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Why It Pays to Treat Job Candidates Well

By Wendy Werner

The stories are legion. Lawyers apply for posted positions, sweating every detail of their resume and cover letter, and never hear back from the firm. Even worse, candidates make it through the screening process, interview with firm lawyers, follow up when the deadline for decision-making occurs … and still never hear a word.

When you are hiring, the crush of applications may seem overwhelming, but it really doesn’t take that much effort to get back to people. And law firms — otherwise diligent about maintaining their image in good times and bad — should know better.

You know that the employment climate has changed when you get thank-you notes from candidates to whom you have sent rejections. In this day and age, it happens.

All Communication Is Marketing Communication

Law firms often forget that recruitment activities contribute to their reputation. How you run your recruitment process is a candidate’s introduction to how you run your law firm. Failing to respond to job candidates probably doesn’t fit with the image you are trying to create. Also, if a good percentage of business in your firms comes from referrals, this is your chance to show your peers how you will do business with them.

Steps for Creating a Well-Run Process

Just as communicating with a candidate is important, so is running a good interview process. You want to:

  • Get consensus on what the firm is looking for.
  • Write a good job description.
  • Set an interview timeline and sticking to it.
  • Ask good job-related questions.
  • Treat all candidates respectfully during interviews, including those who don’t do well.
  • Get back to candidates in the stated time frame, or keep them up to date if time frames change.
  • Check references.
  • Send rejection letters or emails to all candidates.

The Pendulum Swings

While this behavior may not seem critical while the market is flooded with candidates, the pendulum always swings. People always remember how they were treated when job hunting — just ask any lawyer practicing for more than five years to tell you their nightmare job search story. Similarly, we all know at least one person who has applied to work at a firm more than once, in part because of how the firm positively comported itself during the initial search.

All candidates want is to be treated with respect, given a fair shot in an interview to talk about what they have to offer, and be kept informed of where they fit into the process. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to show them how you do business. The effort you show will pay off!

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Hiring, Law Firm People Management, Legal Career Development
Originally published June 15, 2011
Last updated December 3, 2021
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Wendy Werner

Wendy Werner is a career coach and practice management consultant for lawyers and professional services firms at Werner Associates, LLC, as well as former Assistant Dean of Career Services at St. Louis University School of Law. She writes the Careers column for ABA Law Practice magazine, and is an award-winning photographer. Find her at

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