Leading questions:

The secret to interview success

Author: By Dan Searles and John Stohlman
Posted: Friday, September 04, 2009

Many of us are not very good at meet-and-greet style events. Our discomfort mainly comes from long pauses in conversations, which end up being boring and trite. Unfortunately, meet-and-greets are necessary in our society.

Several years ago we learned the art of the leading question. The next time you’re stuck with someone you don’t know, try it! Guide the conversation by asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer: “What’s the most fun thing that happened to you recently?” or, “You look athletic. What do you do to stay fit?” 

This leads to a topic of mutual interest and your acquaintance is happy because, let’s face it, we all like to talk about ourselves. And you’re happy because you found a common interest. This can be used when you’re also seeking out a service professional, such as a financial planner. Guide the questions to the area in which you are most interested. Before long you will have enough information to pick a professional with whom you feel very comfortable. This brings us to the question of the month:

Q: Following your advice, I asked friends about their financial advisors and what they liked and didn’t like about them. As a result, I have a couple of promising recommendations.
Now what? 
Ready to Move Forward”

A: Last month we gave tips on finding a financial planner. But, once you’ve identified a couple of recommendations, what’s next? Set up interview appointments. Typically, these are complimentary, allowing you and the planner to evaluate whether you can create a good working relationship, so put in the time and energy that it takes to make a good choice.

Bring information that allows the planner to get an idea of your financial health. Bring statements of current financial holdings, recent tax returns, and insurance policies. You may be asked to complete a financial profile, a tool that provides an accurate picture of your situation.

Probe the planner’s credentials with questions like: “Tell me about your designations. What do they mean?” Inquire about the compensation options: “Is this a fee-based-only practice, a solely commission compensated firm, or a combination and why?” You might ask: “How do you see this market going?” Or, “What are your philosophies for investing?” 

Do you like the office atmosphere? How did the staff treat you? Did you feel rushed?
 A good financial planner will ask many questions and listen thoughtfully to the answers. Use  this as a barometer as to whether the planner has your interests at heart or is just trying to sell you something.

They should determine your financial goals and dreams and assess your risk tolerance. Ideally, the professional would work with your accountant  and lawyer to come up with a comprehensive plan for you that is individually designed and not a cookie-cutter plan from some software package.

What you can expect in service? Do they provide periodic statements and annual reviews? How about education opportunities and ongoing communications? Is that a level of service you would want?
Finally, assess your overall comfort level. Do you feel a connection?  Remember, this is someone you’ll hopefully work with closely for many years to come.

Dan Searles and John Stohlman, owners of Medallion Financial Group, are CFP®’s, financial planners and Registered Representatives with over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, offering securities and advisory services through National Planning Corporation (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Medallion Financial Group and NPC are separate and unrelated companies. They manage over $250 million of client assets. For further info, questions or comments regarding this article, Dan and John can be reached at 301-990-9704 or
1-800-878-9704 or Dan.Searles@natplan.com.

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