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Hiring in a Challenging Market: How to Attract Diverse Talent with Limited Resources

November 07, 2023

best practices flexible resourcing legal talent

The current legal job market is unlike anything we’ve encountered before. Law departments are implementing unprecedented hiring freezes, thereby placing immense pressure on human resources, internal recruiters, and hiring managers. The recent layoff surge has compounded the problem; disproportionate cuts to internal recruiting staff have left companies with fewer resources for recruiting. An atmosphere of hesitancy prevails, driven by the economic anxiety generated by soaring inflation, the threat of recession, and a steady stream of layoffs across industries and within the legal field. Employers are shying away from taking prompt and decisive action to secure the best candidates. With layoffs creating an influx of legal professionals into the job market, employers have adopted a more deliberate (and, consequently, time-consuming) approach across the entire hiring process.

Legal Talent has borne the brunt of this trend. The interview process is now gruelling, far beyond any other time in recent memory. In earlier times, candidates would interview with a recruiter, the hiring manager, and perhaps a senior executive. Those days are past. Candidates must often endure up to eight (and rarely fewer than five) interviews across three (or more) rounds of interviews, and it is not uncommon to have to wait months before the hiring organisation makes a final decision and extends an offer. Understandably, candidates feel drained and worn out.

Lost in all of this is the impact on an organisation’s ability to attract, secure, and retain top-notch legal talent. The best candidates will not wait for months for an offer. They pursue multiple opportunities, and a key part of their decision-making is how organised and professional an employer appears during the hiring process. The longer the process, the greater the risk of losing top candidates to organisations that provide a better experience. Moreover, an organisation that gains a reputation for a long and arduous hiring process will attract fewer excellent candidates in the first place. And an unpleasant hiring experience gets things off on the wrong foot with new arrivals, exhausted by the process and wary of what it says about working at the organisation. In short, a law organisation’s long-term success, on the talent front and beyond, depends on enhancing the candidate experience.

Our work affords us a unique take due to our familiarity with both talent’s and employers’ perspectives. From that, we have identified six critical yet easily implemented suggestions for ‘hiring in unprecedented times’:

  1. Streamline It. While a thorough evaluation is essential, an excessively long interview process that deters qualified candidates is counterproductive. As much as possible, consolidate interview rounds and make sure each interview is necessary and serves a specific and crucial purpose in the decision-making process. For detailed guidance on optimising the interview process, see our colleague Paul Shephard’s post earlier this year, ‘Enough Is Enough: Don’t ‘Over-Interview’ Candidates‘. At Elevate, we recommend conducting panel interviews and a maximum of three rounds of interviews.
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Be open and transparent with candidates and recruiters throughout the process. At the outset, educate them about the stages of your process, set expectations, and outline timelines. Not only does this reduce anxiety and uncertainty, but it also conveys that you respect talent and know what they are going through.
  3. Be Efficient. Expedite decision-making to occur as quickly as possible after interviews conclude. At the outset, establish clear and concise criteria for evaluation, a target deadline for decision-making, and an anticipated start date, and share that information with internal and external recruiters (with appropriate caveats about possible delays, etc.). Remember, the best candidates are likely interviewing for multiple positions, and the longer you take to decide, the more likely it is that a more efficient organisation will make an offer that the candidate accepts.
  4. Assess Soft Skills. Successful hires possess more than technical skills and professional experience. They are also adept at navigating personalities, a good fit with an organisation’s culture, and adaptable. By sharing insight about your corporate culture and team and conducting interviews in ways that assess ‘soft skills,’ you boost the likelihood that a candidate will prove compatible with your organisation.
  5. Interview ‘Diversely’. Select interview panel participants with a broad range of perspectives that will generate a well-rounded assessment and eliminate bias. Remember: a panel’s composition makes an impression (one way or another) and gives talent insight into your team and work culture.
  6. Embrace Flexibility. By being open to remote and flexible work arrangements (as mentioned in this recent post by Matt Todd, VP, Flex at Elevate), you will attract a larger and better pool of talent. Very often, it will set you apart from the competition in a favourable and powerful way.

Attracting the best legal talent isn’t a matter of chance. It requires a thoughtful process for screening, selecting, and hiring candidates. Being organised, transparent, and efficient during the interview process impresses candidates even if they are not selected for the position. Remember, word can travel fast about which organisations provide a good hiring experience – or which do not.

A law organisation’s ability to recruit top-notch legal talent requires a hiring process that does not wear out candidates or take months. The best approaches to screening and assessing candidates incorporate six key principles.

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