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The Practice Doctor is IN

Conducting Your In-Person Interview for an Assistant

by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant

Al Depman photoA number of my advisor clients are in the process of hiring assistants. Some are hiring for the first time, while others are adding, or replacing, staff. When it comes to interviewing, there are a number of best practices to remember.

Throughout the interviewing process, you are determining if someone is a match for the practice and would be able to execute the duties in the job description. With that in mind, review each of these duties with the candidate, describing your expectations around each. Gauge the candidate's receptiveness to, and experience with, each duty.

Never take notes on the resume or the application. It's important to have a separate interview template on which to take notes for a couple of reasons. First, the documentation is critical should there be any kind of legal action or unemployment claims. Second, if there are two good candidates, you have notes to review in your selection.

The interview template, along with the application, resume, and notes taken during the screening call provide you with a good picture of the candidate. In preparing your interview template, select some standard questions to ask. Here's a list of possible questions to include:

  • Describe the office environment you prefer to work in.
  • Describe a conflict situation that arose at work and explain how you handled it, and why you handled it that way.
  • Give an example of how you handle multi-tasking and prioritizing your work.
  • Give an example of when you've solved a difficult problem or situation at work.
  • What type of writing have you done?
  • Tell me about a job where you have worked with both internal and external clients. How did you balance both clients' needs?
  • Tell me about your experience with financial services people: advisors, agents, and brokers.
  • Tell me about a good service experience you received from a professional. What made it memorable?
  • Describe a stressful situation you've experienced in the workplace and how you dealt with it.
  • Describe your ideal boss.
  • Overtime may be required as part of this position from time to time; does that present a problem for you?
  • What questions or concerns do you have about this position?

As part of the interview template, a best practice is to provide the pros and cons of the position. If you are doing the interview with a partner, it could be in a good-natured "good cop, bad cop" manner. Here's an example to get you started:

The Good Points of the Position

  • The ability to work on your own (ownership of the position)
  • Team environment (we support each other)
  • Multiple customers: advisors, clients, companies (variety)
  • Opportunity to grow (we like to promote from within)
  • Varied work situations (you won't get bored)
  • Hand in creating business systems (an opportunity to contribute)
  • Bonus potential (an opportunity to make more money)

The Challenges of the Position

  • Pressure of competing priorities (you need to multi-task)
  • Steep learning curve (there are a lot of in-house systems to master)
  • Time management (you need to be able to prioritize)
  • Advisors can be demanding (you can't get flustered)
  • Advisors can be disorganized (you need to be organized)
  • Production drives the practice (quality is important, but so is quantity)

At the conclusion of the interview, if the candidate is a definite possibility, ask for professional references and permission to contact them. Ask the candidate to tell the references that you might be calling. This will help ensure the quality of the conversation. Review the "Disclosure and Release of Information" section of the application concerning background checks that may be done. Be sure it's signed. Thank the candidate and give a contact date for a decision, perhaps three days out.

Ensure you are following all federal and state laws regarding hiring.

Reviewing these steps regularly is a best practice. Let me know if you have any comments or questions (

The Doctor is OUT

© 2015 Al Depman

Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is's Business Practice Consultant, and contributor to "The Wall Street Journal." He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool, the key component of The Business Practice Check-Up™, has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and is the author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at

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