Hiring the right lawyers is a critical component of any law firm’s success. But developing an interview strategy to heighten the chances of successful hiring is even more important for solo and small practices because they have little room for error.
Below are six strategies to help solo and small practitioners identify top performers.
Define hiring objectives
Give considered thought to your firm’s needs plus the hard and soft skills you seek in a candidate. Develop a job description or write down a list of required and preferred skills. List situations your firm regularly encounters to assist you in creating behavioral-based interview questions discussed below.
Prepare for each interview. Your preparedness will send a message about your interest in the candidate, your engagement in the hiring process, and your professionalism in general:
- Prepare a list of questions to ask each candidate to provide an objective means of comparing candidates with one another.
- Before each interview, review the candidate’s resume, LinkedIn profile and law firm bio, if any. Some firms also review a candidate’s other social media accounts.
- Use this exercise to identify red flags and areas of interest about each candidate.
- Ensure all interviewers are familiar with appropriate and inappropriate interview questions. For example, refrain from asking questions related to a candidate’s age, race, ethnicity, national origin, birthplace, citizenship, gender, sex, sexual orientation, family status, marital status, pregnancy, religion, or disability.
Interview like a pro
You are selling your firm during each interview. As a result, show up on time and be engaged, polite and enthusiastic. Tell each candidate about the history of your firm, the work you do, the reason for your need and the skills you seek. Provide the candidate insight about your firm beyond what is available online.
During the interview, consider providing a “day-in-the-life” scenario to help the candidate visualize being a part of your team and to create a true interest in your firm. Initial interest is demonstrated, in part, by whether, and if so, how much the candidate researched the firm. You should be able to measure further engagement by eye contact, body language and conversational chemistry.
After you have discussed your firm and your needs, you might consider asking the next logical question: Does this opportunity appeal to you? This will be an opportunity to assess the candidate’s personality, work ethic, communication style and interest in the firm.
Consider posing some of these questions to help you assess whether each candidate might be a fit:
- Tell us a little about yourself.
- Why did you decide to go become a lawyer?
- What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
- Go through the candidate’s resume and ask questions about legal experience and skills that align with the hiring objectives you identified.
- While asking questions about the resume, consider asking about the highs and lows regarding project-specific work, education or employment.
- How do you prioritize multiple assignments?
- What feedback have you been given on the work you have done?
- What skills and strengths are you hoping to improve on in the next several years?
- Ask questions about red flags identified, such as gaps in employment.
- One of the last questions you should ask is: Do you have any questions for us? If the candidate has no questions it could be a sign of a lack of interest or a lack of preparation. But not always.
Sometimes, asking behavioral-based interview questions may help you identify which candidates are likely to be high performers in your work environment. Specific questions will depend on the needs you have identified. Consider these types of questions:
Persuasiveness/emotional intelligence. Tell us about a situation where you had to persuade a boss to accept your point of view.
Resourcefulness. Tell us about a time when you struggled on a project.
Endurance. Tell us about a time you failed at something.
Accountability. Tell us about a time when you had to admit making a mistake.
Grit & determination. Tell us about a time when you wanted to give up in a work setting but chose to persevere.
The 20/80 rule
Effective interviewers will talk about 20% of the time and allow the candidate to talk 80% of the time. Refrain from doing most of the talking. The only way you will be able to evaluate whether each candidate is a fit for you is to ask questions, let them answer them and ask follow-up questions.
By following this general protocol, you should be able to assess candidates’ hard and soft skills to determine whether their legal acumen, work style and personality will fit into your environment. If you take the time to define your needs and prepare for each interview, you will increase your chances of hiring the right lawyer for your practice.
Randi Lewis, an attorney recruiter, is a Maryland-based managing director of Major, Lindsay & Africa, the largest attorney search firm in the world. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.