Hiring is not a precise science. Mistakes happen, and need prompt correction. Firms rarely fire too quickly when a mistake is made. Usually it’s the opposite, with the firm letting things drag out far too long. It’s put off because firing is unpleasant, and also because it’s an irrefutable admission that the hiring was a mistake. You can greatly increase your success rate by hiring based on the same criteria that lead you to fire.
The fact that law firms typically hire based on skill and experience, but fire based on habits and attitudes, is the primary reason why lawyers are usually so terrible at making hiring decisions. But you’re not alone. Many HR professionals and administrators make the same mistake.
This topic was the basis for the brief presentation at last night’s reception at the Blue Bell, PA recruiting firm of Morgan Wentworth. The purpose of the reception was to introduce Morgan Wentworth’s new Director of Legal Recruitment, Meg Halloran, Esquire. Switching between two different brightly colored scarves, Meg posed as job applicant Amy, and then Bev. I posed as the interviewer. The program was entitled “My Best Secret Interview Questions.”
Each applicant answered one of my sure-fire “behavioral” interview questions. Then the audience was polled as to which candidate they favored, and why. Each of the three questions posed clearly revealed the difference in attitude and initiative that a typical interview would not.
Asking open-ended questions which reveal subjective information regarding how a candidate resolves difficult issues, organizes workflow, handles conflict or stressful conflicting deadlines, reveals far more about the person. Compare that to objective questions which may reveal years of experience, class ranking, number of appearances as first chair in court and so forth. Objective questions will tell you only whether the candidate meets your skill and experience requirements. It will not reveal whether they will thrive in your environment, or rise to the challenges you present.
Kudos to Patricia Mosesso and Ernie Szoke, founders and owners of Morgan Wentworth, for putting together a first-class reception. The conference room and adjoining office were crammed with attendees who enjoyed food, drink, and conversation with familiar and new faces on an otherwise dreary weeknight. I am appreciative of having been invited to design and present the short informational program. And I greatly enjoyed working on it with Meg. She was a great sport, and turned out to be quite the actress.