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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

February 4, 2016
Question

How To Land a Great Candidate in a Competitive Market.

answer
Julie Q. Brush

In a red-hot legal market, the world is a candidate’s oyster. So in order to land the candidate of your dreams, you need to know how to compete and run a pitch-perfect process. Below are the critical elements that must be present to cross the hiring finish line victorious:

Pre-Search Organization.

Before you begin, get organized around the process (Who will manage it? How will they manage it? Who will be on the interview team? How many rounds of interviews? etc.). And make a list of your substantive experience and interpersonal must-haves, nice to haves and non-starters. Then, provide this information to your interview team so everyone is on the same page.

Know Your Sell.

If you are competing against several similar opportunities out there, you’re going to have to be clear on why your opportunity is a great one. What’s special about your company/firm? The people? The culture? The role? How can your opportunity provide job satisfaction and career development? Why will you be a great manager? Once you have identified your “sell” you and your team will be able to communicate it effectively and increase candidate interest.

Compensation Must Be Competitive.

“Market” compensation for in house lawyers is on the rise. So before you start your search, learn the going rate for the legal profile you want to add. And use local…and real time data rather than outdated international/national statistics, which can greatly skew the numbers. Once you know them, strive to offer a market comp range (or get as close as possible). If a lower range restricts you, revise your requirements or adopt greater flexibility with the candidate pool.

Establish…and Maintain Momentum.

Momentum is critical to land the candidate of your dreams. So be on your game when it comes to moving the ball forward: promptly schedule interviews, quickly follow up and provide feedback. A sluggish or unpredictable pace will compromise your process. In this market, candidates are here today…gone tomorrow. And the first employer to cross the finish line…usually wins.

Choose Three Frontrunners.

It used to be that hiring managers chose one promising candidate and put all their eggs in that hiring basket. But increased market activity and multiple options for candidates have led to a record number of rejected offers. Leaving some employers at Square One or Two…or Three. In order to mitigate this outcome, shift your “back-up” mentality and pull three viable candidates forward at once so if your Chosen One falls through, you’ve got two equally great choices waiting in the wings.

L.O.V.E.

It costs nothing, requires minimal effort and goes a looong way. And there isn’t a candidate out there (or employer) who doesn’t get warmer and fuzzier after receiving some l.o.v.e. in the hiring process. So be mindful to be responsive and express your positive feelings to your frontrunners.

Qualify Candidates On Other Opportunities.

Some employers get blindsided when a candidate says they are contemplating other offers – or they’ve accepted another offer in the last leg of the interview process. So ask for a search status throughout the process to know where they stand. And when you ask, be direct. Some candidates will lie by omission if not asked directly to put all their cards on the table.

Don’t Be Shocked By Funny Business.

Some candidates will bend the truth about current compensation or other opportunities to secure leverage in your process. Yes, it’s shocking. But unfortunately it’s an increasing reality in today’s opportunity-rich market. There’s not much an employer can do about it other than to ask for specifics about these issues and hold candidates accountable for being truthful. So keep this in mind as you contemplate offer terms and process acceleration…and don’t go outside your comfort zone with either.

Extend A Fair…But Strong Offer.

Pinching pennies and/or ho-hum offers won’t cut it in this market. Candidates will flat out reject lackluster offers without hesitation. So put a strong foot forward and work from there.

Put A Deadline On Your Offer.

Give a candidate 3-5 days to provide a response to your offer. This limits time for shopping offers and allows you to quickly move on to your next frontrunner if the answer is “no”.

Expect A Counteroffer.

It’s gonna happen, so be prepared. The vast majority of candidates today ask for “more” when it comes to verbal offers. Take this into consideration when formulating your offer. Requests are usually reasonable – as are expectations, but sometimes they are not. So don’t be shocked if a counter offer sails in from outer space. In the event you go to the mat for your best and final offer, communicate this fact to the candidate and provide context for your ceiling.

Listen To Your Gut.

Today’s candidates will tell you most everything you’ll need to know about them throughout the process – from the very beginning to the bitter end. So pay attention. Assess – and percolate. And then let your sixth sense guide you in the process…even if you are feeling pressured to make the hire. You’ll regret a hesitant hire every time.

Landing a quality candidate in a robust legal market is challenging for today’s employers – Just how challenging depends on a variety of factors. Some you can control…others you cannot. But by understanding the market and tailoring a process to compete in it, you’ll maximize the chances of landing your winner.

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