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Calling all IFAs: here's how to properly prepare for your interview

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Want to make a great first impression at interview? Here's how...

The market is looking buoyant for Independent Financial Advisers. With the demand for professional financial advice on the rise in the UK, a recent survey by The Investment Association revealed that 46% of respondents had used an IFA for decisions: the highest number since the survey started several years ago. The market is competitive, and increasing numbers of employers are investing in expanding their financial planning teams to keep up with the increased workload.

However, even though firms have a genuine need for additional advisers, that doesn’t mean that securing a job is going to be plain sailing. Despite the candidate short market, the best employers are on the lookout for quality applicants, who can help them grow their client-base or generate their own new HNW clients. The role of an IFA can have a huge impact on the business, so naturally companies want to make sure that they’re hiring the best, and interviews can be rigorous to make sure that applicants can deliver on what they say they can in the interview process.

Here are some steps you can take to properly prepare for it.

Basic interview preparation

Once your interview is confirmed, the first thing that your Recruitment Consultant will do is to send you an email, confirming the details of the interview and what to expect. You will also receive a diary invite, putting you in touch with your interviewer. This is an important step, as it opens up a line of communication between you and your potential employers that you can use to ask key questions- though it’s always wise to communicate with your Consultant first before they meet the interviewer.

When it comes to the big day, too, first impressions are everything. A large part of your job as an IFA is to liaise with clients, act as a trusted adviser and manage their investments wisely and professionally. Showing that you know how to present yourself well is therefore critical: wearing your best suit is a must, as is turning up 10 minutes early for the interview itself, with a copy of your CV, sales figures and qualifications in hand. After all, it only takes seven seconds for somebody to form their first impressions of you: make sure it’s a good one.

Research the client 

It might be basic interview preparation, but researching the client is important. Different companies specialise in providing advice in niche areas; some have licences to carry out DB transfers, and others do not, whilst other companies specialise in providing advice to overseas expatiates. An understanding of the key executives in the business and the company vision and strategy will provide you with information that can be used in the interview.

Make sure you put aside about an hour to research the business; the company website is a great place to start, particularly as you can often see information about their environment, ethos, values and vision. It is also worth looking at sites like LinkedIn and GlassDoor, but your Consultant will also be able to provide you with valuable inside information.

Regardless, showing that you’ve done your research on the company, the market it operates in- and whether the firm has done any huge deals recently- shows preparation and organisation on your part. It also gives you the chance to fit your skillset and qualifications to the responsibilities of the role at hand.

Understand the way they work

Similarly, make sure you have a thorough understanding of how they work; what’s the charging structure of your prospective new company, as opposed to your old one? A typical firm will charge between 1-3% of a client’s investment, but these figures can vary: are you comfortable with charging your clients more than you have previously? What about your bonus structure? It can make up a significant part of your pay packet, so does the new company have a more generous bonus structure to your current one? Knowledge is power; it’s important to know where you stand before going into the interview and can raise any questions that you might have with your potential employers.  

Prepare your Sales figures

More than half of bank customers think that having a trust-based relationship with their financial institution is more important to them than getting the best value for money. As an IFA, building up strong relationships with your clients is a vital part of the job- especially as many of them will, if properly managed- stay with you for years. 

Don’t let the time you’ve spent building up your client bank go to waste, especially as some of them might well follow you across to your new job once you leave. Indeed, any potential employer will want to know what kind of clients you work with, and what kind of business you’ll be bringing with you (though it’s also not always essential to have this). To prepare for this, take stock and break down your clients; be realistic, and decide how many of them will likely want to carry on working with you and who won’t. It is also worth reading your current contract, so you are aware of any restrictive covenants and can answer questions on this openly and accurately. 

Giving potential employers a comprehensive breakdown of your career history, including solid sales and investment figures, will make you a much more attractive prospect to your interviewers than being unable to give them an accurate answer. After all, if you could potentially bring business with you, that acts as an extra incentive to hire you over your competitors!

To finish the interview

Do some preparation beforehand, so you can ask your interviewers interesting, thoughtful questions, rather than standard ones about working hours or salaries. The end of an interview also gives you a great opportunity to go back over some questions or issues that you feel you might not have done justice to in the heat of the moment. 

If you’ve thought of something else that you’d like to say in relation to a previous question, bring it up- or ask your interviewers if they have any concerns, or any parts of the conversation that they’d like to go back over. Do take care to drop your interviewers a follow-up email the next day, too, saying how good it was to meet them. You’ll come across as a thoughtful, professional and prepared candidate- and strengthen your own case as a result.

It’s time to find your dream job.