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One of the most feared curveballs an interviewer can throw is: “There is no right answer; we’re just trying to see if you’re the right match for us.” At this stage, candidates are trying to get any and all offers they can. It’s not until later that they worry about what firm will be the right match. Yet firms and (deep down) second-years and third-years seek the right match not only in terms of working culture, but in the kinds of strengths and weaknesses each candidate brings to the job. Shaul Halevi, of Treeba, has engineered a solution that combines Internet technology with psychology and the market desire to match the right candidate with the right firm to help both parties match up with each other. Now in its first year, Treeba is functioning as a nexus for 10 law schools (American University, Washington College of Law, Boston University School of Law, Emory University School of Law, University of Minnesota School of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law, University of Texas School of Law, Washington University School of Law, University of Wisconsin School of Law and William and Mary School of Law) and six major law firms (Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe; Shearman & Sterling; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and White & Case. Two years ago, Shaul noticed “a wasteful misallocation of resources” as well as a plethora of “irrelevant information in legal recruitment.” It was then that he got the idea of fine-tuning the recruitment process by helping firms to narrow their considerable candidate field by interviewing for those values that the firms themselves were trying to employ. Shaul saw that recruitment could be streamlined by appropriate matching of work style and cultural values whereas more conventional recruiting techniques, by overloading firms with mountains of candidate information, tended to sacrifice breadth for depth. VIP Treeba’s service, the Virtual Interview Portal (VIP), consists of students answering questions in a text application and video interview before a face-to-face interview takes place. The VIP looks for matches in 17 different areas — ranging from leadership preferences and organizational style to analytical skills — coupled with integrity to personal-cultural leanings like teamwork. Students who match a law firm’s preferences in enough areas advance to stage two, a virtual video interview. As a heuristic, the employer gets to juxtapose each candidate’s qualifications and see how they compare with each other. The VIP highlights the successful matches and spots the poor ones from the get-go, making student life as well as firm-prospecting easier. The first in-person interview either begins with both firm and candidate knowing that there is professional and cultural chemistry matching the two, or it never takes place. The VIP allows students an opportunity to shine regardless of grades or class rank. Students already excelling on paper benefit as well. For, in addition to impressing an employer, all candidates seek the right match for themselves, just as the firm does for itself. The VIP does not cost students money, nor do they have to miss any more classes as all virtual interviews are self-scheduled. To optimize their chances, each student’s interview is automatically shared with all firms that participate in the VIP, not just the offices that send interviewers to their campus. Students also gain opportunities from firms that do not visit their campus, but are recruiting virtually. THE CONCEPT Treeba is not designed to replace the current interview process, but rather to supplement it. Indeed, Treeba’s service is not a collection of online applications tantamount to their real world counterparts, but rather a networking method to find the right fit, through a large field of hirers and a much larger field of hirees, among the multifaceted options for both parties. Too little time, too much distance and an overwhelming array of choices no longer need encumber either party. Treeba’s technology allows more firms to meet more candidates at a greater number of law schools while spending less resources to find better matches that will tend to stay with the firm longer. Not only does the technology facilitate better fits for hire, it also aids in retention. Keeping young talent over the long haul is as big a concern for firms as finding a permanent home is for candidates. Objective technology is now being employed for the human issues that do not show up on resumes or recruitment reports. THE INTERVIEW The VIP experience begins with the student watching an in-depth video prepared by each law firm discussing their culture and requirements. Then, after providing some demographical information, the questions begin, some of which are optional, allowing for flexibility in interrogatories for both parties. When asked to fill in my undergraduate school, it took my computer 20 seconds to scroll through all the undergrad institutions at top speed — and suddenly it became clear to me. There are thousands of schools out there; each has produced law students now seeking a job. In a field with such a high job dissatisfaction rate, finding the right match is as important to the happiness and functionality of the lawyer (and firm) as it is difficult for the firms to screen thousands of qualified candidates each hiring season. At the outset each student is immediately asked to express interest in each firm as well as city preference and area of practice. Off the bat, one sees that the process is about matching candidates rather than fishing for the “right” answer. “Work Style” comprised the next category of questions, all multiple choice, such as “In law school my peers always knew where I stood on controversial issues.” This harbinger of morale and openness is a key dynamic to understand, and illustrates Treeba’s method of looking beyond paper transcripts and resumes to get to the pivotal features of each candidate as per each firm’s criteria. Given the cutting-edge aspect of Treeba’s first implementation in this, its first hiring season, the next question was apt: “It is not necessary to have a standard process for collecting information.” Finding out what a new hire does in a situation where you haven’t yet taught him what to do is as pivotal an issue as whether he can do what he is trained to do. “If I am asked about a legal issue I am not familiar with in a professional environment I will: … “ Two questions exemplified the value of the VIP: “For most issues there is no one right answer.” Indeed, each firm seeks the proper fit — what one firm excludes raises the eyebrows of another. And “I do not need to know an organization’s culture before I join it.” Given that all the firms gauging the response to this question are Treeba clients, one may safely guess with this question the leanings of most firms. Finding (or filling) professional niches through the VIP supplants the idea that a successful job hunt strictly entails garnering the most money, prestige and power. For, while law students tend to forget about all issues besides dollars and status, firms consider from Day One how a successful hire is one which not only is a functional cog, but also fits into the machine harmoniously. THE FUTURE IS NOW Two main factors are driving firms to cast ever-wider nets in their search for young talent. One, in appreciating that the right fit involves more than class rank, firms need to look at more and more students to find a new lawyer who will build his career with them. Two, firm growth and globalization require getting new kinds of talent. If you dip from the same well again and again, you won’t find anything new. Treeba allows firms to spend less resources on reaching more students who will tend to fit in better for longer stays. The solution, Internet technology, is not being used for short-term or one-shot deals in this case. Treeba facilitates finding talent likely to stay over the long haul; results may be seen (or not seen) for years to come. This year, 5,000 students will have access to the VIP. Next year, 50,000 students will be connected. You can visit the Web site at www.treeba.com. As with everything else, the legal application process will inevitably become Internet-integrated. For some, the question is, how close the future is. Treeba is doing all it can to make the future happen right now. Free-lancer Mitch Artman lives and writes in Chicago.

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