1. Momentum matters in the hiring process because the top candidates have multiple job opportunities. We are in a much improved hiring environment and it is no longer a “buyers’ market” for employers seeking the very best attorney talent. The top-tier candidates that General Counsels and Managing Partners want to hire are in demand and they are often evaluating a myriad of options. Keeping your hiring process streamlined, informative, and timely goes a long way to helping you secure the best candidates.
2. Momentum matters because the top candidates judge your organization by your hiring process. The thinking goes like this: “If it takes forever to get feedback from this company/firm, their internal processes are not impressive and there are too many hurdles at this place; I can only imagine how much red tape I will have to deal with if I’m actually working there!” Some General Counsels and Managing Partners believe that their protracted hiring process is not being judged by the candidates – that it is merely a necessary evil a candidate must deal with in order to get hired. What they fail to realize is that this is the first impression they are making with the candidate and their hiring process can be perceived as a reflection of their overall work environment. Although a prolonged hiring process is not dispositive by itself, it is most certainly an important factor that gets weighed in the candidate’s mind when it comes to decision time.
3. Momentum matters because without it, analysis paralysis and inertia begin to take hold. You are already dealing with a risk-averse population (aka lawyers), and the best attorneys typically have a good, if not great, job currently. They do not have to make a move, but something or someone piqued their interest in your organization. As a legal recruiter, it is my job to pique the interest of those “cream-of-the-crop” candidates, but now you as an employer have to keep the momentum going and the piqued interest growing! A prolonged hiring process gives your already risk-averse lawyers too much time to overthink to the point of analysis paralysis. The thinking becomes: “I haven’t even heard back from Company X since I interviewed there 3 weeks ago, and honestly, the more I think about it, it’s probably not the right place for me.” As they say, timing is everything.
4. Momentum matters because the fear of rejection can push your candidates to reject you first. Lawyers are humans, too, and none of us like rejection. In fact, many of us deal with the fear of rejection by rejecting the person/opportunity before it can reject us. Interviewing at your company makes a candidate feel vulnerable, especially a seasoned and impressive lawyer. The lawyer has to “wow” you and strike the right balance between eagerness for this new opportunity and happiness at his/her current position. All of those mental gymnastics are exhausting, daunting and frankly too time-consuming to do if you feel that the company/firm is losing interest in you. The safer path for those candidates may be to call it a day and withdraw from the hiring process before the organization can reject them. The problem with that analysis is that many times, the lag in the hiring process is actually not indicative of a lack of interest in the candidate. I have had many situations in which General Counsels and Managing Partners tell me to please keep the candidate interested and apologize for the time delay because the delay has nothing to do with the feedback on the candidate. Unfortunately, that is not always well-received. Sometimes actions do speak louder than words and moving the process forward, even if incrementally, goes a long way to keeping the candidate engaged and excited, instead of focused on potential rejection.
5. Momentum matters because it will maintain your organization’s good reputation in the marketplace. The legal bar is a small world and lawyers in the same practice area or same geographic market often talk with one another about potential job opportunities. Do not underestimate the fact that candidates share “war stories” with one another: “Ugh, I interviewed at that company and then didn’t hear anything back for 2 months.” Allowing the hiring process to stall will leave a bad impression on good candidates, who can ultimately impact your talent pool in the future. Conversely, consistently moving the process forward will reflect very positively on your company and can help you attract good candidates in the future. To that end, I love to send my top candidates to those organizations who have a good hiring process because I know they are in good hands.
Let me be clear that I am not advocating lightning speed in hiring. In fact, I have seen General Counsels and Managing Partners push their processes too fast and scare off the good candidates. The salient point here is to be responsive and give information – if you cannot move your hiring process along in a timely manner (due to internal procedures and the like), you CAN set expectations with your candidates and your legal search partner. You can continue to provide timely feedback and updates, even if those updates are nothing more than calling your legal recruiter and letting her know that second round interviews cannot occur until next month. I can distinctly remember one client who would call me and say “I hate to keep calling you and telling you the same thing which is that we love your candidate, but our internal process is just taking forever!” I will take that update any day over silence and unresponsiveness. Of course, we work with our clients to help them streamline their process, but sometimes, the process has to run its course. Just being upfront about that fact can really make your organization stand out in a good way.
Momentum in your hiring process matters. It matters to the candidates that you want in your organization – the candidates who are in demand, are good at what they do, and have several opportunities available to them. Take the time to think about your hiring process objectively, and see if there are ways you can improve its speed and efficiency. In the end, you do not want to lose out on a great candidate because of a flawed hiring process.
Melissa A. Peters, Esq. is Managing Director at Princeton Legal Search Group. She focuses exclusively on the permanent placement of lawyers in law firm and in-house settings. She can be reached at 732.744.3400 and firstname.lastname@example.org.