Are You Hiring? Then Read This First!

The hiring market did not slow down in December, and we expect it to remain hot as the new year begins. For those of you who are adding to your team, I highly recommend you flesh out what you really need. When we begin working on a new search, we work closely with the client firm to understand this. Sometimes, what they need and what they want are not the same.

To be honest, the job descriptions we receive are all over the place – some are very clear and well thought-out, while others are not. Identifying what is most critical for success in your new role will help you to find right talent. As an example, here are the types of questions we ask before launching into a search for a Director or CMO:

  • What are the most critical projects for this new hire to focus on?
  • What kind of work style and personality will work best for your Partners?
  • Why have senior-level managers failed in the past?
  • What will success look like in six months if you hire the right person?

When asking these questions, I receive a wide range of answers, but all of them are very helpful in painting a picture of what I need to search for beyond experience and credentials to find the right candidate. I use these insights to screen candidates and ask them behaviorally-based questions to ascertain whether they have the traits this firm is looking for. Sample questions may include:

  • Can you tell me about a time you were able to influence how you got Partners or a committee to support a new initiative you suggested? How did you go about getting this buy-in?
  • How would your team members describe your management style?
  • What projects are you most proud of launching in your current role? Can you bring me through the steps you took to manage these projects successfully?
  • What are you hoping to do more of and what would you like to do less of in your next role?

This is a candidate’s marketplace, and top talent can often have a choice of great opportunities. If you interview a strong candidate, here are a few things that will ensure they accept your offer, not someone else’s:

  • Make sure your attorneys know how to interview. I get calls more often than you could believe from senior-level candidates who decide to pass on a firm because the lawyers interrogated them instead of interviewing them. “Why should we hire you?” is not a good opening question!
  • Move the interview process along as quickly possible. I know this is difficult, especially when busy Partners need to meet with the candidate. If the process is lasting more than three weeks, make sure that decision-makers stay in close contact with the candidate and continue to express their strong interest. Silence does not convey interest!
  • Once an offer is given, have a few of the people who interviewed the candidate reach out to tell them how much they want them to come to your firm. We all appreciate being wanted!
  • Have the recruiter or HR identify any deal-breakers for the candidate so you know what they need to accept. Salary is not the only thing that makes a candidate accept an offer.

We often find that firms need to see a range of initial candidates to understand what the talent pool looks like and to clarify their needs. Once the Partners interview candidates with different backgrounds and hear what each person can do for the firm, it creates a much more tangible picture of what the role should be. We often see firms return to the job description and make significant revisions after they’ve interviewed the first round of candidates and really narrowed in on what they need. I’ve observed many times over that knowing what you need when hiring is extremely important so you can both assess and sell to the right candidate, but it’s not necessarily easy to do!

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