Forget personality tests, Edward Jones uses job simulation to assess potential hires

Firm finds virtual assessments in which candidates perform key duties are better at determining retention

Mar 13, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

By Liz Skinner

Edward Jones has eliminated personality testing as part of its process to find the best financial adviser candidates. Instead, it's finding more success with a 16-step hiring process that includes a “day in the life” simulation.

The St. Louis-based brokerage requires those hoping to become an Edward Jones adviser to complete a four-hour virtual assessment in which the firm observes the candidate's abilities to communicate with clients and think on their feet, said John Rahal, head of financial adviser talent acquisition.

One of the simulations requires aspiring employees to handle a "client" who is upset about an investment.

“We create an environment that allows us to observe the applicant's competencies and allow them to experience what a day in the life feels like,” Mr. Rahal said.

He said it's too early to fully evaluate the tool, which the firm started using a few years ago, but there appears to be an increase in retention of advisers who went through that process.

“So either the assessment results demonstrated we didn't have the right candidate, or the candidate went through it and said this just isn't the career for me,” Mr. Rahal said.

Either way, it's much cheaper to discover someone's not a match before they are hired and trained.

(More: Financial adviser rises in list of top jobs)

Edward Jones hired 3,112 financial advisers last year after it received 42,000 inquires about the firm, and invited 16,000 people to apply. About 4,500 were given the virtual assessments, according to Mr. Rahal.

The firm, which has about 14,000 advisers, plans to hire another 3,000 advisers this year.

But the task is formidable given the number of advisers in the industry is shrinking.

“There is a significant battle for talent among all industries,” Mr. Rahal said. “The dimension is generational, as 44 million Generation Xers are replacing 72 million baby boomers.”

Attracting career changers is a significant part of Edward Jones' recruiting strategy. However, it's hard to pull the best employees over to the business because when they attempt to resign, their current employers are “doing a full-court press” to get them to stay, he said.

For every 100 people Edward Jones adds to the payroll, the firm actually hires 106, because some individuals are convinced to stay with their current employer.

The typical career changer in Edward Jones' sights is an individual about 38 years old who is making between $75,000 to $125,000 a year in professional sales or service, and other careers where the person has been able to connect with individuals, Mr. Rahal said.

“Typically they've had the life experience needed to build relationships,” he said.

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