Questions I should ask at my interview

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Nov 13, 2008 4:10 pm

I will be interviewing for an FA position with a couple of different outfits pretty soon.  I am prepared for the questions they're gonna ask me... however, I'm not sure what question I should be asking them, other than the obvious about base salary, training, etc.

 
In short, I am unfamiliar with the commission or compensation structure in this industry and can't "talk the talk" in that regard.  I've seen a lot of lingo thrown around on this forum, "grid", etc. and don't really know what it means or how it works.  I'm coming from the mortgage industry where the loan originator splits the fees and premium paid to us by the lender with the house.
 
What questions should I ask in regard to compensation (or anything else for that matter)?
 
Here's my list so far:

Hours expected of me and general duties, responsibilities and activities to expect throughout the day.
Training regimen: how long, where, subject matter, liability if I leave the firm
Base salary provided and for how long
Mentoring availability
Commission structure (no idea what's good and bad)
Benefits, who pays for what and how much
Office support, marketing materials
Trial run (sit in the office for a day or two to get the lay of the land and see the culture)
Can I speak with some of the newer FAs (hat tip: buyandhold)
Management structure, who do I answer to
What is the company burn-out rate and who gets their book when they leave
Independence, can I market myself anyway I want (so long as it is industry compliant)
Ability to work from home at some point (they are nearly 1.5 hours away, each way)
How much cold calling, what demographic and regions to be farmed
Seminars, who pays for what

Any other suggestions?

Nov 13, 2008 4:20 pm

Oh, great! The mortgage guys found their way in. Now we're doomed. 

Nov 13, 2008 4:21 pm

Do yourself a favor and study up on the industry before you go into any interview and about the firms you are interviewing with so you don't look like a total fool.

Nov 13, 2008 4:23 pm

The only question that matters, imo: Will this company support me? Do they care about me?

I know that's touchy feely, but when you're new, you want somebody who is invested in your success. So I would want to talk to as many other newbie FAs at the firm and find that out from them. They can answer your questions about the demands of the job. Compensation doesn't matter; if you succeed, you will make great money; if not, you will fail, no matter where you are.
I would plug Jones, where I am, in that the people here (especially your fellow FAs) do want you to succeed and the hurdles are managable.
 
Nov 13, 2008 4:34 pm
Hank Moody:

Oh, great! The mortgage guys found their way in. Now we're doomed. 

 
I was never much of a mortgage guy, in that sense.  Which is one of the reasons I couldn't wait to leave the business.  You are correct: 95% of everyone in the mortgage industry is a lying, bait-and-switch shark.
 
This was something I would not do, and suffered for it.  I hope the FA industry has more integrity, and if not that, then at least some regulation and oversight.
Nov 13, 2008 4:36 pm
jamesbond:

Do yourself a favor and study up on the industry before you go into any interview and about the firms you are interviewing with so you don't look like a total fool.

 
I am.  I'm here and I'm asking you.
Nov 13, 2008 4:41 pm
jmatt:
Hank Moody:

Oh, great! The mortgage guys found their way in. Now we're doomed. 

 
I was never much of a mortgage guy, in that sense.  Which is one of the reasons I couldn't wait to leave the business.  You are correct: 95% of everyone in the mortgage industry is a lying, bait-and-switch shark.
 
This was something I would not do, and suffered for it.  I hope the FA industry has more integrity, and if not that, then at least some regulation and oversight.



I wasn't taking a shot at mortgage guys, per se. I'm joking about the movement of salesmen from industry to industry. It wasn't too long ago that the investment guys left to get rich in the mortgage business. It was right at the top of the mortgage business. Lots of realtors came into the investment business in the late 1990's, at the peak of the market. This movement is an indicator that an industry is about to see it's peak.

Nov 13, 2008 4:45 pm

Jmatt,<?: prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


 


            I’m not trying to be harsh but do some more searching through these forums to get a better understanding how things work in this industry.  You list is way off base.


 


It sounds like you are interviewing them more than they are interviewing you.  What makes you think that a person that was “never much of a mortgage guy” has what it takes to make it in this business?


 


Enough criticism; here is some hopefully helpful information:


In almost any interview, I suggest that people work to answer the following three questions.


Why am I good?


Why is the firm good?


Why are we good together?


 


--WM

Nov 13, 2008 4:45 pm

Jmatt,

 
If you even ask half of the questions you posted, many of which THEY WILL BE ASKING YOU, you'll get walked to the door before your sweat drops to your feet.
 
Don't do it. Don't ask your boss how many cold calls are expected out of you. They're expecting you to have this answer included in your business plan.
 
Do not ask about how assets get passed around the office. That is none of your business.
 
Don't ask about marketing materials and office supplies. What does that have to do with your numbers?
 
Do not, for the love of god almighty, ask about seminars and who will pay for it. That's all on you. Period.
 
The last point ties into your salary. If for one second you think of the base they're oayuing you as salary I'm telling you right now, you're toast. Look at it as a business loan. They're handing you $40k and they expect a return on their money (by bringing in new clients of course). Some of that money should be tied up to : save for emergency uses in case of low commission months, pay for your seminars, pay for your work related gas usage, etc.
 
Your questions come off as entitlement questions. I want the best for anyone coming into this business so heed my advice and change your train of thought going in. Your questions should specifically ask and tie into your business proposition of bringing in new clients. You do that, you're ok to go.
Nov 13, 2008 4:58 pm
Hank Moody:

  This movement is an indicator that an industry is about to see it's peak.

 
I understand what you're saying.  Although it's hard to think of the FA industry at its peak right now, the market being what it is.
Nov 13, 2008 5:09 pm
WealthManager:

What makes you think that a person that was “never much of a mortgage guy” has what it takes to make it in this business?


 
I'm hoping you're not saying I'll have to lie to everyone I meet, like you do in the mortgage business.  Because if you do, than you are right, I won't make it in this business.

 


Why is the firm good?


 
I rather thought that my list of questions was kinda getting at that.  I mean, is it too much to ask what I'm getting into?  That's how guys wind up stuck in crappy outfits for three years working off their licensing costs.
 
Okay, I agree that I don't want to appear to be grilling them, but the consensus on the board seems to be to make sure you have a mentor, someone that can help show you the ropes.  How do I know if that's possible if I don't ask?
 
I like the simplicity of your 3 question approach, in gauging one's synergy with the company but I have a right to know what the compensation plan looks like, yes?

 


But I will take it under advisement and limit my inquiries.  Thanks for your input.

Nov 13, 2008 5:21 pm
anabuhabkuss:

Don't do it. Don't ask your boss how many cold calls are expected out of you. They're expecting you to have this answer included in your business plan.

 
At the recruiment meeting, they said there would be an inside sales component and an outside sales component.  I thought I'd get a clarification of what that meant.  Personally, if I can make decent money doing it, I'll cold call all day long - I don't care.
 
Do not ask about how assets get passed around the office. That is none of your business.
 
Granted.
 
Don't ask about marketing materials and office supplies. What does that have to do with your numbers?
 
I didn't mention office supplies, I can buy my own pens.  I dunno, I thought that good marketing materials would help me make my numbers.  I mean, that's why they print them.
 
Do not, for the love of god almighty, ask about seminars and who will pay for it. That's all on you. Period.
 
Check.
 
The last point ties into your salary. If for one second you think of the base they're oayuing you as salary I'm telling you right now, you're toast. Look at it as a business loan.
 
I've been in business before.  I know that my presence is only justified if I make them much more money than I cost them.  But in the beginning, you'll starve without a base salary, which is why they offer it.  I see no harm in asking about it.
 
Your questions should specifically ask and tie into your business proposition of bringing in new clients. You do that, you're ok to go.
 
Good advice.  Thanks.
 
Nov 13, 2008 5:22 pm

too funny.  yeah, don't ask any questions at all.  sit there and take the company line.  then come on here after you signed the paperwork and get roasted for not asking questions before signing on the dotted line.

Nov 13, 2008 5:32 pm
theironhorse:

too funny.  yeah, don't ask any questions at all.  sit there and take the company line.  then come on here after you signed the paperwork and get roasted for not asking questions before signing on the dotted line.

 
That was my train of thought when I posted my list.  I don't think that it is unreasonable for the employer and the employee to qualify each other before the wedding.  If anything, I think it will demonstrate an assertive personality.
 
Sure, I will be diplomatic and wont ask about private company matters, like who gets the book of guys that leave -- but I've been around the block before and I'm not signing anything without a good understanding of what to expect.
 
I will not come across with an entitlement mentality but I will know the terms of the deal before committing myself to them.
Nov 13, 2008 5:37 pm

Ok, cool. Goodluck. there's nothing wrong with asking questions but just please be careful in how you ask them. Your statement on salary is very fair as was your clarification on the cold calling issue.

Nov 13, 2008 5:44 pm
anabuhabkuss:

Ok, cool. Goodluck. there's nothing wrong with asking questions but just please be careful in how you ask them. Your statement on salary is very fair as was your clarification on the cold calling issue.

 
Thanks for your input, I genuinely appreciate it.
 
My frame of reference as I make my inquiries will not be one of entitlement.  That will be evident since I am going in there to sell myself, not just answer silly interview questions designed to rattle me.  I'm going to come right out and give them some ideas I've had regarding my target market and ways I've thought about pitching the company.  I'm gonna put stuff on the table first.
Nov 13, 2008 6:23 pm
jmatt:

I will be interviewing for an FA position with a couple of different outfits pretty soon.  I am prepared for the questions they're gonna ask me... however, I'm not sure what question I should be asking them, other than the obvious about base salary, training, etc.

 
In short, I am unfamiliar with the commission or compensation structure in this industry and can't "talk the talk" in that regard.  I've seen a lot of lingo thrown around on this forum, "grid", etc. and don't really know what it means or how it works.  I'm coming from the mortgage industry where the loan originator splits the fees and premium paid to us by the lender with the house.
 
What questions should I ask in regard to compensation (or anything else for that matter)?
 
Here's my list so far:

Hours expected of me and general duties, responsibilities and activities to expect throughout the day.
Training regimen: how long, where, subject matter, liability if I leave the firm
Base salary provided and for how long
Mentoring availability
Commission structure (no idea what's good and bad)
Benefits, who pays for what and how much
Office support, marketing materials
Trial run (sit in the office for a day or two to get the lay of the land and see the culture)
Can I speak with some of the newer FAs (hat tip: buyandhold)
Management structure, who do I answer to
What is the company burn-out rate and who gets their book when they leave
Independence, can I market myself anyway I want (so long as it is industry compliant)
Ability to work from home at some point (they are nearly 1.5 hours away, each way)
How much cold calling, what demographic and regions to be farmed
Seminars, who pays for what

Any other suggestions?

 
You may want to let us know which company you're interviewing with. This would help us give you advice.
 
You mentioned that you went to a recruiting seminar for that company this is a red flag. I would hate for use to waste all this time only to find out that you're interviewing with a company like Ameriprise.
 
If you ask any of the crossed out questions you will have a very short interview.
 
 
I would focus completely on selling yourself the first interview. The last interview is were you can negotiate salary.
Nov 15, 2008 3:29 pm
The company I interviewed with is David Lerner Associates.
 
At one point during the interview, I started to describe some of my marketing ideas, ie ways to position the company when pitching a client, in an attempt to demonstrate my readiness to sell.  I wanted them to know I had ideas about how I will bring in my clients.
 
I kinda got cut short and was told they're looking for people that are "coachable", that they'd teach me everything I was supposed to say, that they had it down to a science, etc.  I got the sense they were looking more for telemarketers than Financial Advisors.
 
Not sure if this is standard for the industry, that they want you to do everything "their way".  I suppose if there is a proven method for grabbing a client, that makes sense -- they don't want you reinventing the wheel or going off in a direction that is known to be less effective.
 
In any event, he told me to call him on Monday so I guess I am still in the running.  Truth be told, these guys are too far away for me to drive to every day (more than 3 hours drive, round trip).  At this point I'm using the process as practice and to learn a  bit more about what to expect at other propsective employers.
Nov 16, 2008 2:54 am

Do tons of research about the company before you go in, that way you at least know what they're expecting of you. 

Nov 16, 2008 12:09 pm
jmatt:
Not sure if this is standard for the industry, that they want you to do everything "their way".  I suppose if there is a proven method for grabbing a client, that makes sense -- they don't want you reinventing the wheel or going off in a direction that is known to be less effective.
 
The company's are putting a lot of trust in their advisors, basically giving them the freedom to market and run meetings and sell stuff without supervision, so they have to make sure the advisors will adhere to a certain philosophy and structure that is company oriented, to an extent.  But, I work for Ameriprise so what do I know...