7 Steps for Streamlining Your Hiring of Legal Professionals

 By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD

In today’s competitive hiring market, finding skilled legal professionals is hard enough. Compounding the challenge are the in-demand candidates who get away, as many law firms and legal departments will admit. By the time you review resumes, interview candidates, reach a decision and make a formal job offer, your top pick may have accepted another position elsewhere — and all that effort will have been wasted.

There’s no question that hiring is one of the most important decisions your organization can make, and delays can impact everything from employee morale to the bottom line. To land the legal professionals you need today, you may have to streamline your hiring practices.

Here are some tips to tighten your recruitment timeline without skipping any important steps along the way.

1. Plan ahead. Like any business effort, hiring requires advance planning. Before posting any job openings, gather all decision makers and come to an agreement on details like the job description, salary range and reporting structure. Decide who will serve on the interview team and who is responsible for other aspects of the hiring process. Make sure committee members don’t have upcoming travel or vacations that could delay decision making. If they do, you may want to choose other staff or to push back the timeline.

2. Write a solid job posting. A too-broad or vaguely worded job posting can result in a flood of resumes — which takes considerable time to sift through and can slow down hiring. A better approach is to let this document be the first step in winnowing applicants. Be detailed when describing the job responsibilities and outlining qualifications. Still, you don’t want to go overboard. You could scare away qualified candidates by including a laundry list of tasks and requirements. Also take the opportunity to entice motivated job seekers with perks like paid CLE (continuing legal education) and opportunities for advancement.

3. Communicate early and often. After job seekers send in their applications, they should receive an acknowledgment email thanking them for their interest in your company. Most talent management systems allow you to send automated responses. Also, there’s no need to wait until the application window closes before reaching out. As soon as you come across promising job seekers, you could call them and do an initial screening. If that conversation goes well, invite them for an in-person interview with the hiring team.

4. Shrink the interview window.
Whenever possible, conduct all in-person interviews over 48 hours. Be open to the idea of video interviews — Skype, FaceTime or another service — for candidates not within driving distance. Then, with candidates’ responses and impressions still fresh in everyone’s minds, strive to come to a decision within a day or so of meeting the last applicant. Moving quickly increases the odds that highly skilled job seekers are still available.

5. Update interviewees promptly. When too much time passes between the interview and the next time candidates hear from you, they can get tired of waiting and move on. How much is too much time? According to a Robert Half survey, 23 percent of respondents said they would lose interest in the position if they didn’t hear back in one week or less, and 46 percent said between one and two weeks. If you need more than a few days to deliberate, inform interviewees of your timeline.

6. Make a contingent offer. You want to land your top candidate, yet you need to do due diligence to avoid making a bad hire, which can turn out to be costly in terms of time, money and morale. A good compromise once you feel like you’ve made your choice is to extend a verbal job offer contingent on employment verification and background and reference checks. Then, be thorough but don’t dally. All the while, stay in touch with the prospective employee, especially if you later find you need extra time to complete the steps.

7. Make a formal offer. When everything checks out, call your top pick with the good news. Go over the compensation and benefits package, settle on a start date and email them the official offer in writing. Be prepared to negotiate salary and perks by phone so you can close the deal right then and there.

To keep pace with other firms and businesses in today’s market, you need the best legal talent available. Increase the odds of landing the people you need by accelerating the hiring process.