One of the most important responsibilities of a General Counsel and other managing counsel is building a team. Get it right and you will have a team that delivers significant value to the organization. Get it wrong and the negative impact on your productivity and reputation can be significant.
As an executive search consultant, my job is to deliver a diverse slate of exceptional candidates who all have the qualifications necessary to meet the needs of the role, and, as best as possible, the personality that will fit within the culture of the organization. Once I have presented the candidates to my client, it is then their responsibility to interview and ultimately select who they want to hire.
I surveyed successful GCs across the nation to provide some of their favorite interview questions to ask in-house counsel candidates, and I’m happy to share their responses with you. A special thank you to each of the GCs who provided input for this article.
Tell me about a time when a business partner was adamant about not taking your legal advice. What was the situation and how did you resolve it?
Elicits what someone has done, not what they say they would do, in a difficult circumstance.
Describe the job [for which you are interviewing] to me based on your understanding of the role.
Lets you see the depth of understanding they have for the role and allows you to fill in any blanks for them.
What is the last thing that you accomplished that required you to leave your comfort zone and develop proficiency in something entirely new and different?
Illustrates how comfortable they are pushing themselves and growing.
Give me an example where you helped or mentored someone.
Critical question. A fundamental component of building a strong, resilient, effective legal function is working together as a team and supporting each other.
What has been the most difficult challenge you have faced and how did you solve it?
Helps to identify what they view as challenging and how they handle stress.
Where do you want to be in 5 to 10 years?
Identifies ambitious, self-motivated candidates.
Tell me about how you addressed a major failure and what you learned from the experience.
Shows humility, emotional intelligence, and if they learn from their failures.
Why are you interested in this job with our company?
Pretty basic, but you can learn a lot by asking this open-ended question that lets the candidate explain their career goals and aspirations.
Tell me why I should hire you over several other well-qualified candidates?
Helps to identify their level of confidence and ability to sell their strengths.
What is your favorite thing about our company?
If they haven't bothered to research your company before interviewing, that tells a lot. If they have, this question allows you to gauge their passion for your brand.
What do you like best about your current job?
Gives the candidate the chance to convey what is satisfying about their career.
Give me an example of a complex legal matter you were involved in and how you were able to navigate the issue and provide counsel to your client or the business.
If someone has good communication skills they should be able to articulate the issue, their thought process in solving the issue, and the outcome. They should also be able to do this without naming clients or providing confidential information.
How do you prefer to work?
Are they collegial? Door closed or open? Do they prefer teamwork or solo work? This helps assess how they will fit in with your team. But be careful not to dismiss someone’s answer if it doesn’t exactly match your workstyle; diversity comes in many forms.
I know these time-tested questions will be helpful next time you need to interview candidates for an in-house counsel role. As always, if we may be of assistance, contact us anytime.