Paying For Apples When You Really Wanted Oranges

Your firm is unique. You want to hire unique people. So why do so many recruiting platforms force everyone they work with into a cookie-cutter approach? The mantra throughout the advisory business is that service has to be tailored to the client and advisors have to be tailored to the firm they work with.

But when advisors and firms look for help making a match, they tend to settle for the standard package — even when it means getting too much or too little support at the wrong price.

A typical recruiting organization starts by matching your criteria against their database and introducing you to the best candidates in its files. That’s it. If you’re too choosy, you might not get anyone at all, and the service is wasted unless you want to pay extra for the recruiter to advertise the listing and expand his or her contact list in the process.

But if your criteria are too vague, you’ll get an equally unfocused list of candidates. Odds are good you’ll have to pay per referral, so the more ultimately unsuitable names that show up on your list, the less cost-effective the process is.

There needs to be a value-added alternative.

A good recruiter will spend the time to drill down into how exactly you expect a new advisor to fit into your existing business and your firm’s culture. Often, when firms hunt new talent, they rarely tell their recruiters much beyond the minimum amount of AUM and production they’ll consider. Beyond that, in almost all cases, their criteria really boil down to “the bigger, the better.” Sure, bolting a bigger business on to yours gives you a bigger business. But I’ve seen a lot of those deals fall apart over the years because the new partners just weren’t compatible in the long term.

You have to know your own culture to be able to tell the recruiting organization who to look for.

Are you devoted to aggressive prospecting in the mass affluent market in the hopes that these clients will grow along with you? If so, you need to find advisors who like to be out there working leads. What kind of return on AUM do you expect, and what can your affiliates get away with — either on the high or the low side — before they make you nervous? What kind of community service involvement do you like to see?

These are questions that relatively few principals know, but they are crucial to the success of a really efficient recruiting drive.

A good recruiter knows how to interview candidates and also knows how to interview the firms they work with. In both cases, the goal is to discover the underlying “story” or narrative behind the recruiting notice.

And a great recruiter is aware of factors not even the a candidate or the firm knows about yet. They’re strategic consultants as well as headhunters.

They can take a look at your firm, ask the right questions, and write the listing for you. Then they can go out and find the matches that work better than what anyone could have expected.

If you want “apples,” they’ll figure that out, and they’ll get them for you. If you don’t want “oranges,” they’ll figure that out, too.

It’s tailored, value-intensive service. But that’s what this industry is all about, right?