Where is the substance?

I’ve spent the last month receiving applications and carrying out interviews for a new marketing internship here at Informed Choice.

This is a paid, one-year internship, designed to help us improve our marketing efforts on several fronts and also free up a bit of my time to devote to other big projects.

The role attracted a lot of interest. We received more than 70 applications, from people with a wide range of experience and qualifications. Several of them made it to the interview stage, due to the strength of their CVs and covering letters. One of the scheduled interviews remains missing in action, which is slightly frustrating as he looked good on paper and I spent 20 minutes preparing interview questions for him.

But as a result of the process we managed to find our ideal candidate, a university student in his second year of a marketing degree. He starts with us in June and I’m already excited about what we will be able to achieve with him during the coming year.

The recruitment process got me thinking about something which is also incredibly important for Financial Planners. The main reason for rejecting applications for the role, or dismissing candidates at the interview stage, was their lack of any real substance.

These were bright, seemingly enthusiastic young people who wanted to pursue a career in marketing. They had a good mix of experience and qualifications. But when it came to the crunch, they seemed to lack anything to back it all up.

A question I asked in every interview was to name a favourite book. It appears that nobody reads books anymore; at least that is the only conclusion I could reach based on the answers to this question. One candidate went as far as telling me she ‘doesn’t really read’. The answers to the favourite movie question were little better.

Reading and movie watching preferences aside, there was so little in the way of any interests or passions. Plenty of the CVs I rejected on the basis they expressed very insular hobbies and activities. Can someone who spends their life sitting inside playing video games have what it takes to engage with real people in the real world?

Interesting hobbies were few and far between, with social media appearing to feature high on the list. There was so little world travel experienced by these applicants; one interviewee had been as far as a shopping trip to London!

Now I’m not suggesting that by the time you hit 20 you should have seen and done it all. What does seem reasonable is an expectation that an enthusiasm for a career is backed up by an enthusiasm for life. Read books, watch movies, visit places, create things.

The same of course applies to Financial Planners. As we move away from a sole focus on money to coaching our clients to live meaningful and fulfilled lives with the resources at their disposal, we can add so much more value if we are ourselves living that meaningful life.

I wouldn’t consider working with an executive coach who wasn’t a prolific reader, patron of the arts and devourer of experiences. I suggest that people should be cautious about working with a Financial Planner in a similar position.

When it comes your time to be interviewed by a prospective client for a new role as their Financial Planner, do you have the substance to back up your experience, qualifications and enthusiasm?