn’t actually require the skills of a college degree or technical degree, don’t ask for it. You’ll still get plenty of college graduates who apply for the position, but you open up the opportunity for others. This is especially important due to the reliable statistic that men will apply for “anything” and women will often only apply if they meet all of the listed requirements, which can dampen your candidate pool.
Finally, make sure you set expectations. Explain in the job posting how long you’ll accept applications, what will follow if they’re selected for an interview, the timeline to expect for the interviews to take, and how long after they should wait to hear the good news or bad news. Also, do everyone a favor: Promise not to ghost your candidates. You can end up with a ton of people to respond to potentially, but a lack of communication about whether someone is moving forward or not can leave them in a lurch and hurt your brand. Worse, you can lose a good candidate by taking too long in the hiring process and failing to explain that you just need a little more time; they might think they’ve been ghosted and go elsewhere!
Sharing the Opportunity
First and foremost, you can share an opportunity with your social network and have your team do the same, but you should never stop there. Popular generic hiring platforms are Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and LinkedIn. Indeed will let you pay per accepted application within 72 hours, meaning that they will supply you with an unlimited number of candidates but you’ll only pay for those you’re interested in talking to. ZipRecruiter will share your position across a large number of smaller platforms and simply charge per day that the position is open. LinkedIn shares to itself and will market your position if you want to pay for it, or will simply let it be searchable by candidates. We got over half of our applications from Indeed, about a quarter from LinkedIn, and the rest came from ZipRecruiter and other smaller platforms.
Speaking of smaller platforms: If there are industry-specific job boards that are popular in your line of work, use them. For financial planners, we used CFP Board and NAPFA’s career centers and would have used FPA but had some technical issues getting a post up. This was probably overkill for us, but we wanted to make sure the opportunity was out there for people to engage in.
Finally, while we got 109 applications in 6 days, that wasn’t simply the result of “everyone possible applying.” According to the metrics from the various platforms we used, only about 15% of candidates seeking a position even saw our job posting, and our application rate was about 5%, meaning we only got applications from 0.75% of qualified candidates on the various platforms.
With any flood of applications for a position comes the tough decision: How many people do you interview and who do you interview? We decided that we would interview 10 candidates, with a minimum requirement that we would interview no less than 30% women, people of color, or those from under-represented communities. With that in mind, we then applied four primary screens for applicants, with a score range of negative seven to positive seven for a total score. Our rubric was as shown below:
- Locality (Commute Risk):
- +2: Applicant lives in Longmont or is actively moving to Longmont (regardless of the position.)
- +1: Applicant lives within a town adjacent to Longmont, including Niwot, Gunbarrel, Boulder, Hygiene, Mead, Berthoud, Firestone, Frederick, Lafayette, Louisville, Loveland, or Erie.
- 0: Applicant lives in Colorado but not in Longmont or a town immediately adjacent. Also applies to unincorporated residences no closer than 20 miles from Longmont.
- -1: Applicant lives out of state. Presumably, they are looking to move to Colorado, however, we are not offering a relocation package, so this is a tough fit.
- -2: Applicant’s location cannot be verified from resume or application.
- +2: Applicant has worked in a financial services firm (bank, insurance, financial advice, investment) in an office admin, office management, or assistant role.
- +1: Applicant has either worked for a financial services firm or in an office admin or management role.
- 0: Applicant has a High School Diploma or GED.
- -1: Applicant has an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree, making them slightly overqualified for the position.
- -2: Applicant has a master’s degree or higher, and is extremely overqualified, making them an obvious retention risk. Alternatively, they are grossly unqualified, e.g., did not graduate high school, do not speak/read/write English, etc.
- Verifiably Real
- +2: Applicant has an active LinkedIn profile that matches their resume, providing greater confirmation of their qualifications.
- +1: Applicant has an active profile on social media but not one that shows their work experience.
- 0: Applicant has a profile on social media, but it is incomplete or inactive.
- -1: Applicant cannot be verifiably located on any common social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter), raising concern that this is a spam application or that there’s a potential misrepresentation.
- -2: Applicant has a social media profile and it is obviously racist, sexist, offensive, or in clear bad taste with the professional standards and culture of our firm.
- Shown Interest
- +1: The candidate messaged us through the application system or otherwise attempted to contact us with a clear interest in the position.
- -1: The candidate messaged us through the application or otherwise attempted to contact us, but the outreach is clearly automated, canned, or shows a clear lack of understanding of the position and its requirements; for example, the applicant asks if they can work remotely rather than onsite.
- “What if they conflict?” For example, what if someone has worked as an office admin in a financial services firm (+2) and also has a Master’s Degree (-2)? In those instances, utilize a subjective assessment to score them as you see fit.
As we developed scores for every candidate, we then had an automatically calculated mean and standard deviation of the total scores in the candidate pool. By the end of our application period, we had a mean score of 1.54 and a standard deviation of 2.33. This meant that all candidates with a score of 3.87 were considered strong candidates, and were in our pool to potentially invite for an interview. That said, to ensure that we weren’t simply only considering the scoring rubric, every candidate with a strong score and all candidates “on the line” were reviewed a second time by another team member to validate them as a candidate, and to keep in mind our candidate diversity goal.
Our Applicant Pool had the following demographic and sociographic traits:
- GED/High School Diploma: 46%
- Associate’s Degree or Technical Education: 11%
- Bachelor’s Degree: 33%
- Master’s Degree: 10%
- Male or Male Presenting: 35%
- Female or Female Presenting: 62.5%
- Unknown/Unclear: 2.5%
- White Presenting: 61.56%
- Black Presenting: 5.76%
- Hispanic and/or Latino Presenting: 11.53%
- Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern Presenting: 21.15%
- Other: 0%
While we’re very pleased with the diversity of our candidate pool, our results from non-white populations skewed disproportionately down for Black, Hispanic, Latino, Pacific Islander, and Native American populations, and over-represented Asian continental heritage. This isn’t intrinsically a bad thing, but we can always do better to improve our representation and proportionality of representativeness in our applicant pool. Otherwise, we felt that the educational spread of our candidates was reasonable, and while a deviation from the industry norm of male-to-female representation (typically closer to 70-30 male-female), we were not surprised to see an over-representation of women, given that there are some cultural norms regarding “assistant” type roles, albeit perhaps ones that should go the way of the horse buggy. Still, we were overall pleased to see that we didn’t end up with a homogenous applicant pool.
Other Items of Note
We saw a not-insignificant number of applicants for candidates who were clearly qualified or angling towards a financial planner position. While that’s certainly an opportunity in our career track, that ended up being a hindrance rather than a help for many of those candidates. Ultimately, while we’re not opposed to seeing our team members grow with the firm and rise up the ranks, at present, this position really was listed with an orientation and priority toward having an administrative-focused person within the firm, rather than someone who was on the fast track toward becoming a financial planner. The irony then is that when we go to hire another associate planner within the next year or so, the inverse traits will become appropriate: candidates with lower levels of education or who might move from further away to be part of the firm may be more desirable as our attention turns from wanting someone reliably local for whom the position is a great opportunity in terms of pay and benefits, toward wanting a candidate who excels technically but for whom the role would be the first of many steps in their career. Still, we’ll see how it all shakes out, and it’s always exciting and validating to see that people are eager to work with you and your business!