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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

May 8, 2016

Junior…or More Experienced Hire: What are an Employer’s Decision Criteria?

Julie Q. Brush

When an employer determines that it’s time to add to the ranks, the hiring manager considers several factors before settling on a desired candidate profile. First, s/he assesses the role that needs to be filled

  • What kind of work and responsibilities are connected to the position?
  • How complex is the work?
  • With whom (internally and externally) will this person interact?
  • Do I need this person manage others?
  • To whom do I want this person report?

Next, the employer assesses the budget allocated for the position and works with HR to pinpoint the compensation ranges… and titles available. A higher budget versus a lower one provides more flexibility on seniority and allows for a more seasoned hire if the role requires it. Tighter constraints on compensation will drive the necessity to hire a candidate with less experience (whether in seniority or less relevant experience). Finally, a hiring manager will take inventory of his/her or the department’s bandwidth to mentor and train a newly arriving teammate.

After these factors are identified and considered, the hiring manager will have a general sense as to the range of seniority and candidate profile s/he could hire. A search is then commenced to find the candidate that checks most, if not all of the boxes. When a junior seniority range is on the table, legal experience is lighter so employers rely on other factors in assessing viability including: attitude, work ethic, intellectual curiosity, interview preparedness, prior industry experience, prior “real world” work experience, relevant academic credentials and culture fit. The lack of robust legal experience can place such a lawyer at a competitive disadvantage, but it is a hurdle that can be cleared if the other qualities exist.

Given their druthers, employers will opt to hire more bang for their buck…if they can get it. So if a more experienced candidate shows interest in the position and is ok with the title and compensation offered, employers tend to lean towards hiring this profile if…and only if (1) they don’t perceive the candidate will be a flight risk; (2) they are sure the candidate will not be a threat to their own position; (3) the candidate will not be malcontented in the role; and (4) a good culture fit exists. But there are scenarios where a very junior hire can…and does makes more sense.

If you are a candidate on the junior end of the seniority spectrum who is interviewing for a job, it’s important to understand what’s behind the hiring curtain so you can prepare accordingly and manage your expectations wisely. The drivers and criteria are different for each employer so there is no “one size fits all” answer to your question – and each interviewing experience will vary. With this said, I hope the information above provides the insight that is helpful in your job search.

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