Ask Your Best Employees Who to Hire
You’ve gone through the painstaking steps of building a job description, and defined the desired role within your firm. Depending on how rare the skill set is that you require, it may (or may not) be easy to find qualified candidates. Regardless, your next step is arguably going to be the most difficult one — “find the right person for the job”. First, identifying where the best pools of qualified candidates are, and then, successfully fishing out an individual who “fits” your company or law firm.
While there are many possible roads to finding that next employee, and this isn’t exactly intended to replace any of those options, my recommendation is pretty simple: start by asking your best current employees for help.
With so many factors that can go wrong in the hiring process, one of the best predictors for your hiring success is to tap into what you’ve done right in the past. Now, consider some of these factors that your employees and their peer networks bring to the table:
- Demographic Similarities — Lawyers, LAs, technologists, marketers, law librarians — all have a professional cohort. They go to school with, and build friendships with, individuals that have similar educational backgrounds, similar age groups, and so forth. Once these people leave the school system, they funnel into the firms around your region, setting their seeds within the legal industry. Those relationships are worth tapping into in your hiring process.
- Professional Association Memberships — Whether it’s the local bar, or a practice area study group, people with rare, niche skills tend to congregate in professional associations. Again, this speaks to not only knowing where “the pools of candidates” physically are, but to the “insider knowledge” your employees have about those people — the quirky, the reliable, the up-and-comers, and I hate to add, “the underpaid”. Your employees have an understanding of the ecosystem that you very likely don’t. (And if you do, remember, only a fool turns down a second opinion.)
- Knowledge of You — Do you understand your firm from an employee’s perspective? Unless you have the unique experience of having been both an employee, and then owner… you can’t, and you don’t. That’s fine. An empathetic ear to the ground will do almost as good, but that requires the trust of some of the key people around you. Employees understand which personality types will thrive working for you, or your firm generally, and in many of the best employment circumstances, will be willing advocates for bringing in similar personalities. For me, that’s the “fit” that so many firms and companies are after. If you’ve ever caught yourself saying, “I wish I could clone X”, it’s also worth noting that it might not be “X”, exactly, that’s so special. It might simply be how “X” works with you — and that’s a factor worth replicating.
We’re all amateurs here. You can hire an HR professional or consultant, or do employee psychological testing using “personality inventories”, but even then, you can’t guarantee you will pick the right people. Even with my suggestions above, you may be blind to who your “best employees” are, and end up replicating your mistakes. However, if your employee relationships and their work product are successful, and the so-called “fit” is satisfying in your eyes, then the goal is worthy. Consulting your employees and attempting to replicate that success has to be a move in the right direction.