In today’s market, a successful lawyer knows there are many employment options available. A thriving legal market has made the hiring process increasingly competitive, as organizations vie for the strongest candidates. As a result, talented lawyers are often in the enviable position of being able to choose between several offers.
Numerous books, articles and training materials have been written to advise lawyers on how to successfully interview for a job. However, the role of the interviewer is just as important to the success of the interview process. In fact, the more prepared an interviewer is, the more likely it is that an organization can hire the best and brightest talent.
The Goals of the Interviewer
Gather enough information to properly evaluate the technical and interpersonal skills of the candidate to determine if he or she will be able to perform successfully in their position.
Effectively promote the organization in order to attract the best possible candidate for the position. The interviewer’s role in best presenting his or her organization to strong candidates is particularly crucial.
Based on the experiences of Talon and feedback we receive from the candidates we represent, here are some pointers that we hope can help your organization when interviewing experienced lawyers.
Prior to the Interview
Establish an interview team. The team should consist of key stakeholders involved in the success or failure of the position. One person should be selected as the champion for the candidate – the person who is there to ask and answer questions for the candidate throughout the interview process. It is advantageous to select individuals who have both the time and the desire to conduct an interview, as well as the ability to accurately and enthusiastically present the organization’s true culture and differentiators.
Set the Interviewers up for Success
Provide interviewers with a description of the position and the qualities you are seeking in a hire. In order to choose the best candidate for the job, the interviewer needs to have a clear definition of the position the organization is seeking to fill. This includes information on the technical skill being sought as well as the interpersonal skills and be- havior traits being sought. This information may seem obvious and yet when people are busy they may not have the position top of mind when going into a conversation. So, make it easy for your interviewer and equip them for success.
Provide interviewers with detailed information on the candidate. This may include resumes, social media bios, cover letters, writing samples and references. Interviewers should have access to and review as much information about the candidate as possible prior to the interview. This background information is very useful to interviewers as it can provide topics for discussion during the interview.
Let the interviewers know what their role is in the interview process. Let them know if there are specific questions you want them to ask; if there are particular skills and traits they are watching for in the candidate’s responses or if there is specific information you want them to convey to the candidate.
During the Interview
Most attorneys and executives are not interviewing experts and could benefit from receiving some general guidelines on how to conduct interviews. Specifically, they should be encouraged to:
Build a rapport with the candidate. At the same time that the lawyer is being evaluated, he or she is also evaluating the organization, its atmosphere and its people. A candidate who is at ease in an interview is much more likely to speak freely and share information that will enhance the information gathering process.
Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions – typically questions that begin with why, how or what – are designed to allow the candidate to express themselves more fully, and enable the interviewer to gather more information on the candidate. The more interviewers can ask open-ended questions pertaining to the candidate’s specific background and achievements, the more the candidate will see a genuine interest by the interviewer and organization.
Listen. If the interviewer speaks for 25 of the 30 minutes of the allotted interview period rather than spending a substantial amount of time listening, the candidate will likely come away from the interview feeling concerned about the interviewer’s apparent lack of interest in the candidate. At the same time, the interviewer did not gather sufficient information about the candidate to make an informed judgment as to whether the candidate would be the best fit for the job. While some sharing of information by the interviewer is needed in order to promote the firm, ideally the parties will engage in a back-and-forth discussion – allowing both parties the opportunity to speak and exchange information.
After the Interview
Gather comments from the interviewers as soon as possible. Interviewers should write out their notes and comments about a candidate as soon as the interview is completed in order to memorialize their thoughts in the most accurate manner.
Follow up with strong candidates in a timely fashion. Momentum can be favorable to an organization and it is common for individuals to perceive any delay on the part of an organization as a lack of interest. It can be challenging for firms to ensure that lawyer interviews are accomplished as effectively as possible. Nevertheless, there are some steps that an organization can take to help ensure the success of the interview process. An organization’s ability to accomplish a prepared interview can be the difference between an informed hiring decision and a costly mistake.