The Dating Game: 4 Tips for law department hiring

iStock_000005195854SmallSince I consider our readers part of the family, I’m going to write this month’s column as if we are all sitting around the dining room table together. Enjoy.

Over a year into post-divorce dating, I have enough material for a stand-up comedy routine. But I’ll stick with my clean stuff here. Here are four best practices tips for hiring the right candidate into your law department, inspired by my adventures in courtship.

1. Stay closed minded on the important stuff. I really enjoy Chicago.  My social life is here.  Most of my charitable work is done here, and although our traditional recruiting practice is national, our firm’s growing insourcing business is Chicago focused.  So, should I date someone who does not like it here, or someone who is non-local with very little interest in moving here?  It’s a formula for frustration and even heartache. 

You might be enamored with a shiny resume or a charismatic candidate. But is this an overqualified law firm partner who you know will be unsatisfied in a staff role? Do you need specific industry expertise or can you hire for talent? Know what makes sense for your department and don’t wander from that.

2. Introduce the “candidate” to lots of friends and family. No, I don’t bring my sister with me on first dates. But I do like to bring dates to events with friends pretty early in a courtship. I do this because how someone gets along with my friends speaks volumes.  It’s not about seeking ”approval” from others; if a girlfriend enjoys the company of people who are important to me, then she is more likely to be happy in a life with me (and vice versa with her “peeps”).

The interview process can be improved by incorporating more people into it, such as internal business clients, paralegals and even trusted outside counsel. Not everyone needs to agree; this is not about building consensus. A good process is about getting input from different viewpoints. And how the candidate reacts to a less traditional interview process will say a lot about the individual’s ability to collaborate and embrace change.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The opposite of No. 1. OK, so I prefer relaxing beach vacations in the Caribbean to adventure travel in Asia. And no, I am probably never going to really enjoy hockey. I have, indeed, been meeting a lot of women who are crazy about hockey. Sadly, people do extrapolate the small stuff into conclusions about compatibility. Differences like these can be overcome, and embracing them can lead to surprisingly wonderful experiences.

Your department will be picky about who it hires. You should be, and I get that. But I have watched clients get down on candidates for the silliest of reasons. Someone can’t start for five weeks? If it’s the right person, deal with it. A typo in the thank you email? I am cringing with you. But don’t turn a yellow flag item into a red flag item if everything else looks good. Interviewing is stressful on the candidate, a mistake might be made, but assess it in perspective, don’t blow it out of proportion.

4. Love before Marriage. It’s tempting to mistake excitement for love. It’s even more dangerous to find someone compatible, but without the spark, and set out to turn that into love.  I have enjoyed the privilege and frustration of both situations. I’ll know when it’s right and hope the other person feels the same. 

When hiring for your law department, don’t settle. If you are not getting the candidates you need from your human resources folks, call us. If you are not getting what you want from us, call one of our competitors. If you are understaffed, use one of our adjunct counsel on secondment to gap-fill during the search, or use outside counsel to handle overflow work until you can make a hire. You will find a way to get work done until the right hire is made. It will feel a bit like love at first sight, and then the interview process exists to make sure it’s the real deal.

I welcome your comments. Even better, feel free to forward this column to any age appropriate single women you know in the greater Chicago area. A good recruiter understands the value of casting a wide net.

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