What Turns Top Talent Off

The job market has been hot! Law firms are actively hiring and our biggest challenge is finding top talent, especially in Public Relations and Business Development. Even though the demand for talent is high, some Firms are conducting interviews in a way that is “turning off” top candidates. I bet you can still recall the names of Firms you interviewed with, where you thought they did not treat you well; your experience there shaped your long-term impression of that Firm. This is what I want to stress: how important it is that EVERY candidate, whether you want them or not, walks away from interviewing at your Firm thinking, “What a great place, I would love to work there!” The bottom-line is that every candidate’s experience with your Firm is a branding opportunity.

Below are specific examples of what we have witnessed first-hand that turns candidates off from accepting an offer. These are our Top Three Rules for How NOT to Conduct an Interview:

  1. Do not ask questions in the “negative” or make comments in the interview that indicate you don’t think their background is right for the position. For example, last week we had a candidate return for a 3rd round interview with a CMO. The CMO started off the meeting saying, “I don’t think you have enough experience.”  This comment made the candidate wonder why they were even invited back for the meeting.
  2. Do not require candidates to return to the Firm for more than 3 rounds. Being interviewed by as many people as possible is great; but for someone who is currently working, it can be very challenging to repeatedly leave the office. We have seen it result in candidates withdrawing and accepting other offers. Remember that the candidate’s first responsibility is to their current employer and they could be caught in a meeting or kept on a call. We recently had a candidate be critiqued for arriving 4 minutes late to a 4th round, which took place in the middle of the work day.
  3. Do not take more than 2 weeks after the last interview to make a hiring decision. Even if you decide not to extend an offer, letting them know in a timely manner shows respect for the candidate.  Our candidates tell us that not hearing from a Firm leaves a much worse impression than being rejected.

The tides have changed during the past 18 months and we are finding that there are more great jobs than great candidates. With this trend in mind, think about how you want to distinguish your Firm and opportunity. Be respectful of a candidate’s time, make them feel that you are really interested in learning about their professional background and how they would fit into your culture, and make decisions in a timely manner. By doing do, you will not only stand out from other Firms and increase your likelihood of landing the best talent in a competitive marketplace, but you will also leave a positive long-term impression on every candidate – and as we know, the Big Law environment is a very small world.


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