It’s very frustrating to post a job, screen for suitable applicants, and realize that you only have a handful of people to move through your process. When it comes to finding good help in your law firm, there are common mistakes that many firms make that inhibit them from getting the largest and most qualified pool of applicants. 

Recently, we’ve had several instances where clients have come to us because they were frustrated due to their own long, fruitless staffing searches. And, if you hire the wrong person, you probably don’t need to be reminded of the costs around re-hiring and re-training a replacement. 

Here are four reasons you might be filtering OUT – rather than identifying – the best applicants for your open job.

Using Resume Gaps to Disqualify Someone

Most employers consider resume gaps problematic, but these days, there are many reasons that someone might have one or two gaps in their resume that have nothing to do with their abilities or performance at work. These could include: 

● Stepping out of the workforce for caregiving or educational reasons 

● Leaving a toxic role and taking some time to reevaluate career goals 

● Transitioning into a new field 

● Persuing an ideal role in a firm that is a cultural fit

Someone re-entering the workforce with a gap in their employment may already feel nervous or as though they’re going to be disqualified, so don’t add to that pressure. Take the time to get to know them outside of their positions listed; you might discover the exact qualities you’re looking for.

If there are repeated gaps on someone’s resume, or they stay at most of their roles only a few months, ask questions about that. But before assuming the gaps listed on their resume might be for a less-than-optimal reason, ask the candidate about them. 

Focusing Too Much on Education/Work Experience

Are they hungry?

There’s a lot to be said for someone who needs training, is hungry for that training, and just hasn’t been given that experience yet. It’s likely true that an applicant who has performed a similar job before on a similar type of team will come to the table with the hunger to learn and the technical ability to jump in quickly. 

Are they adaptable?

In some cases, having too much experience can be a problem. If the professional is used to doing things another way, it can be hard for them to adapt to your workflow, processes, or software. Education and work experience are excellent places to start when reviewing resumes but look for other details that could make this person the perfect fit. 

Do they want to grow?

Imagine this scenario: you’re looking for a client intake specialist who has the passion to grow into a full-time employee. Someone who has spent ten years working in an inbound sales position may not have the drive, interest, or focus to want to scale up to that next level. If growth is important to you, looking at people with less experience but a genuine desire to develop within your team might be a better fit. 

Expecting Too Much Experience for the Job at Hand

It’s certainly true that someone who has worked in a similar role may have more awareness and the ability to jump in quickly, but don’t overlook applicants who may have a lot to offer but don’t have a proven track record listed in their resume. 

Are you looking for the perfect unicorn with years of experience under their belt, but you’re paying entry-level rates? When prospective applicants suspect your expectations are mismatched with the expertise required and pay offered, you can also lose out on people who could have been a great addition to your team. If you narrow the scope of the position too much, a great prospect may disqualify themselves. And you won’t even know they ever saw your job application!

Ignoring the Importance of Soft Skills

Bringing in someone with the right work experience and strong talent doesn’t matter if they’re difficult to work with. If you find yourself continually training this person on professionalism or communication, you’re weighing yourself down at work and possibly even frustrating other employees.  

With the proper training, someone with baseline soft skills may be able to thrive quickly in their new role. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, some of the most valuable soft skills for employers to look for when recruiting and reviewing new employees include:

● Work ethic

● Enthusiasm

● Communication

● Networking 

● Teamwork

● Problem-solving 

If you hire an employee or contractor with five years of experience but then discover they have no problem-solving skills, you’ll find yourself answering many more questions and doing significantly more training.

If there’s a disconnect around the applicant’s experience, consider that someone with a strong work ethic may be able to overcome the gap in a matter of weeks or months. Your investment in them may pay off with employee loyalty when you spot their talent and work with them to hone it. Ask what the person perceives as their most vital soft skills to get insight into how this rounds out your office talent. 

Right now, it’s more of an employee’s market than it’s been in decades. Consider what you can do to showcase your law firm as a great workplace. It can mean not cutting people out of the process before you’ve genuinely given them a chance. 


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