In June and July, I will be traveling the country to conduct interview training at law firms before the on-campus recruiting season begins. I have done this for more than 60 law firms over the last 18 years. I truly believe it’s one of the most valuable training programs that we offer law firms. The reason I say this is because the majority of lawyers have not learned how to interview candidates effectively. Please know that I love working with attorneys and respect their intellect enormously, but this is a very particular skill-set.
There are two specific things many attorneys do that do not work during the interview process:
- They ask questions to try and figure out what is “wrong” with the candidate. Their legal training leads them to focus on what does not fit and they often spend valuable interview time asking questions like, “Why would someone who has a successful career in finance want a position in law firm BD?” Or, “What are your ties to Washington, DC when you have lived in California most of your life?” These types of questions put the candidate on the defensive and the interviewer does not actually learn useful information about the candidate.
- Attorneys often ask questions that are esoteric or reference something they are curious about from the resume. Examples include, “I see from your resume that you worked at X company; did you know John Smith who worked in the legal department?” Or, “So is X college as good as the hype? They didn’t admit me and I always wondered.”
I am not making this stuff up! I saw and heard it when I was head of legal recruiting and I hear it from current candidates when they interview with Partners.
When I conduct interview training at law firms, there are 2 main goals I focus on for how to interview a candidate:
- Ask questions to assess whether this candidate has the skills and motivation to do the job
- Ask and answer questions so the candidate gets a sense of your firm culture and leaves with a positive impression of the firm – even if they don’t get an offer! Candidates will share their impressions when they return to school or when chatting with other people in the legal market, so think of this as a long-term branding opportunity!
Although our Interview Training Programs focus on teaching attorneys how to interview legal talent, this skill-set is also needed when interviewing for administrative positions. If you have Partners interviewing candidates for your administrative roles, I urge you to spend a few minutes informing them about the role and maybe even help them prepare specific questions.