In law school you learned how to lawyer. Growing your law firm requires that you learn the business of law. Interviewing and hiring are two of the essentials you must learn to turn your law practice into a law business you can count on.
Here are 7 stratetgies for you to use in making your next hiring decision.
1.) Don’t hire for potential – who someone COULD be is not up to you. Hire based on who they are now and the experience, skills and training they already have; and if they grow in their role, all the better! It’s a big mistake to hire someone with promise. You’re here to serve clients, not groom employees.
You are a small business that can’t afford a lot of extraneous overhead like a big corporation. (They can’t afford it either, but you definitely can’t!) Human beings have a funny way of believing that if someone is really good at one thing, they are really good at everything. Don’t gamble. You need to see a track record of proven results in the area you are hiring for (you can train for specific skills – or we could train your new hire for you – but the person you hire has to have already done something in line with what you are hiring for).
2.) “C” Players bring down “A” Players - let them go the first time they show their hand. They rarely get better, and you can’t afford to keep them around. That doesn’t mean you don’t train and coach your A-Player who make the occasional flub. It means when someone shows they just aren’t committed to your succes, you set them free to find something that inspires their best efforts somewhere else. Jack Welch was famous for cutting the C-Players at GE every 6 months, and replacing them with A-Players better than his current best employees. That’s smart. The old adage “hire slow/fire fast” is true — you’ll save a whole lot of time, headaches and money if you do.
3.) Start with a clear picture - in your mind, see your perfect employee doing all the things you need them doing. Right down to the very location they will be doing them, the clothes they are wearing, the way they interact with you and your clients. Successful athletes know clear visualization is a non-negotiable component of success. They spend as much time visualizing making that shot as they do practicing making that shot.
Exercise: Block off 20 minutes, close your door and sit with a single blank sheet of paper. Write at the top: “My Ideal Next Hire” and then let your pen write everything that streams forth, even pictures. Go back and circle the most important elements and make a nice neat list that you can use to remind you of who you’re looking for so you recognize them when you meet them.
4.) Interviewing is a skill – to be good at it, we have to practice, practice practice. The kicker is, you’ll get your practice one way or another – you’ll either have a revolving door because you rush and hire the first person who sounds good, or you can be smart and interview a bunch of people before making a durable hiring decision.
A few tips for interviewing well are:
Prepare for the interview by reviewing your correspondence, exploring their social media profiles and writing questions on their resume. Block of plenty of time so you are not rushed. End your work day a few hours early so you can interview without a hard stop. If you think of something you need to do, keep a list and let it go. Your biggest job is to be 100% present with your prospective employee.
During the interview, make notes for review later. Be sure you listen 2 to 3 times more than you speak. Also stay tuned into your body-level intuition. It knows. Allow lingering pauses, they invite your prospective hires to share more than they otherwise might if you jump right to the next question – what they share second is usually the stuff you need to hear to make a solid, gut-level hiring decision.
After the interview, take a moment to reflect. What does your gut tell you? Make some make addition notes and be honest with yourself about how you feel. Remember that it’s a small world, and you want to have a long-term presence in your community. Be polite and follow up with everyone – email is fine – to let them know of your decision.
5.) Interview 5 (minimum) - as a standard benchmark for successful hiring. It’s so tempting to do what comes easy, and interviewing is not easy. It’s time consuming, and it’s often uncomfortable. Rejection hurts – both receiving and giving. But you are a business leader now, and you have to be willing to do the work. The work of hiring right starts by interviewing enough prospective hires to make a strong decision. Less than 5 and you don’t have a big enough pool, more than 7 and you are wasting time.
6.) Create a hiring process – just like a sales funnel, you need a way to get enough prospective employees to respond to your ad so you have 5 to 7 worth interviewing in order to hire the one employee that is going to set you free from the work you know you should be delegating so you can make what you’re worth per hour, get a strong return on your hiring investment, and have some free time to enjoy the lifestyle your practice is supporting you to create.
The trick is to automate your hiring funnel so the system screens out more of the unqualified candidates for you, and delivers a nice, short list of people worth interviewing. In our friend Cameron Herold’s book Double Double, he lays out a brilliant strategy for hiring and interviewing. We’ve implemented it, and you can see the whole process here.
Here are the finer points to note when creating your own funnel:
Tell prospective hires what to expect and why you hire this way
Ask the prospect to get intimately familiar with your business before applying
This includes sharing your 3-year vision, or Painted Picture as Cameron calls it
Set up a survey to gather vital information in one place for your easy review
Ask for candidates to perform simple tasks that reveal their competencies
We ask technical and ethical questions in our survey, we ask for a video because we are a virtual company and want to see both tech skills and personality
We also use an email address with one wrong letter to see if they can figure it out!
This way, we know that whoever gets through the first half of our hiring process knows who we are, what we are up to, where we are heading, and how we expect them to play before we even contact them to set up an interview. (We start with a group interview, but you can read more about that in Cameron’s book Double Double - highly recommended!)
7.) Liking someone is not enough - you have to hire for the return you’ll get on your investment of money, time & energy to train the new hire. If you need love, get a puppy. That’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also not far off the mark. We all want to enjoy our day, and having someone to share the ups and downs with makes the revolving door of clients, and the inevitable emotional roller coaster more bearable.
After all, under our fancy clothes and cell phones, we’re still just social monkeys looking to belong. Don’t let your chimp-brain do your hiring. Use the tips in this article to create a hiring and interviewing process to grow your law firm in a healthy way, and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.
If you’d like us to hire and train a law office assistant for you, we do offer a service that has gotten rave reviews. You can learn more about that here.