A man interviewing a candidate for an in-house legal job, looking at a CV.

Recruiting an in-house lawyer? You snooze, you will lose.

 

I have been in legal recruitment long enough to remember the good old days for hiring in-house lawyers: put out an advert, get inundated with top quality applications, go through a lengthy interview process, shortlist, offer, and then simply sit back and wait for the inevitable and reasonably immediate acceptance from the lawyer of your choice.

Sadly, these days are gone. If you snooze in 2022, you will lose. Take my example below:

 

I was recently instructed by a household brand name to recruit an in-house lawyer. While the brand name was undoubtedly an attraction, the salary was below market rate and there was no option for remote or flexible working. The company had been looking directly for some time and had also engaged a few other agencies during their search but to no avail. The need had now become extremely urgent as it was a replacement role, and the incumbent was leaving shortly.

 

Despite the lack of success over the previous few months, when I did eventually source an excellent, immediately available candidate with multiple competing interviews ongoing, the company insisted their interview process was non-negotiable, requiring the following 6 stages:

 

  1. A one-way video “interview” where the candidate must video themselves answering a set of questions and then submit it for consideration (without meeting or speaking to anyone)
  2. A video interview with HR
  3. An online personality profile test
  4. A competency-based video interview with the General Counsel
  5. A video interview with several senior staff
  6. A physical office tour and “meet the team” event

Quite aside from the sheer volume of stages, given the realities of diary availability, this process was also expected to take 6 weeks to complete! I explained the fierce market competition for top talent currently and warned they ran the risk of losing the candidate if they did not speed up or reduce the number of stages in the interview process. 

 

Understandably, given the strength of the brand and their commitment to hiring quality, the company still wanted to go through all their stages and hoped the ‘premium brand’ would be enough for the candidate to hold on.

 

Unfortunately, by stage 2 the candidate had already accepted another in-house role that took only 10 days from CV send to offer and acceptance.

 

If you are recruiting for in-house lawyers or planning to do so, I strongly advise the following:

 

  • You streamline your interview process as much as you can.
  • If you receive a strong candidate for your role, then don't let diary clashes delay the process. Try and get your relevant decision makers committed to having certain “sacred” interview times blocked out in their diaries.
  • If you are impressed enough with a candidate, then don't wait until you have got other candidates simply to benchmark them against, because by the time you realise they were the best person for the role, they will have accepted an offer to go elsewhere.
  • Don’t put time-intensive and impersonal one-way testing and online video presentations before face-to-face meetings – you risk putting off the applicant before you have a chance to even meet them. People buy into people, not technology.
  • Don’t shut the door on remote working and flexibility at the outset – most companies, for the right candidates, will try and make logistics work, if possible, particularly post-COVID.

Finally, remember you are a premium brand; you have a superb competitive advantage straight out of the starting blocks, which is an enviable position. Don’t let an elongated, impersonal, cumbersome, or overly bureaucratic interview process put you at risk of ultimately giving up that advantage and losing out on the best talent.

David has specialised in recruiting in-house legal talent for the last 17 years. For a confidential discussion about the state of the in-house market in 2022, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

 

Email: davidcartwright@chadwicknott.co.uk

DDI: 0121 200 5576

Mobile: 07921 895 768

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