The value of a quality staff member is often understated. Reducing turnover and hiring quality personnel will give you time to focus on developing your business, improving your processes, and other tasks that have more value.

If you are having difficulty hiring or retaining quality staff members for your firm, reevaluate your hiring process and the criteria on which you are basing your decisions.

Looking Past the Resume

The information on an applicant’s resume is not always as important as how well they will fit into your firm. More important than education and experience is what you can tell about the person by their past and how they will respond to challenges, come up with innovative solutions to problems, and learn how to become more proficient at their job. Not looking beyond what is written on paper could cost you a high quality prospect.

Rather than looking only at a candidate’s experience and history, try to identify some of the following qualities throughout their resume or an in person interview:

  • Positive mindset. Attitude reveals a lot about the quality of a person and their ability to tackle challenges, to ask for help when needed, and to improve. Does your candidate show a willingness to learn, a positive outlook on life, and the ability to take constructive criticism? How willing will they be to admit and learn from mistakes?
  • Perseverance. In order to limit turnover, you want to bring on employees with little to no “quit” in them. The ideal candidate will see the value in meeting goals and will not be likely to give up when meeting resistance. They will see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than reasons to give up.
  • Passion. There is little use in bringing new hires on board who do not share the same passion for what you do. If your new hire is passionate about the work they do, the position will not feel like a job, which will be reflected in the quality of their work.
  • Accountability. While many people try to hide errors from employers, there is great value in those who will live up to their mistakes and hold themselves accountable.
  • Ambition and drive. The desire for constant self-improvement is an important quality in any new hire, especially those who must receive training for their positions. Ideal employees do not just do what you tell them to. They find ways to increase their value to your organization by improving their work and exceeding expectations.
  • Aptitude. How well do you think your new hire would handle rejection? Could they follow your process, build rapport with others, and adapt when necessary? A prospect’s aptitude is much more valuable than their prior experience.

Using Internships to Vet Potential Employees

If you are having trouble bringing on new hires or retaining employees, consider hiring interns. This allows you to identify the qualities listed above in your interns so you can make job offers to the ones that exhibit the qualities you are looking for. Interns are also able to handle menial tasks.

However, an intern is still a student. If they are not a paid member of your staff, you will not be able to bill for the hours your intern spends on tasks. If possible, pay your interns so you have more control over the work they do while maintaining the right to bill clients for the hours they contribute.

Always Consider Long Term Potential

Before you bring on a new employee, assess whether the hire is going to last. You cannot find this information in a resume or in a long list of qualifications. Attorneys with incredible resumes and qualifications may lack the character qualities to contribute to the firm long-term. On the other hand, I have a paralegal who has been with me for over seven years. I could not tell you a thing about her past experience or where she went to school. What I do know is that she is driven, accountable, and passionate about what she does, and has the attitude I want in my employees.

Whether you are considering hiring from within or bringing in fresh blood, character qualities will reveal more about your potential hires. Next time you interview a candidate, ask questions that are likely to reveal whether they possess the character you are looking for. Here are some examples of questions that might reveal the character you desire in an employee.

  • Tell me about one of your greatest failures and what you learned from it. This question will reveal qualities such as humility, perseverance, and a positive attitude. Or, it can tell you the candidate could crack under pressure or quit when the going gets tough.
  • How did you become interested in (insert your firm’s practice area)? The response you receive to this question may reveal just how much passion your candidate has for the job. When your staff love what they do, they will perform much better.
  • What is one of your greatest accomplishments? It is okay to let your candidates express pride in past accomplishments. This will reveal how they address and overcome challenges.

Pay attention to the questions your potential hire asks as well. Their questions will reveal their ambition and character qualities. If a potential new hire has very few questions to ask about your firm or the position, it may reveal a lack of interest or passion and indicate the need to move onto the next candidate.

Finding the perfect fit for your firm takes patience. Do not be too quick to jump on the first candidate that appears to meet your criteria. By doing so, you may be overlooking that diamond in the rough you have been looking for. That said, never be afraid to take a shot on a candidate that shows all the character qualities you are looking for but lacks a wealth of experience. As long they are willing to learn, and passionate about the job, you can be sure the experience will follow in time.

Featured image: “Retro image of male hand holding words” from Shutterstock.

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