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Strategies to Make Your Lawyer Recruiting Process More Inviting

Want to win the talent war? Improve your approach to candidates.

By Steve Nelson

In a previous post (“Strategies to Win the Escalating War for Firm Talent”), I detailed ways to position your firm to win the talent war. That includes strategies like looking at alternative staffing models, using analytics to determine the best candidates to fit your culture, and addressing unconscious bias. Yet while it’s important to focus on overall strategy, firms can sometimes overlook improvements in the recruiting process.

In my 25 years of law firm recruiting, I know of countless instances when a candidate who began the process with skepticism had their mindset completely turned around because of the firm’s enthusiasm, sensitivity and proactivity. Unfortunately, I know of even more situations where a firm lost a very interested candidate because they mishandled the recruiting process.

Ways to Avoid Recruiting Misfires

Here are some ideas on how to make your process more inviting.

1. Make Your Position Description More of a Marketing Document

Too often, employers view the position description as a way to filter candidates, rather than to attract them. The first rule is to articulate why the role you’re looking to fill provides a great opportunity for candidates, both short-term and long-term.

Focus position descriptions on credentials that are “a plus” rather than ”required.” This is particularly true when the position has major technical responsibilities. In the end, employers tend to hire those with a proven ability to learn new technologies rather than those who know certain things but are not interested in expanding their horizons.

2. Know Your Process and Stick to It

Nothing can turn off an otherwise excited candidate more than being told, at the last minute, that some new constituency needs to meet with her. The profession is all about “process management and improvement” right now, and that should apply to the interview process as well.

3. Exception: Don’t Be Afraid to Move Ahead With a Great Candidate

Too often firms will interview a slate of candidates over a period of weeks and decide not to make a decision to move forward until everyone has been interviewed. But the best candidates are likely to be in demand by others. By the time the firm finishes that lengthy process, the candidates have already accepted another offer. Particularly in this competitive market for talent, be ready to pull the trigger on a candidate who has received excellent reviews. Do not wait for some mythical superstar who won’t interview for several weeks.

4. Never Keep a Candidate “Warm”

This is a corollary to the above point. There is always a temptation to keep a candidate under consideration even though there are serious concerns about her. My experience is that those candidates are rarely hired, or even interviewed again. A firm risks developing a poor reputation in the marketplace if it strings candidates along without any final resolution. Better to politely tell them that the firm is moving in another direction and surprise them if at some point you reconsider.

Photo by Carlos Esteves on Unsplash

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Stephen Nelson Steve Nelson

Steve Nelson is an executive principal at The McCormick Group, an executive search firm based in Arlington, Va. Steve conducts partner-level searches, searches for in-house counsel, and searches for administrative professionals for law firms. In addition, he serves as a consultant for law firm merger planning, practice area expansion, and in recruiting strategy. Steve is a former attorney with 17 years in legal journalism and publishing and is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management. Follow him @SKNLegal.

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