Most people think of business recruitment as a single process. But building a great inside legal team requires two very different, but equally important, disciplines: locating the right talent and then interviewing the top prospects in a manner that will determine the best possible candidate for your organization.
At Kaplan Higher Education, we are currently searching for an associate general counsel with specific skills. In the past, we have relied almost exclusively on professional networking and word-of-mouth recommendations to identify talented candidates. We had always considered legal search firms too costly and not sufficiently attuned to our company’s needs. This time, however, we decided to alter our usual approach. Since time was of the essence, we reasoned that a qualified search firm specializing in legal placements could facilitate the process in much the same way as a good real estate broker who knows the market.
With proper guidance, the legal search firm we retained provided outstanding service, saving our team many hours of fishing in the legal talent pool. Not only do knowledgeable legal recruiters offer a broad and deep view of the marketplace, they also provide an opportunity to comparison shop more effectively. Through their extensive screening and interview processes, recruiters can provide invaluable insight gleaned from spending in-depth time with a large pool of applicants. Additionally, good search firms work to build a thorough understanding not only of the position for which you are currently hiring, but of your organization as well.
Streamlining the candidate recruitment process is just the first step, however. Once the search firm presents appropriate candidates, it is up to us to ask the right questions, introduce the applicants to the right people and clearly communicate what we are looking for in a quality lawyer.
Here are some tips to identify the best legal candidate for your organization:
1. Ensure that you are able to interview the top applicants several times in multiple settings. It can be remarkable how differently a candidate interviews from one day to the next.
2. Clearly outline to your interviewers what skills, experience and attributes are most important for the position.
3. Include different personalities and key stakeholders in the interview process, including a member of your human resources team. Gain feedback from each interviewer to see how he or she envisions regular interactions with the candidate.
A most effective interview technique is to obtain the applicant’s reaction to hypothetical “real-life” scenarios. For example, you might say, “It’s 11 a.m. in New York, and the following three things happen in rapid succession: There’s a fire at a company facility in California, a media reporter calls you with questions about a lawsuit that has been filed but not yet served on your company, and your advertising team has forgotten to send you ad copy–which now needs legal review for a commercial scheduled to air the next day. What do you do first, second, third and so forth?”
Faced with some of the potential issues that are part of the actual job, candidates quickly gain a better understanding of the position and its responsibilities. And you have the opportunity to gauge their reactions and examine their crisis management and communication skills, as well as their ability to handle stressful situations. In the end, this is better for you and for the candidate who wants to know what the job will require.
Hiring a lawyer with the capabilities and professional attributes that complement your department and your organization is a true win-win. You strengthen your department and ensure that your organization receives a high-quality level of service from your legal team, and the candidate finds his or her next ideal career move.