Sick of hiring the wrong people? Try poaching your internal talent pool.

That’s exactly what Phillip Richards, chairman and CEO, North Star Resource Group in Minneapolis, did during a search for a compliance officer—it saved him $25,000 annually.

He’d posted the job externally, interviewed candidates, and found two in the $75,000 range. But then, he thought, why not look internally and see if there was someone who could fit the role. He found an administrative assistant who was making $36,000 a year and eager to move up.

Richards asked the bright, loyal woman if she was interested in becoming both a registered broker-dealer and a principal. She passed the tests on the first try and saw her salary jump to $50,000. It was a win-win.

But, whether hiring internally or externally, one rule’s consistent: Be confident in your candidate.

Because career paths for administrative assistants and associate advisors usually vary, the qualities you want in each also differ, says Richards. Admin staff has to manage multiple projects and deadlines in a high-pressure environment. That makes them well suited to transition to fields like compliance. Associate advisors, by contrast, must have selling experience, be entrepreneurs and be competitive.

So to fill advisor roles, look for someone with tenacity and a thick skin because building business is difficult, says Jolene Laing, wealth advisor, ScotiaMcLeod in White Rock, B.C.

Her firm has minimum asset thresholds new hires must hit at 18, 24 and 36 months (see “Surviving the early years”). Often, candidates will scoff and set goals for $10 million a year, she says. But Laing remains wary of these people because unrealistic expectations indicate inexperience.

“Look for people who’ve done research into the industry and recognize it’s tough for the first three years,” she says. “Their goals shouldn’t be asset-based, but production-based.”

Laing’s developing advisors will host 12 to 18 financial seminars a year. About three weeks before the seminar, they’ll drop 5,000 postcards to targeted neighbourhoods. One week before they’ll do another mail drop to the same 5,000 homes.

Time spent on this effort—an hour to create the postcards, an hour to stamp and 15 minutes to mail—can result in 15 to 25 attendees.

Those who prefer to cold call are expected to make 40 to 50 calls a day, and book at least one client meeting daily.

This worked for Laing when she was new, adding that even if she booked a meeting on her second try, she’d still make 40 calls.

In her shop, an assistant can develop into an associate if he displays an inclination toward, and interest in, sales.

In such cases, says Laing, the transition takes three-to-four years, during which a manager will invest several thousand dollars for the employee to take courses, plus time off work for study days. (She suggests associates take one day off to prep during the week of a pending exam.)