In 25 years in practice I've had 168 different people (yes, I counted) work for me in various capacities. This includes associates (full and part-time), secretaries, paralegals, law students, college students, high school interns, and per diem attorneys. I interviewed all of them, even the high school interns, and surely have interviewed 500 other people where the fit was not right. One way I know interviewing is a real skill is that I keep learning how to do it better. I learned strictly through experience, as will you, but here are a few tips I wish I'd had:
1. Don't talk so much. If you liked someone's resume enough to interview them, you may be pre-disposed to hiring them and are already giving them a job description and talking about your practice. The candidate will not interrupt you when you go on and on, though they may think you are a windbag who doesn't know how to interview. Stop yourself if you are talking too much. If you have described some aspect of your practice, a simple thing to do is stop, and say "What do you think about that?"
2. Listen to the candidates questions. I will come out and tell someone that I really evaluate a persons potential by the quantity and quality of the questions they ask. I am comfortable saying this because it's true. I may make a statement or describe something that's going on and ask the candidate to ask some questions about it. I try not to accept "I don't have any questions", and the fact is, if someone sticks to that answer, it is highly unlikely I'd hire them. I want a good dialogue in an interview, and I will want a good dialogue when the person is working. Remember, once a clam always a clam.
3. I did not get this one from a book, but I really like "What do you see yourself doing, career wise, in five years?". What I am looking to uncover is what I call "employee mentality". This is a person who treats the job like a job, does the minimum and will let you down in the clutch. I value longevity and commitment, and despite the number of employees I've had, I've had many long-term devoted people. I tell the candidate I won't hold them to their answer, and I won't hold an answer against them if they think they will not be with me in five years. I tell them I prefer being around people with lofty ambitions.
4. Don't be afraid to probe the resume, especially if there was something on it that impressed you. I like open ended questions like "Tell me about some of the contracts you drafted at Smucker & Jelly?"
5. If there are specific things you might need, don't hesitate to ask. Sometimes I absolutely needed someone with a car, and you don't know if you don't ask.
6. I would never explicitly ask about family life, intention to have children, lifestyle, or anything else that would offend the person or cause them to give me a legal problem. Naturally though, as an employer you have a vested interest in knowing these things. That's why you shut up and listen, and draw correct conclusions from the discussion. People will often list hobbies and interests on their resume, and you can sometimes get an impression from this, but you can tell even more about the person when they talk about it.
7. I don't think it violates any law, so I ask people if they smoke. I've hired a few, and let's just say I ask the question and weigh the answer carefully.
8. When I first started I did not call references, but now I do. I will especially call a prior job where I know the past employer or someone at the firm.
9. Trust your gut. I once interviewed someone who was working someplace else. It happens. I didn't have a great feeling, but I needed to hire someone and my "friend" had recommended her, so I offered her the job, and said that I assumed she would need to give at least 2 weeks notice. The next day she called and said she was ready to start immediately. This was a very bad sign, and she turned out to be the worst person I ever hired....and yes....I eventually fired her.
Next blog.....hiring and business relationships in the per diem world.