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The Financial Professional Interview

To choose the best financial professional, ask the right questions — and assess your comfort level with the financial professional and his or her answers.

Start the conversation

Finding a financial professional is like finding the right candidate for a job. Experience, education, and professional credentials are important, but so is personality fit. Assessing how a prospective financial professional's personality meshes with yours can help in selecting someone you’ll feel comfortable working with to chart a course for achieving your financial goals. That’s why an important step in choosing a financial professional is the interview.

Think about personality fit

Beyond getting questions answered, interviewing a prospective financial professional provides the opportunity to learn about communication style, interpersonal skills, and financial planning approach and philosophy. You’ll get a better sense as to whether or not this is someone you feel you can trust with details about your personal finances, lifestyle, family relationships, and more. In addition, you’ll be in a better position to determine if this person gives you the sense of confidence necessary for a strong working relationship.  

An interview works best in a face-to-face meeting as body language, facial expressions, and eye contact can tell you a lot about a person. However, even a phone call can help you determine if a financial professional is right for you.

The key is to ask the right questions. Make sure the answers you receive raise both your comfort level with and confidence in choosing a financial professional. Prepare a list of questions. Approach this like a job interview, which in essence, it is. After all, you’re searching for someone to help you develop and implement a plan to guide your pursuit of financial wellness.

Develop your question list

While the following is not a comprehensive list of questions to ask, it can serve as a thought starter for helping you developing your own list of interview questions.

Who is your ideal client?

  • The answer will help both you and the prospective financial professional determine if there’s a mutual fit.

How do you measure success?

  • A prospective financial professional's answers will tell you if your goals and interests are priorities.

How involved will I be in decision-making?

  • Make sure a prospective financial professional is willing to work the way you prefer, whether that means you’ll be very hands-on or trust the professional with all the decision-making.

How long have you been offering financial planning services?

  • Considering a financial professional's experience is important, especially if you have a complicated financial situation or special circumstances that may affect your needs.

How many clients do you work with?

  • If a financial professional is working with what seems like an excessive number of clients, you may not get the personal attention you want. If the financial professional says that one of his or her associates will primarily work with you, ask to meet that person, and interview him or her as well.

Do you have clients like me?

  • You’re more likely to have a good experience with a financial professional if he or she works with people similar to you in terms of asset level and life circumstances.  

Do you have a business continuity plan?

  • It’s important to know what would happen is the financial professional you choose retires, passes away or transitions completely out of financial services. Ask if there’s a plan in place to address any potential situations whereby he or she might no longer be able to provide services to you.

What services will you provide and what will they cost me?

  • Find out in detail what services your financial professional will provide. Also, ask about compensation for his or her services. Will the financial professional work on a fee-only basis, charge you a fee and also receive commissions, or earn commissions only?  Make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages of the various compensation models.

Move ahead

After interviewing a prospective financial professional, assess the experience. Who did most of the talking? Did he or she answer your questions clearly and directly? Did he or she use a lot of industry jargon? Do you feel comfortable with the way the conversation went? Do you feel like the person was someone you want to talk to again?

If you aren’t comfortable with the way things went, you can either give the financial professional a second chance with a follow-up interview, or you can move to the next one on your list. Once you’ve settled on a financial professional, make your decision official, and contact him or her to determine next steps and get your financial future underway.

For more information about choosing a financial professional, take advantage of the resources that follow. If you haven’t compiled a list of prospective financial professionals, use our financial professional search tool to get started.