One of the things I get asked a lot is how we’ve managed to grow in the way we have, and attract such a high calibre of young people excited about paraplanning as a career.
We've managed to scale our business and assemble a super-team of paraplanners, at a time when paraplanners are harder to find than a cinema not showing a superhero movie.
We learned a long time ago there just weren't enough paraplanners available to allow us to follow through on our plan for total paraplanning world domination. We would have to grow our own, in super-secret labs (cleverly camouflaged as a normal office space).
At present we have 17 full-time paraplanners, and all bar three have come through our graduate programme.
And therein lies our secret weapon - our graduate intake programme The Grad Scheme. It carries a tagline of #capesnotsuits, and this turned out to be more prophetic than we could have imagined.
That in itself wasn’t the answer, so we also took the time to develop and refine our application process, followed by aftercare and ongoing training.
As such, we've managed to assemble an amazing squad of paraplanners.
This last month saw an unprecedented response to the scheme.
It has really picked up traction lately, as word gets around about its informal structure and huge potential for an amazing career opportunity.
From hundreds of applications, we whittled down our shortlist to a mere 20, with elite applicants invited to attend our assessment day. Shortlist criteria is stringent and based upon their CV and covering letter, as well as english and maths tests.
Only the strongest survive. Like The Hunger Games, but with less bow and arrows, and you know, death.
On the assessment day itself we keep it pretty informal. There’s group activities and icebreakers, and all the feedback we receive points to how much the applicants respond well to the casual setting and approach.
Once they’re relaxed, they show their true selves much quicker and this makes our job as assessors much easier.
We feel we can convert almost anyone into a super-paraplanner, with time, care and our thorough training.
Ultimately, we believe most people can do most jobs, with the right care. We find that’s a good theme to remember when selecting our next employees.
We tend to assess the applicants' softer skills by looking at how they would fit into the team, what they could bring to the business and how they think outside the box.
Broadly, we use a number of tasks which are designed to test the applicants on three core areas, which are aligned with our company values:
- Got Your Back
- World Class Quality
'Got your back' is a teamwork challenge. We assess this in numerous ways, looking at how the applicants interact with one another during various teambuilding tasks and how they communicate and compromise when needed.
For quality, there is a more lateral approach, including research tasks and paraplanning-specific tasks.
For innovation, the prospective employees work on a creative project, which they then have to present to us in a short elevator pitch.
We also carry out one-on-one interviews to allow quieter applicants to get their chance to stand out and have their say. Questions centre upon life experiences, rather than work experience, as we’re very aware a lot of graduates don’t have the lateral work skills, so we discuss those skills that are more transferrable.
Our leadership team attend the day then go through all the applications, taking into account the above qualities. We then decide who gets to come onboard.
It's one of my favourite days of the year, seeing such potential and knowing we’re giving people a chance to have a very exciting career.
From the last cohort, six applicants were accepted, and I am very excited about them starting. That way they can reveal their super power and help us save the finance world from boring grey suits, one paisley tie at a time.
All that’s left to say is: "Grads, assemble!"
Applications can be made at www.gradscheme.co.uk