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Don't Hire on Gut Instinct. Use a Systematic Approach.

Applicants waiting for an interview
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on January 02, 2020 1:36 PM

You already know the importance of making successful hiring decisions. But while lawyers are paid to anticipate and prevent bad outcomes, few matters are as difficult to predict as how a new hire is going to work out.

Without a surefire method, most law firms report that they hire on gut instinct. Some experts even recommend that approach. When choosing between several qualified candidates, however, using your gut can backfire. One reason for this is that research has shown an unstructured interview is not a good predictor of future performance. In fact, no interview at all is better than an unstructured one.

That is not to say an interview is unhelpful. But it must be only a part of your decision-making process, and the questions need to be tailored to your goals, systematic, and measured to see if they are valid predictors of success. Below are some tips for structured interviewing that will help you rely less on your gut feeling (and eliminate bias in your hiring process).

Tailored Questions

There are several examples of interview questions available online. Most of these involve quirky questions and curve balls. But do you really want to ask a potential hire what kind of tree they would be?

Instead, first take time to define the attributes that will make someone successful in the position. Then ask questions that directly or indirectly reflect on those attributes. Want someone quick on their feet? A curveball question may work well. Want someone who projects confidence? Then ask questions that measure how the applicants see themselves.

Behavioral Questions

Many organizations have switched to behavioral questions. Instead of asking candidates about their personal attributes, ask about past behavior that demonstrates the attributes you are looking for. For example, “tell me about a time in your professional life you had to work with someone you disagreed with? What did you do? What was the outcome?"

Ideally, candidates can use these questions to show you their behavior and how they respond to obstacles at work, rather than just tell you generally about their personalities.

Predictive Questions

The hope is that you'll be in the position to hire again. Keep your questions and see if who you hired worked out. If it didn't work out, you'll know you need to tweak your process. If it did work out, then you have a ready set of questions to fall back on.

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