Gaining a Competitive Edge in Hiring


Whether it is an employers’ or employees’ market, there is always competition for the strongest candidates. In a tight labor market, it is even more critical to have a candidate-friendly hiring process.

Texas Lawbook

By Linda Katz, Kristin Johnston and Susan Pye

She was the perfect candidate for an ideal job. Despite the fact she was happy where she was working, the attorney listened when a position became available that would advance her career. She submitted her resume, gave an exceptional interview and was assured a follow-up call within a few days. Weeks passed without word from the hiring company. The perfect candidate grew discouraged and when the company finally did call, it was too late.

By then, her interest had waned.

Companies that have a timely, organized and responsive hiring process have a competitive advantage in finding the best employees which is why utilizing an industry specialized recruiter adds extraordinary value to the hiring process. The company’s process should show that the company is responsive and respects the dignity of the individual who has made him or herself vulnerable to the company’s scrutiny. Here are four key hiring tips to improve the process:

  1. Speed wins. Highly sought after candidates in tight markets often come to the recruiting process reluctantly. They may already be in well-paying jobs with fulfilling responsibilities and capturing their interest to consider a new opportunity can be an arduous task. Time is valuable – for the client, the recruiter, and the candidate. Prompt and clear feedback, whether about the candidate’s interest in the role or the client’s intention for the candidate, is vital to efficiently moving the process forward. Companies that respond quickly (within 48 hours after each step in the hiring process) are more likely to be successful because they demonstrate a high level of professionalism and show respect for the candidate.Alternatively, a long hiring process sends the message that the hiring company may not be well organized, or is too bureaucratic, implying that other areas of operations are equally unorganized or bureau¬cratic (e.g., making important project decisions and taking care of issues that can decrease productivity).Going silent makes candidates feel unimportant and interchangeable. If there are steps in the process that become unavoidably stalled, communicate the reason to the candidate.
  2. Go above and beyond. Recruiting is an art and it is particularly important with the candidate who is not looking for a new job to make them feel special. Everyone is flattered by attention shown to them. Go the extra mile to show interest in having the candidate join the organization. Make plans for lunch, dinner or an event, and arrange for the candidate to meet other people in the department to hopefully bond with prospective colleagues.
  3. Don’t lowball offers. No one wants to hire a candidate who simply wants to make a move for more money. However, an employer can make a strong statement of interest through the compensation and benefits package offered.
  4. Make sure the HR department and hiring managers agree on the process and follow it. When hiring managers and HR professionals communicate well and have a process both agree to follow, candidates can be sourced, interviewed and hired more efficiently. Unfortunately, corporate red tape, overstressed HR departments and turf battles between hiring managers and HR can result in roadblocks to successful hiring practices. To the extent possible, shield the candidate from the bureaucracy.

The recruiter adds value to the hiring process by being the strongest spokesperson to represent the company. The relationship between a recruiter and a company should be a partnership with both parties understanding and committed to the goal – hiring the best talent for the position. Like any successful relationship, the client/recruiter partnership requires time and communication. A good recruiter will use whatever means of research necessary to source and identify candidates who meet every need specified by the client, including the indefinable “it” factor. Hiring is a critical decision and the recruiter provides four key elements:

  1. Providing candidates that are not looking for a job. Although active seekers can be qualified for the role, clients miss seeing the outstanding candidates who aren’t searching for new roles. The best person for your position could very well be the person who is happy and successful in their current positions and will be lured away based solely upon the client’s compelling opportunity. That means digging deep and using every resource, tool, and connection to identify and narrow the pool of candidates to the best potential fits and nothing less.
  2. Meeting the candidates in person. Many candidates will look perfect on paper, but may not be a personality fit for the client’s legal team. The time spent talking with a candidate in person and getting to know them professionally and personally is invaluable. Every box needs to be checked, and the personality fit is as important as any other element.
  3. Facilitating the process. With attorney searches often taking several months to complete, from initial candidate contact through offer and acceptance, good recruiters will stay in contact with the client and all candidates coaching them through the screening process, interviews, delays, and ultimate offer of employment.
  4. Negotiating for the client. Recruiters provide the client with salary and compensation data, helping to educate the company on market trends and the effect of economic changes upon legal departments. Since the size of a company (private or public), industry, legal team make-up, and the seniority of the role can greatly affect a compensation package, recruiters help to advise clients in composing the appropriate compensation structure for a particular position. While the offer/acceptance piece of the process is exciting, it can also be stressful for the client and the candidate. Managing expectations is also a vital component to ensuring that both parties are pleased with the final outcome. Matching a client with the right candidate is delicate process; both sides want to feel valued and assured that they are making the correct choice for their future. The collaborative hiring process between the company and the recruiting firm can make a significant difference in getting top employees. Demand is high for legal professionals in certain practice areas such as energy, corporate, contracts, compliance and real estate. In addition, many employers are bracing for the loss of a large number of employees becoming eligible for retirement.

Whether it is an employers’ or employees’ market, there is always competition for the best people. In a tight labor market, it is even more critical to have a candidate-friendly hiring process. But regardless, using a well-coordinated, organized hiring process will maximize a company’s chances of recruiting and retaining the best talent for their organization.

Susan Pye is President and Founder of Pye Legal Group, a full-service legal search firm that specializes in placements for corporate legal departments and law firms of permanent and contract lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals. Linda Katz is a legal recruiter in the Houston office, and Kristin Johnston is a legal recruiter in the Dallas office. To learn more, visit www.pyelegalgroup.com.

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