family office executive recruitment

Family Office Hiring Guide 2018

There is no place to hide in a family office for employees who can’t pull their weight – and for those hiring on behalf of family offices, finding the best possible person for a role is of paramount importance. Not only for their ability to do the work well and integrate with the team effectively, but also for the continuity necessary to ensure that the running of the family’s affairs is minimally disrupted by staff changes.

It’s critical that new employees are highly skilled and can be relied on to stay the course – but finding a candidate who fits the bill is often a complex process. To help navigate the broad landscape of prospective employees we have compiled the following guide to family office recruitment.

It covers:

  • The key attributes to look for in any family office candidate
  • The major pitfalls to avoid when hiring for a family office
  • An overview on how to qualify candidates

True House Partners are experts in family office executive search and recruitment for both private family office and multi family offices.

Contact us to confidentially discuss how we can help you today.

The key attributes to look for in any family office candidate

Whether for a multi family office or single family office: –

Resilience and adaptability

The candidate must be able to work to the family’s very particular requirements, which are liable to change quickly based on the decisions of the Principal, contrasting sharply with the usually more predictable week to week and month-to-month requirements of a large organisation.

Autonomy

Working in a small team without necessarily enjoying a formal infrastructure (such as HR) that might be associated with a larger corporate requires an individual to be resourceful and proactive. The hirer should have confidence that a candidate is able to work independently, without necessarily receiving ongoing direction from managers or colleagues.

Skillset suitability

Skill requirements can differ widely between family offices and can in some cases be very particular or niche. A candidate may be, for example, a highly experienced investment manager, but if the type of investments/asset class in which he/she specialises don’t align with those of the Principal, they won’t be of much use.

Attitude

The candidate must be ready to ‘muck in’ at every opportunity. Family office staff should be comfortable with the fact that not every task they need to undertake will be in their job description, or within their usual professional remit.

If it seems that they might feel that the menial-but-important tasks that can crop up – for example, checking the Principal’s house to ensure that everything is in order before they return from a trip – are ‘beneath them’, then it’s a good indicator that they do not have the right attitude for the role.

Flexibility

It’s not uncommon for principals or other family members to require family office staff at foreign locations at short notice, or to be available at non-standard or unsociable hours on occasion. The ideal candidate should be willing to have some flexibility in this regard.

The major pitfalls to avoid when undertaking family office recruitment: –

Whether performing an executive search for an established private family office, recruiting for a large multi family office or setting up a new family office, be vigilant regarding these four pitfalls to ensure you don’t fall foul of a poor employee/office match.

Hiring the best person in the market, not on the market

Family office recruitment shouldn’t only consider individuals who have applied for a job, but also those who do not appear to be actively seeking new roles. The goal of any recruitment exercise (particularly for a senior role) should be to secure the best person in the market – and to achieve this, it is crucial that those performing the hiring do not only consider individuals on the market. We have also previously written about this hiring philosophy in more detail here.

The very best person for the role you are seeking to fill is unlikely to be on a recruitment database – but might be motivated to look at a new position if they’re approached by an experienced and skilled family office recruitment specialist.

Cultural incompatibility

The compatibility between a potential employee, the office they will potentially work at, and the family member themselves is of paramount importance, especially considering the relatively small size of most private family offices. An applicant may have a high degree of technical competence, but will their personality be a good fit with the rest of the team?

Family office employment is not for everyone, and “fit” can be difficult to evaluate in a standard interview situation, but there are other solutions – see the ‘Psychometric testing’ section below.

Focusing only on existing contacts

While there is no inherent issue in hiring a personal contact, it can be the case that they are given undue priority over individuals not known to the management. Personal contacts should not be relied on exclusively – while it’s perfectly valid to bring known individuals into consideration, they must be compared to other potential candidates to ensure that the individual eventually hired is the best possible person for the role.

Career development expectations

As family offices generally operate with a flat management structure, employees seeking rapid advancement may be quickly dissatisfied with the career development available. Look for an employee who understands this and is attracted to the distinctive benefits and job satisfaction which a family office role provides, rather than seeking a corporate-style promotion structure.

Evaluating candidates for family office jobs

Strong candidate evaluation processes are critical to ensuring the family office recruitment process is time and cost effective – and, most importantly, that the best possible person is hired.

Below, we provide guidance on three key areas that you should include in your evaluation process. It’s worth bearing in mind that using a family office recruitment agency such as True House Partners can help significantly with ensuring the process is well structured and effective.

Psychometric testing

Most candidates, particularly at a senior level, should be able to deliver a polished performance in an interview, but what are they really like? Whilst not a panacea, psychometric testing can help inform you, giving a revealing insight into candidates’ personalities and their preferred way of working.

The questions are designed to expose how a candidate behaves and what motivates them, revealing elements of their personality that might not be obvious in an interview. Are they sociable, or quiet? Strong willed, or happier following orders? How do they fare under pressure? These are just a few of the questions which psychometric testing can help significantly in answering.

Structured to prevent candidates from responding with the answers they feel are ‘right’, the tests emphasise consistency by employing many questions and often a time limit to help ensure that candidates are forced to answer instinctively.

As part of a broader evaluation process, psychometric testing reduces reliance on a hiring manager or family office headhunter’s intuition and provides a crucial element of evidence-based rigour. It can help to provide significant reassurance that the right candidate has been identified – or help to avoid candidates who would be ideal ‘on paper’ but are in fact poorly suited for the role.

More about psychometric testing

Sample family office interview questions

A series of rigorous interviews is a crucial element of any candidate evaluation process. Compiled below are examples of key questions we advise including in these, coupled with guidance on answers you should look for.

Q: Do you have previous experience of working from flexible locations? If yes, how did you find it? If no, is this something you will be willing to do?

Guidance on answer: Look for a candidate with previous experience of working remotely and from varying locations. Alternatively, the candidate should fully understand this is a requirement and be eager to work in this manner.

Q: Can you provide an example of when you have worked to fulfil specific and/or esoteric requirements. If possible, choose an example where you worked largely independently, on short notice and to demanding deadlines. If you do not possess experience fulfilling specific requirements on short notice, what would your plan of action be to go about this?

Guidance on answer: Previous experience in a similar field should aid the candidate here, look for them to highlight a task they were not expecting. They should demonstrate how they used initiative and common sense in their answer to think on their feet and bring about the best result quickly.

Q: Do you have experience working independently or within a small team, where you have had to be proactive and self-govern? Please provide example(s).

Guidance on answer: The candidate should demonstrate the ability to independently manage their work, both the content and schedule. Look for examples where they have performed a task with little to no guidance from a senior.

Q: What do you look for in terms of job satisfaction?

Guidance on answer: This is a key question for gauging whether the flatter management structure of a private family office will suit the candidate. Look for answers which show they draw job satisfaction from providing high quality work with visible impact, rather than promotions and title changes.

Q: What do you consider to be some of the main positives of your personality, and how do these benefit your work? Additionally, how will these aid your assimilation into our family office.

Guidance on answer: The ideal answer to this will vary based on the family office in question – establishing the type of personality you are looking for ahead of time should inform how you evaluate their answer.

Q: How do you approach and deal with a problem you have not encountered before?

Guidance on answer: If possible, ask the candidate to provide a previous example. Pay attention to the candidate’s ability to be resourceful here; are they using all the relevant tools at their disposal in order to create the most desirable outcome in the shortest period of time? This will require them to be both quick and clever.

Further due diligence

For some family office jobs in certain markets – especially when setting up a family office – it can be prudent to perform additional due diligence beyond comprehensive personal referencing. This final layer of checks should employ a selection of third parties (including a family office recruitment agency) and can help to provide absolute comfort to a Principal and family regarding the credentials of an applicant to a private family office job.

True House Partners are experts in family office executive search and recruitment for both private family office and multi family offices.

Contact us to confidentially discuss how we can help you today.