Financial planning is a rewarding career with a strong job outlook. While financial planning jobs are abundant, the competition for them is intense, which makes acing the job interview of paramount importance. First impressions matter. A good first impression gives you an immediate leg up. A bad one, by contrast, can put you in a hole that may be insurmountable. Dress to impress, show up early, look your interviewer in the eye, and offer a firm, confident handshake.
Once the interview is underway, your responses dictate your performance. For this reason, it is wise to anticipate the questions and know how you are going to respond. The following questions come up frequently during interviews for financial planning jobs.
- Financial planning is an in-demand career with younger generations needing advice on how to start saving and investing and older generations on the verge of retirement.
- Getting the right credentials, such as the CFP or CFA designation can be helpful, but being a friendly and personable individual is also a key factor for success.
- In a job interview, expect to be quizzed on financial industry knowledge and jargon. Be honest if you don't understand something or know what the interviewer means.
Describe Your Educational Background
No hard-and-fast educational requirements exist for those planning to become financial planners. A person with a verifiable track record of investing success can land a financial planning job even if they were an art history major or have no college degree at all.
That said, the job market is competitive, and employers are looking for something in your background that sets you apart from the pack. If you majored in economics, finance, or statistics, or even better, have an MBA, that is an easy one; highlight your degree and how your education has prepared you for a career in financial planning.
However, if your major was outside the field of finance or you did not finish college, you have to get creative. Do not evade the question, because good interviewers pick up on this in no time; segue as quickly as possible to other relevant, non-school experiences in your background that show you are prepared for the job.
What Certifications and Designations Do You Carry?
Top financial planners carry specific designations that indicate they have mastered an area of their craft. The most common is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, which requires passing an exam that probes your level of in-depth knowledge in a wide array of financial planning topics.
Answering that you have your CFP gives your candidacy an immediate boost. However, if you lack a CFP or other industry-specific designation, such as Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), highlight a concrete plan to study for the exams and obtain these certifications within a certain time frame.
The 2020 median pay for a personal financial advisor was $89,330.
Whether you currently carry industry-specific designations or have a defined plan to obtain them, either way, you let the interviewer know you are a serious candidate willing to invest in yourself and your future.
Tell Me What You Know About (Esoteric Industry Term)
Some interviewers are going to test your specific knowledge about financial planning. They want candidates who require minimal remedial training and hand-holding. Therefore, it is important to study the ins and outs of the field and be prepared for any technical questions the interviewer might throw your way.
Worst-case scenario, the interviewer asks about a term with which you are unfamiliar. Do not panic. Also, do not try to sidestep the question. Oftentimes, people worm their way out of a question they cannot or do not wish to answer by mentally replacing it with the question they wish they had gotten, and answering that one instead.
While this tactic seems to work for politicians in televised debates, it is a bad idea during a job interview. Not only does it tell the interviewer you lack the answer, but it also makes you look oily and insincere. Be straightforward. Admit you are unfamiliar with the term and confidently state you are a work in progress, always learning and growing in the profession. At that point, demonstrate your value by offering a unique piece of information you do know.
The Bottom Line
Preparing for a financial planning job interview is similar to preparing for any other job interview. The more you prepare and know about the career at hand, the better your chances are at landing the job. For financial planning, understand the key topics in the industry, read up on the latest financial news, highlight your skills and qualifications, and be honest about what you do and do not know.