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Legal Recruiting: 5 Questions You Can’t Forget to Ask


legal_recruitingWe’ve all heard that hiring the wrong person is an expensive mistake, but what does it really cost your company? It could be as much as twice the person’s salary, according to estimates from the Society for Human Resource Management. For top corporate counsel, it could be even higher. And that’s factoring in only the costs of replacement and turnover, not the costs of bad decisions the wrong hire may make with serious consequences.

Unfortunately, many talented human resource professionals struggle with legal recruiting because these positions don’t open up as frequently as others.

They may find themselves in unfamiliar territory, unsure of what questions to ask during interviews.

Here are five questions you may have forgotten to ask your last candidate, why they’re important and what you’ll hope to hear.

1. Describe an instance when a high-pressure situation tested the strength of your integrity.

Why Ask: These roles are laden with challenges and stressful decisions. Before you make an offer, you must be confident the candidate is able to make high-stakes decisions on behalf of your company without compromising honesty and ethics.

Ideal Response: Candidates should be able to recount an experience, discuss what factors tested their integrity and finish with how they used rational decision-making to navigate the situation. They should also be able to speak candidly about lessons learned and their implications. The best legal candidates are driven by what’s best for their company as a whole, not what’s favorable among their colleagues.

2. Have you ever made a decision you later regretted?

Why Ask: These positions come with weighty responsibilities and inherent risks. That’s why you’ll want to know if your candidate is capable of taking risks responsibly and what happens when something doesn’t go as planned.

Ideal Response: Candidates should be able to describe past scenarios where they or their company experienced negative ramifications due to a decision they made. The best candidates will have had a hand in rectifying the aftermath. By now, they will have processed the situation enough to be able to speak about what went wrong and what they could have done better to prevent the outcome.

3. Describe your greatest professional accomplishments.

Why Ask: The key to this question is less about the accomplishments and more about how candidates choose to talk about them. Depending on how they respond, you’ll gain insight into whether they were the driving force behind the success or merely an accessory.

Ideal Response: Candidates should be able to describe their greatest relevant accomplishments in moderate detail without overusing “we” instead of “I”. Overusing “we” and failing to provide a detailed explanation may indicate someone didn’t have as much involvement as he or she would like you to believe. Likewise, too much detail could indicate the story is a canned concoction.

4. Describe the nature of your interactions with regulators.

Why Ask: Corporate counsel is the legal face of your company and, as such, they must always represent with the greatest degree of professionalism. This is especially true when working with regulators.

Ideal Response: Candidates should illustrate the nature of their communications with various regulators and how they responded promptly and professionally.

5. Explain some of the obstacles you’ve overcome in your most recent position.

Why Ask: This question tests your candidates’ resourcefulness — a critically important quality for corporate counsel to possess. Not all problems can be solved using standard methods. Sometimes your legal team must get creative, and you’ll want to know the person you ultimately decide to hire has what it takes to approach issues from different angles.

Ideal Response: Candidates should be able to describe hurdles they’ve faced (likely related to budgeting, outdated corporate infrastructure, etc.) and define their approach to overcoming the obstacles. Their answers should demonstrate their approach was effective and produced lasting, constructive change for the company.

A team of experienced legal recruiters can help you evaluate candidates so you find the professional with the exact skill set and traits your company needs.

For more tips on how to evaluate legal candidates and what questions to ask, download 8 Ways to Effectively Evaluate Legal and Compliance Candidates.

8 Ways to Effectively Evaluate Candidates

Topics: Recruiting   |   Legal


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