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This Recruiters Roundtable was produced by The Recorder’s advertising department. Chris Braun: Good morning. My name is Chris Braun. I’m the publisher of The Recorder. Welcome to our California Legal Pro Recruiters Roundtable. Joining us are Erin Zuercher (Certified Employment Group), Barbara Grajski (Landmark Legal Professionals), Karen Whitaker (Legal Ease), and Andrea Hunolt (Robert Half Legal). This morning we’re going to discuss issues that come up in recruiting for legal staff. Let’s start the conversation by talking about the benefits to the client of using contingency versus retainer agreement. Barbara Grajski: The obvious benefit of using a contingency search is that the client doesn’t pay a fee unless they hire the candidate through that agency. That is why most firms will use contingency searches, particularly for non-management, non-attorney positions. They can also work with several recruiting agencies; there is no exclusivity involved, and therefore they have access to a broader range of candidates. Chris Braun: Are you all using contingency exclusively? Are there any cases where a retained search makes sense? Erin Zuercher: There are downfalls on the contingency side. You may not get the attention you get in a retained search. Certified provides a retained search for the higher-level positions — managerial, director-level positions. When you have a retained search you have exclusivity, which means you have a dedicated recruiter who is working with a network of professionals. You have a truly dedicated search with a retainer. Contingency recruiters and search firms realize that the search typically is out with three or four other agencies, and therefore, it tends not to be at the top of their list all the time. So a retained search gives the client the benefit of having the full attention of a recruiting firm. Andrea Hunolt: I find at Robert Half Legal that when we’re doing searches for high-level partners, attorneys, and in-house counsel, we often have exclusivity with our clients. The benefit with working on those high-level positions on a contingency basis, and at times with more than one agency, is that when recruiters do have exclusivity with their candidates the client is going to have the ability to see a wider variety of candidates because they will be able to see the candidates who are exclusively working with other search firms. The level of attention that we give a client is based on the relationship that we have with the client, how well we know the client, the level of open communication and trust between the recruiter and the client. Chris Braun: Karen, what should a client be considering in assessing its outside staffing professional or firm? What do firms bring to the process? Karen Whitaker: The market has certainly accelerated over the last several months. HR managers are incredibly busy and do not have the time to sift through the numerous resumes they receive. Since their time is extremely valuable, I believe the No. 1 reason they would use a search firm is to save time and money. We prescreen the candidates, meet them, test them, and based on the information we receive, are able to determine whether they are a fit or not. This process takes time and effort. In some instances, HR managers are managing more than one office. So again, this is another reason why they would need us to help them find the right candidate. Andrea Hunolt: Another benefit that recruiters can provide to HR is more insight into the companies they’re hiring from, the individuals that come from those companies, the culture that they’re coming from, and the expertise they have within that other company. The recruiter provides a general understanding of the outside market. Karen Whitaker: HR managers look to us for guidance and as a resource. We are there to assist them in any way that we possibly can. They look to us to help them determine whether or not this person is the right fit for the job and their company culture. This process makes it more effective for them to use an outside service. Barbara Grajski: Sometimes we’re a sounding board for things like salary ranges, too. Chris Braun: You provide market intelligence they may not have. Erin Zuercher: Right. Sometimes, particularly with a new position, or if the firm hasn’t hired for a position for awhile, they’re looking for guidance as to what the market is paying. A large part of our job is consulting with our clients and providing a professional partnership. The long-term relationship, trust and commitment that are achieved between client and recruiter can be rewarding for both parties. Because we speak to numerous law firms every day, we are able to develop a perspective on candidates, managers, and corporate or firm culture. Our clients are each other’s peers, and therefore, we have a really good idea of what is happening in the market. Chris Braun: How has the Web changed the dynamic? Has it made your job better? I know as a hiring manager, I feel buried by the electronic response, and find it harder to sift through it. Karen Whitaker: Using the Web has really helped me in my day-to-day business. It has not only accelerated the hiring process, but has made many people accessible, hiring managers and candidates alike. Chris Braun: As a hiring manager, I’m inclined to use the Web as one of the tools in my toolbox. But I get this sea of resumes. So in some sense, it’s a counterintuitive effect that almost makes me feel overwhelmed by the process, which makes me want help. What do you hear from your clients? Erin Zuercher: We hear that from them everyday. A lot of that is borne out of the downsizing and the concentration of work within one or two positions. You have one person doing several jobs. When you couple that with the recruiting, there just isn’t time. So an HR manager working two positions has all the recruiting responsibilities, and as the market picks up, they are going to spend much more time sifting through all the resumes. So the Web has been good in terms of referrals. But most of our referrals do not come from the Web; they’re through client and candidate referrals. I’d say probably 70 percent of our candidates are referral-based. Barbara Grajski: The Web will never replace that. There was a lot of talk several years ago that the Internet was going to get rid of the need for recruiters. I found that to be just the opposite. The Internet will really never provide a way to meet and screen and do all those things that need to be done personally. Chris Braun: Let’s discuss the ways in which you’re using the Web in your business in terms of communicating and interacting with clients. Karen Whitaker: It is incredible. As I had mentioned earlier, whereas you couldn’t reach someone on the telephone, now you can immediately get access to him or her via e-mail. While I prefer to speak to someone on the telephone, e-mail is the next best thing. The response time is quicker and can be more efficient. The Web has really helped us all. More and more law firms are going to a recruiting database, such as Brass Ring. Candidates can now submit their resumes through Brass Ring and the resumes are logged into the law firms’ recruiting Web site. This helps them expedite their process and stay organized. But again, when a manager is advertising for, say, a receptionist, and gets hit with 100 resumes, I imagine that it would be difficult to go through each one. Erin Zuercher: The technology can cut out that partnership that you have. You may have a jewel of a candidate, but it might not show that on the resume. You need to have the opportunity to talk to the client. If they trust you, you can let them know that this is a candidate who might not look exactly like what you want on paper, but trust me, this is a person you want to see. Brass Ring and that kind of technology will never give you that kind of relationship. Chris Braun: What are the keys to success in your relationship with the HR person? What does the recruiter need to do? And what does the HR professional need to do for the relationship to work smoothly? Erin Zuercher: The key to all of our relationships at Certified is honesty and the ethical treatment of our clients. I think that’s true for every recruiter. You really need to have that trust. Building that long-term partnership and long-term commitment to each other means that sometimes you give clients a break when they need it, and they give you a break when you need it. There’s this partnership that you work together, hand in hand. Sometimes your clients become your candidates, and vice versa. This is a very small community. If you’re in it for a long time, your candidates become your clients and your clients become your candidates. So the key is to keep good long-term relationships. Chris Braun: Are there any other specific things you look for in a relationship with an HR person or hiring manager? Barbara Grajski: On a practical level, one of the most important things is honest communication, and having the HR person spend the time to talk about the position in detail, to provide a job description if possible, to really talk about what works in the position, the personalities involved. That’s why building the relationship is so important. The recruiter is selling the firm, and the HR person needs to help the recruiter sell the firm to the candidate. We are their best sales people. We need to know those little extras about why a person would want to work there. Chris Braun: Is access to others at the firm part of the package? Do you need to talk to some people at the firm to get to know the culture? Barbara Grajski: That can be helpful. The more people a recruiter can know personally, the more helpful it is, because you’re putting the name to the face, and you’re not dealing with a person in the abstract. Most of the time, though, the HR person is the primary point of contact. Karen Whitaker: I’d like to elaborate on Barbara’s comment. I believe communication is extremely important. This would also include effective listening and the ability to ask effective questions. What I try to do is to listen carefully and then select valuable details that would be informative to my candidate. For me, the No. 1 thing is keeping that communication open and flowing. Andrea Hunolt: The relationship between the recruiter and HR needs to be viewed as a partnership with a common goal of finding the most qualified candidate. At times, on the most technical aspects, that may involve a recruiter who has a legal background speaking with the managing partner, the paralegal coordinator, or even the secretarial coordinator to pick up on the most technical aspects of the job. Hopefully in the best relationships, HR is comfortable with those conversations, because ultimately it will lead to the most successful and accurate search. Chris Braun: Let’s discuss the contract or agreement that you have with clients and exclusivity. A candidate could come from multiple agencies, or they could self-submit. What does your agency like to see in its agreements with clients? Andrea Hunolt: In large part, we view our agreements with clients as a gentlemen’s agreement, or a gentlewoman’s agreement in this case, meaning that the agreement is largely verbal, and is based on the rapport and the trust in the relationship. The basic terms of the guarantee and the fee need to be in writing. Every client wants a different structure to their hiring process and a good relationship that allows flexibility. Chris Braun: So an agreement is rarely used as an enforcement mechanism, because that’s probably not constructive to the relationship. Ultimately, it comes down to a handshake in terms of what the expectations are? Karen Whitaker: I prefer to have the agreement in writing. Our agreement contains our fee structure, guarantees and our temp-to-hire policy. Most of the firms that I work with want to have that in place prior to any temporary or full-time placement. It is also a backup in case one of us forgets. Our contract is very flexible and we are able to amend it at any time. It is important to me to be able to cater to my client’s needs. Chris Braun: Explain how guarantees work. Karen Whitaker: Because of our due diligence, we are confident in our candidate’s abilities and therefore back the placement up with a guarantee. Guarantees vary depending on the fee agreement with the client. In most cases, the guarantees include a pro-rated refund, a replacement and/or 100 percent refund, depending on the guarantee structure. Chris Braun: Is that typical? Barbara Grajski: Yes. Firms differ in terms of their full refund. Some are one month, some are three months, and some are six months unconditional guarantee. But most firms have a combination of an unconditional guarantee and some kind of a prorated guarantee for the remainder. Karen’s right that the firm is paying a substantial amount of money to get a good employee. Every agency ought to want that person to be long term. Although we have a written contract for our general terms, those really have to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and provide some flexibility to the client if there is a situation. Recruiters need to look at the relationship with the client for the long haul. If there is something that should cause us to deviate from our written policy, we’ll usually do that for the benefit of the client. Erin Zuercher: The guarantees are in place because we’re dealing with a human product. We’re not peddling widgets to law firms. These are people. Everybody has different characteristics that will fit him or her in different places. They may not be successful in one law firm, but they’ll be wildly successful in another law firm. Part of our job is to look at that. But sometimes things don’t work, so that’s why our guarantees are in place. We all do our best to find the perfect fit. Because after all, just like law firms, search firms have rent and other expenses to pay. And we hire very talented employees. So we want to make sure we make a good match, because in our business, it’s just as important to us to be successful as it is for the client. Chris Braun: I’d like to talk about the interactions when there are multiple firms working on a particular search. You might have a response coming from the same candidate from more than one place. What can the recruiter and the firm do to help mitigate any potential issues and manage that process? Barbara Grajski: It’s important for the firm to keep meticulous records of when they receive resumes and from whom. That’s key. I found that the difficult situations where a client has ended up interviewing and extending an offer through our agency only to find out that somebody else had submitted them previously usually was due to there not being an accurate record of the receipt of the resume. It is awkward for everyone when a situation like that arises. Clients don’t want to be in the middle of some sort of a fee dispute between agencies. Chris Braun: Is this something you talk about with clients, particularly a new client? Karen Whitaker: To avoid this problem, I call the candidate first, especially if they’ve interviewed with other agencies. I want to avoid duplication of anyone else’s efforts. It takes an extra step, but I’ve found that some firms will not interview candidates if the resume has been submitted to them several times. It indicates to them is that the candidate is not communicating with their recruiter. It does happen often, but I try to avoid it at the front end by talking to the candidate first and determining whether or not their resume has been submitted. Barbara Grajski: Sometimes the candidate doesn’t know. Chris Braun: What are the industry standards when a candidate is submitting from multiple recruiters? Andrea Hunolt: Typically, the industry standard would be a first-in-time rule, but I think that a good recruiter will pre-empt any kind of conflict either by submissions from multiple recruiters or from the candidate directly. One of the most important conversations a recruiter will ever have with a candidate will be when they discuss that specific job. To save HR and the firm the time, the recruiter needs to have that prescreening interview, where they not only learn about the candidate in general, but they discuss the specific job, the ins and outs of the position, the duties, the culture and the technical aspects. That’s the greatest service, providing candidates who have gone through that preemptive screening for the particular position. That way, the candidate is fully informed how to protect their reputation and their viability as a prospect by having their resume submitted once, communicating with the other recruiters that they have been submitted, and obviously, not sending it on their own. Chris Braun: How does temp-to-hire fit into the mix? When does it make the most sense? Are there cases where it is not an advisable strategy? Barbara Grajski: Temp-to-hire can make good sense for a firm when they’re waiting for a requisition for a regular full-time position to be approved. It allows them to get the employee working and test them out until that process goes through. Temp-to-hire does have a disadvantage when a firm is looking for a more senior or a more difficult-to-fill position, where the candidate base is going to come largely from people who are already employed. I haven’t met a candidate yet who would leave a regular full-time position for a temporary one, nor should they. So it really does limit the pool of candidates that a firm could see. Erin Zuercher: With temp-to-hire, you have a smaller pool of candidates to choose from, and those candidates are obviously not as committed to the job or the firm, because they’re looking for full-time work. And though you try and gain the commitment of your candidates to stay on assignments, and we always ask for that commitment if it’s a long-term temp-to-hire, our clients can never guarantee they’re going to hire that person, so we never hold that out to the candidate in any way. There is no guarantee that the candidate is going to eventually be hired in that position. Chris Braun: Does the use of that configuration tend to be driven by economic cycles, so that there is more of it now than there might have been in 2000? Erin Zuercher: Yes. While the client’s perspective may be that they can utilize a temp-to-hire because the perception is there is a huge pool of candidates out there, the fact is this recession has not spit out talented law firm professionals. It hasn’t. We still see a dearth of candidates for the positions that we have. So in terms of temp-to-hire positions, the perspective on the client side should be that law firms are still difficult to recruit for if you want talented people, because they are all working. Andrea Hunolt: Absolutely. I think temp-to-hire will make sense in the growing economy with trend positions, where a practice area is seeing some significant growth and the firm is hesitant to expand rapid. It also makes sense for long-term, project-focused positions, something that may be very case-specific, which could settle, or something in IP or technology where there is still some hesitation on where the growth will go. But overall, when a firm wants to see the full population, and the other 95 percent of the people are employed, they are going to need to make the commitment to the candidates, because the candidate is giving up a lot to come to them. Chris Braun: Putting aside a successful placement, what should the client be looking at to determine if this was a successful relationship with this agency or recruiter? Andrea Hunolt: The No. 1 thing to evaluate is the relationship — the time and effort that the recruiter takes to truly understand all aspects of the firm to most successfully find the right candidates. Choosing a recruiter is like choosing any other professional. Do you trust their expertise in the industry? Do you trust their tenure? Ultimately, it’s not going to come down to how much money you’re paying your doctor or lawyer, it’s going to come down to whether you feel that they are going to be the one that you can trust the most. So if that relationship has grown, that recruiter is a good resource for you going forward. Chris Braun: In addition to checking references, how might you evaluate a candidate’s skills and background qualifications for a position? Barbara Grajski: A personal interview is the most important aspect. It’s important for clients and candidates to work with a recruiter who has worked previously in the legal profession, who understands the needs of law firms, the position, and what it takes to be successful in it. Erin Zuercher: Absolutely. The interview is the most important thing. We make sure to ask behavioral-based questions, based on scenarios from their previous work experience. That is truly the most important part. Because the interpersonal part of the relationship for any candidate is probably going to be 50 percent of the success in the job. You can be the best patent agent out there, but if you can’t get along with the other patent agents, you’re likely not going to be successful in the job. So we evaluate the interpersonal characteristics, the ability to work as a team, past work history, and we ensure that our candidates have the interpersonal ability to get along in the law firm workplace. That includes a real sense of understanding client service. There are cultures where some candidates will fit in that will be disastrous for others. As a recruiter you know who is going to make the best fit only after a really detailed interview with the candidate. Andrea Hunolt: A key to the interview is to ask the tough questions. Sometimes the best way to develop a rapport with the candidate is to dig a little deeper, both on a personal level, to find the culture that is going to fit with them, and on a professional level. Having specific industry experience, you know what kinds of duties, projects and writing would indicate that an attorney has progressed and been given specific responsibility. Rather than asking the general question of whether they have progressed or been given responsibility, the candidate should be asked, for example, did you write this? What was your client interaction? Sometimes asking the tougher questions that the candidate may or may not want to answer immediately will ultimately give the client, the recruiter and the candidate the deepest understanding of the viability of the match. Chris Braun: It sounds like it really is a very hands-on process of evaluating a candidate and figuring out fit. That’s something that really requires a skilled human being. How do you identify candidates? How do you find them and figure out whether they’re a fit? Karen Whitaker: That comes from knowing your client, having strong communication with them, knowing what they want. And then when you interview the candidate, determining whether or not the skill set matches what the client is looking for. Chris Braun: How do candidates find you? Andrea Hunolt: For me, the primary resource is the network of contacts and referrals. The Internet has provided an amazing way of pinpointing a very specific skill set and researching individuals. But it still remains true that our network is our candidate source. So a recruiting person who has worked in the industry and has been involved in the community for a number of years is going to know the most people, and find referrals that way, by word of mouth. Erin Zuercher: As I said, 70 percent of our candidates come from referrals in one way or another, candidates who are working with us on temporary assignments, candidates whom we placed in direct hire. We are active at job fairs. We advertise. And of course our Web site has been a way that we’ve had candidates come to us. But most of it is, as Andrea said, the referral network. Chris Braun: Erin, when we were talking earlier, you had a critical observation, and it resonated with others. Candidates need to really think of their resume as an asset and not squander it. Talk about that in terms of working with the recruiter. Erin Zuercher: The market is recovering, but it has been tough for the past 2 1/2 years. I have seen candidates who sort of take the shotgun approach with their resume and spread it all over the place. It ends up landing on the same person’s desk multiple times, which is a real turn-off to the client. We encourage candidates to conduct their job search in a truly strategic manner, to treat their resume like gold. It’s a personal asset. Be very strategic in their job search, to pick a couple of recruiters whom they trust to work with. Then, as the weeks go on and they’re not getting results from those recruiters, perhaps choose more recruiters. But if you are putting your resume immediately out on Monster or Hot Jobs, you lose control of your job search. Karen Whitaker: You also lose control of your resume. You have no idea who is picking it up and sending it indiscriminately to whomever. It’s also key to stay in touch and communicate regularly with your recruiter. Don’t let too much time go by. Chris Braun: What should a candidate have by way of an expectation of what the recruiter should do for them? Barbara Grajski: That’s a good question. Karen Whitaker: That’s a great question. Barbara Grajski: The expectation should be that the recruiter will be able to get interviews for that person. The best use of a recruiter is to help a candidate open doors so that person is not one of a pile of 100 resumes sitting on an HR person’s desk but someone who has been sent by a person they know and trust. It will get more credibility and weight. I think that’s key. Karen Whitaker: Candidates should expect to use us as a resource as far as advising them on any interviewing techniques, on any skills that they haven’t put down on their resume that we can expound on. Chris Braun: Should the candidate think of the recruiter as a coach? Is that a valid characterization of the relationship? Karen Whitaker: I think it’s valid. Use us as a resource. What can they expect? How can we help them be successful? Because if they are successful, we as recruiters are successful. I like to heavily coach my candidates before they go into an interview. If I see that they can improve on their resume, I will also make those kinds of suggestions. Salary ranges have changed quite a bit in the last two years, so I try to give them some guidance as far as what they can expect, guide them in a very positive way so you don’t undermine their intentions, but give them positive feedback. That’s how I like to work with my candidates. Andrea Hunolt: Many candidates who are working simply don’t have the time to research the market. The recruiter can provide the candidate with market information in an efficient process. In addition to treating that resume like gold, the candidate does not want to have their name spread all over the legal market. The recruiter can probe into opportunities, into particular clients, firms and companies and find where there is an appropriate opening prior to submitting a resume. That way they can protect their resume, treat it like gold, and have a much more efficient search. Erin Zuercher: Just this week a candidate sent her resume in to our client on her own, and two days ago she got a letter from them saying, thanks but no thanks. I called the client and said, wait a minute, this is a candidate you need to see. She is terrific. And so she has an interview today at 4:00 o’clock. So the benefit to candidates of having someone like me, like Karen, like Andrea, work with you, is you get follow-up like that. We don’t typically do a lot of coaching of candidates. There may be a bit, but it’s more informational than coaching. We want the candidate to go in and be himself or herself in an interview and really have the client get to know that person. We do give them a lot of information about the firm once we have the interview set, and typically there are things that we know about the candidate from our interview that we will then talk to the client about, and say, hey, we know from our references that she’s shy, but she’s an incredible facilities manager. She’s got these fabulous references. Let me read them to you. So we try and let the person express themselves and who they are in an interview, and then we’ll follow up with our observations and references. Andrea Hunolt: There is a fine line with coaching. Many candidates haven’t interviewed for a very long time. Often there is some teaching that needs to happen between the recruiter and the candidate to facilitate the most open dialog between the candidate and the client. Sometimes candidates are unsure what questions they should or should not ask, and it’s our job to get that information out there between the two. There is a place where we need to step out of it and allow them to be who they are and facilitate honesty in that communication. So it’s a bit of a balancing act. Barbara Grajski: It is. The bottom line is you want the natural attributes of the candidate to come through, because once they get on the job, their real personality will come through. There is a difference between preparation and coaching. You want that person to be prepared. You want them to know a lot about the firm, the salary expectations, the culture, etc. As Andrea said, some people are very nervous about interviewing. They haven’t been out for a while, so they need a little help preparing. But you want their own personality and attributes and traits coming through in an honest way. Chris Braun: I’d like to close by asking each of you to talk about what you see happening in the next six, 12, 18 months in terms of legal staffing. We’ll start with Karen. Karen Whitaker: I’ve seen a significant change since the first of the year. The market is continuing to improve as this year goes on. Temporary business has increased tremendously. I’m seeing a lot more temp-to-hire. I am hopeful it will continue to improve. I’m seeing more activity in the corporate sector. The last three years it’s just been awful, and since January things have increased tremendously in that area. I’m seeing significant increase in patent prosecution and IP litigation. So across the board, I’ve seen a steady incline. Hopefully our economy will continue to improve. Andrea Hunolt: We’ve all seen litigation continue steadily with the slower market. Now, as companies are becoming more and more profitable, they’re increasing their budgets, and they’re rebuilding their corporate legal departments. A lot of our clients have significantly opened up their requisitions within those corporate legal departments, which is very encouraging for corporate legal department candidates. They were afraid to make moves for so long and progress their careers. They’re now seeing significant opportunity for growth, and that hopefully will continue. Barbara Grajski: There has been more activity in the corporate area than I’ve seen in several years. That’s encouraging, because it indicates that business is starting to grow again. There is venture capital money out there again. Corporations’ sales are starting to pick up. The staffing industry is a barometer of the economy. The temporary side of our business has increased dramatically. That usually is a leading indicator out of a recession. Temporary staffing is the first to fall off and it’s the first to come back before firms become comfortable committing to direct- hire positions. So I think we’re at the beginning of that curve, and hopefully it will continue in a positive direction. Erin Zuercher: We’re seeing growth in the operational management positions that are direct-hire, and also in the requests for mid-level candidates for law firms and corporate legal counsel. Unfortunately, because we are in the third year of this recession, there are few mid-level candidates. You have entry level and you have senior level. So that is where we have a dearth of candidates. The most requested candidate is mid-level in terms of experience. But we’re also seeing things pick up significantly on the temp side for document reviewers and paralegals. Chris Braun: Thank you all very much for your time and your candor, and I look forward to seeing this uptick.

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