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April 2, 2020

You’re Hired! Best Practices for Conducting Smart Interviews

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession could place additional burden on the justice system, exposing problems such as unsafe jails and health care disparities that require legal solutions. In a post-COVID-19 world, lawyers may be more needed than ever before. Still, the industry is likely to see amplified trends toward remote work, contract hiring, and automation, according to a recent Forbes article.

That doesn’t change the fact that a bad hiring decision can be a costly mistake: according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average cost of a bad hire is at least 30% of the employee’s first-year expected earnings. In a recent Law.com article, Lateral Link managing director David Lat said that firms willing to proceed with hiring in this environment can woo talent they might otherwise have trouble recruiting, adding that there’s an opportunity for firms that stay the course and don’t panic. Here are some best practices that can help you make confident hiring decisions in any environment.

Before the Interview

Setting the stage for a successful interview begins long before the candidate steps foot in your office. The more you know about the candidate and what you hope to learn from them, the more successful the interview will be.

Conduct research. 60% of employers screen potential hires' social media accounts to learn more about them and uncover any off-putting behavior. A surprising 85% of employers have caught applicants lying on their resumes. Combat this by cross-referencing resume details with what’s listed on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile.

Determine criteria and qualifications. Beyond the requirements and nice-to-haves outlined in the job posting, consider the qualities that’ll position a candidate for long-term success. Collaborate with colleagues and ask senior managers about the traits of employees who’ve excelled in the same (or similar) role. As you gather details about a candidate, think about how well that information aligns with the desired skills for the position. Keep in mind that a non-traditional education/career path is no longer a red flag, and that job seekers with diverse experience often have valuable soft skills that transcend industry and job title.

Outline questions. While the questions you ask during an interview will vary depending on the candidate and role, there are four specific categories to include:

  • Fact-Based: “How many years did you work at [Company X] and what was your salary?”
  • Behavioral: "Tell me about a time when you helped resolve a difficult situation."
  • Situational: “How would you handle a disagreement with a colleague?
  • Serious: “Why should we hire you over someone with more relevant experience?”

Set expectations. When you reach out to candidates to schedule an interview, set expectations about what it will entail. Briefly describe the position, provide the names and titles of everyone who’ll be present for the interview, and answer any questions. Consider providing candidates with a list of the interview questions ahead of time. As one Inc. article suggests, this helps calm nervous candidates and gives them time to prepare well-thought-out answers.

If your hectic schedule makes it difficult to dedicate enough time for first-round interviews, consider using a staffing partner to narrow the candidate pool.

During the Interview

Once you’ve done your homework on the candidates and prepared a list of insightful questions, you’re ready to conduct the interviews. According to a study by Harris Interactive and Everest College, 92% of U.S. job seekers experience interview anxiety. There are several things you can do to create a more comfortable environment.

Put candidates at ease. While some signs of anxiety, such as a shaky voice, are obvious, others, like fidgeting, lack of eye contact, and crossed arms, are subtler. It can be difficult to get an accurate read of a person’s experience and personality when they’re anxious, so it’s in your best interest to help them relax. Rather than dive right into your interview questions, ask them about their family and hobbies and look for common ground. Showing a bit of vulnerability or humor can also be helpful.

Start a conversation. Lead candidates through a conversation about their past experience rather than drill them with questions. Prompt them to continue talking by asking what interests them about the position and what makes them uniquely qualified to excel within the role and grow with your company. Avoid glancing at your watch or rushing through questions so that the candidate has plenty of time to respond thoughtfully.

Explain the process. Let candidates know about your time frame for filling the position and when they can expect to hear back from you about next steps. If appropriate, let them know how they can reach out to you with any questions in the meantime.

At the end of the day, you want candidates to know you’re looking for reasons to hire them, not send them packing. If you’re new to interviewing, consider working with a staffing partner throughout your recruiting process for added support.

After the Interview

Sending a thank you note is still a best practice for interviewees. In fact, one in five hiring managers have rejected a candidate because they didn’t receive a post-interview follow-up or thank you email. As an interviewer, there are a few things expected of you, as well.

Provide prompt feedback. Reach out to each candidate with feedback about their interview as soon as possible. Even if you’ve determined they’re not the right fit, providing some constructive criticism can benefit their career long term. And leaving them with a positive impression of your company could lead them to recommend your company to their peers.

Seek outside advice. If other people in your organization came in contact with the candidate, ask for their opinion. Does their impression of them align with what you gathered during the interview? Do they think the candidate will be a good fit with your company’s culture? Why or why not? Share your interview notes with those who will work directly with the position being filled and consider their thoughts when making your final decision.

Narrow the pool. Once you’ve interviewed all candidates, you’ll need to decide whom to invite back for a second interview or to whom you’ll extend an offer. If the hiring decision isn’t apparent, a staffing agency can either provide further consultation or determine if one or more of the standout candidates are open to a temp-to-hire arrangement.

In a post-COVID-19 world, remote and contract lawyers will be in high demand. Working with a staffing partner can increase your odds of recruiting and hiring top talent. JurisTemps’ long-established relationship with St. Louis-based legal professionals can save you time and result in more successful outcomes. Learn about our process here.

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