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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

August 18, 2019

You Snooze…You Lose.

Julie Q. Brush

Depending on where you live, the legal market ranges from toasty to sizzling. The economy seems to be holding steady and the “next generation of technologies” is the driving force behind continued innovation, investment and growth. Coupled with a robust public company market and increased executive appreciation for lawyers, the demand for lawyers is high.

But the candidate supply is not keeping pace.

The shortage of great (and sometimes even good) candidates has tipped the leverage scale in favor of job seekers. As a result, titles are inflating and compensation rising. Candidates are also enjoying a smorgasbord of opportunities from which to choose and are fielding multiple offers. They are also rejecting more of them. This dynamic has created one of the most competitive markets for talent the profession has experienced in many moons.

Consequently, employers have little margin for error in the hiring process if they want to succeed in landing the very best candidates. Candidates are coming on…and off the market quickly. So for employers, time is of the essence in a competitive market. It has become clear that speed is a factor in recruiting success. So those who have been 1 or 2 clicks too slow in their interview processes are losing out to their jack rabbit competitors. Risk-conscience legal candidates will more often than not, opt for a bird-in-the-hand – even if there may be more suitable options around the corner. So the first employer to cross the finish line has a material advantage in the current hiring market.

A recommendation that hiring managers “move fast”, is too simplistic and far easier said than done. People are crazy busy and managing the process takes time and meticulous organization. Meetings, emails, tasks and important deliverables monopolize the work day. Work and vacation travel are also challenges for a team trying to make time for a hiring process. And then of course, we all have responsibilities in our personal lives after the whistle blows at work.

Despite these challenges, there are strategies that can help employers facilitate a quicker start to finish and create a leg or two up when competing for talent. Below is a suggested strategy to get you there:

1. Pick Your QB

Once you have decided that you are going to add a new member to the team, the very next step is to pick your QB. This will be the person managing the hiring process and running the plays along the way. For many companies, this Captain is hiring manager, for others, it’s an HR partner. As you assess, take inventory of bandwidth and which person would be the most effective leader for this project. Then choose. After a decision has been made, meet with your HR counterparts to discuss the path forward.

2. Pick Your Interview Team

Regardless of who is quarterbacking the process, the hiring manager should choose the interview team along with a slate of alternatives in the event one or more main interviewers are out of pocket. Once you have your roster, notify each individual and enlist their assistance.

3. Crystalize Your Process

You can’t run a quick and thorough process without a clear vision. Determine how your process will look every step of the way. How many interview rounds will there be? Who will participate in each round? Who will be the backups in each round? What is the timeline? How much time should be allocated for each meeting? Who will coordinate interviews? Who will follow up with candidates afterward? Who will gather feedback and what is the process for gathering it quickly? How many candidates do you want to pull into the final round? Who will deliver the offer? How soon and by whom will it be delivered? These are but a few questions and answers to determine before you start your search.

4. Know The Profile

What does your “perfect” candidate look like for this position? What are the must-haves? Nice to haves? What are the key responsibilities for the position? Where do you have flexibility? What about flex hours – will you offer them? If so, what will they be? What about personality/temperament? Bubbly? Serious? Worker bee? A clear understanding of these areas will facilitate a more efficient decision-making process and mitigate multiple pivots which will cost more time.

5. Tell the Team

Once your process and profile are crystalized, send this information in an email to your interview team. Everyone in the group should be on the same page with their roles, the details of the process and the candidate profile. This will manage expectations, allow for proper calendar planning and open the lines of communication within the group.

6. Get Square on Comp and Title

Before you begin your search, determine the inner and outer bounds of compensation and title for your role. Meet with HR, discuss the ranges and secure pre-approval for the highest levels possible. You may not need to go there, but in a red hot hiring market, having the option to sweeten the offer without going back for approval will save precious time.

7. Talk Comp Sooner Rather Than Later

I can’t tell you how many candidacies blow up at the offer stage because the parties did not discuss compensation earlier in the process. They avoid the topic only to discover a canyon of disparity between expectations. If compensation is not aligned, it won’t be the right fit. Don’t waste time hoping or believing compensation will take care of itself once love is in the air. It won’t. Determine compensation compatibility upfront and focus your time on candidates who are viable.

8. Ping. Ping. Ping.

Once you begin your hiring process, stay close to the candidates you favor. Be responsive and show them the love. Candidates love to be loved!  This builds greater connection and goodwill, which will help come offer time. In addition, keep continuous tabs on other opportunities candidates may be exploring – and take note of timing. This information is critical to have in today’s market – as the majority of candidates explore several opportunities at once and newly emerging offers often require fire drills.

9. Ready to Rock!

Victories are won and lost in the final stages of the hiring competition. So when you have concluded the interviews and have chosen The One, hit the gas!

  • Extend the verbal offer quickly
  • Provide candidate with HR and hiring manager day/time availability for follow up questions (the same day and following two days)
  • Have HR lined up with the written offer with flexibility for revision if offer is negotiated.
  • Provide a reasonable time to respond, but not too long. 4-5 days is sufficient.
  • Have a back-up candidate and offer terms ready to go the same day if your 1st choice declines

In a competitive hiring market, even the smallest advantage can make a big difference. Employers who conduct a swift and efficient process, boost the odds of landing their preferred candidates…while their slower counterparts get left behind. So be mindful of this market reality and use the strategy above to put a little more swift in your search.

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