A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Want to find good people? Look past their resume!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

by Susie Rogers, Director, Rusher Rogers

'Finding good staff' remains the number one HR challenge identified by Australasian law firms in the recent ALPMA/Rusher Rogers Legal Industry Salary and HR Issues Survey, yet law firms continue miss out on fantastic candidates because they place too much emphasis on resumes - and not enough on attitude.

It can be very frustrating as a recruiter getting your clients to understand that a candidate’s resume is just part of the story, not the whole story.  In this day and age where technology is relied upon to complete at least the first round of candidate selection, unless your resume is optimised with the right key words or very talented front line staff can ascertain a candidates motivation by reading a resume, then the best candidates will often get missed. 

Attitude vs the 'Right' Experience

I have heard all the objections when decisions to meet a candidate are based on only reading a resume….’ but they don’t have the ‘right’ level of experience’, or ‘they haven’t worked in our sector before’.   And then so many people get caught up in wanting X amount of years’ experience, in either industry sector, or the discipline…ever heard of ‘transferable skills’?  I even believe that some would choose years of experience over attitude. 

Consider this; is it not better to have a candidate with a better attitude, in preference to a candidate with the ideal number of years’ experience but with a poor attitude?  You will have potentially missed out on securing the better candidate just because you are focused on X years of experience. Take those blinkers off, as a great attitude will make a better hire every time.

My old boss used to say; ‘a resume doesn’t have arms and legs Susie, it cannot get up and walk and talk’, and she was so on the money.  A resume is just a part of the story; it’s what lies beneath that you need to get to the bottom of. Things like finding out what behaviours drive a candidate’s motivation, what their values are and whether those same values match those of your organisation.  You won’t find this on a resume and it is one of, if not one of the most important factors in selecting the right people for your organisation. Attitude.

It’s the Iceberg theory.  You need to know what lies beneath the waterline and that’s where recruitment gets tricky because you have to spend the time and actually meet or at least talk to the candidates to try and understand what makes them tick.  Reading a resume alone will not reveal this information.  So don’t just rely on this to decide whether a candidate is the right one or not. 

Finding the right people for your firm

Here are just some of the clues to look out for when identifying the right people for your organisation:
  • Look for transferable skills: How critical is it that the candidate has worked in the same role, in the same sector/team/practice group?

  • Look for patterns: Stability is one. While there could be some perfectly plausible reasons for short-term tenure of employment, the obvious being contract work as the only option available to the candidate at the time OR a pattern of not making it through the probationary period on the other hand.

  • Watch for unexplained gaps in work history. There could be a myriad of reasons, all perfectly acceptable, for unexplained gaps in work history, OR is it inability, desire or commitment to securing employment.

  • Look for logical patterns in their work choices. Does their resume demonstrate a logical progression in the employment choices that they have made or is it all over the place. Alternatively have they plateaued and stayed in the same holding pattern for a while moving from one competitive employer to the next but in the same role.

  • Speak to people. It’s amazing how much you can pick up by just talking to people. You will get a sense of their attitude, their enthusiasm for the role, their personality and whether they are worthwhile meeting face-to-face.
All these elements will start to give you clues about what a candidate is all about but their resume is just the very first step in assessing whether a candidate is right for a position or not.  A resume will provide a list of experience and qualifications, the ‘facts’ to date.  It’s the other stuff that you need to know that a resume will not tell you.  So spend the time and talk to candidates to make a full assessment rather than purely dismissing people on the strength or weakness of a piece of paper.  

Above all, place yourself in the shoes of that person and treat them in the same way you, yourself would like to be treated if you were looking for a job.  A fact often forgotten.

Editor's Note:

The ALPMA/Rusher Rogers Australasian Legal Industry Salary and HR Issues Survey identifies the critical HR issues facing law firms and benchmarks salaries paid for more than 70 roles at law firms across Australia and New Zealand. The full results from the 2014 survey are available for purchase from Thursday 29 May. Find out more.

ALPMA will be presenting the key findings from the report, and discussing strategies to 'find good people'  at a webinar on Thursday June 5 from 1pm (AEST). Register here.  

About Our Guest Blogger

Susie RogersSusie Rogers is a recruitment specialist with almost 18 years at the helm leading an experienced team at Rusher Rogers Recruiting, 11 years of which has focused on recruiting and finding talent for the legal sector. 

Established in 1996, Rusher Rogers Recruiting has invested almost 18 years developing a comprehensive candidate network using a complex, robust and successful sourcing strategy to identify and manage that talent network, placing them in the best position to find the talent when its needed.

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