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The first thing you should consider is the responsibilities you intend to give the prospective employee and the skills you require for the position. Whether the employee is a law clerk, associate or paralegal, think about those qualifications that the job candidate must have, including those that are very important, and those that are not so important. Make sure the position will cover the variety of work you expect. If you already have staff and are adding on, consider whether your present staff is assigned properly, or whether they can be moved around to be more productive. Establish a job description which explains what the duties of the position will be. In this way, the applicant will understand exactly what his or her role is and what will be expected of them.

The job description should include certain things:

  • Qualification requirements
  • Minimum education and experience;
  • Licenses/certifications required;
  • Knowledge, skills and abilities required;
  • Reasoning ability;
  • Language ability;
  • Mathematical skills;
  • Work environment;
  • Full or part-time.

“Help Wanted” ads are not the only resource

The immediate thought about where to hire staff runs to the local classified ad or to an employment agency. Although these resources can be rewarding, there are other places to go that may give you faster and better results:

  • Encourage current staff members to mention an opening to their friends;
  • Call job banks of the local paralegal associations, local law schools, depending on the opening available;
  • Advertise in legal publications such as the Law Journal of your local or state bar association;
  • Advertise on line;
  • Network among colleagues and your peers. Ask them for ideas to use when locating applicants for the position you have open.

The Hiring Process

You need to be very careful in your hiring process. To hire someone who looks good on paper and makes a good impression at an interview is not enough. If they turn out to be unqualified, your business could suffer substantially. You could lose clients due to their mistakes and those clients could tell other attorneys about their bad experience with your business. Your reputation could be seriously damaged by a “bad apple” employee.

A) Resumes

If an applicant does not have a resume, do not consider them as a candidate for the position you wish to fill in your business. Not having a resume is not being professional. Even a recent graduate can put something into a resume for you to consider.

Things to consider in reviewing a resume are:

  • Appearance – Neatness, spelling, grammar and overall presentation;
  • Education;
  • Work experience
    1) Licenses/certifications required;
    2) Are there numerous lapses in time between jobs
    3) How often has the applicant changed positions
    4) Are job titles accurate or do they appear to be inflated
    5) Is prior work experience related or helpful to this position
  • Other qualifications:
    1) Community, civic or religious affiliations
    2) Do they have contacts which may be valuable to your company
     3)Professional associations

You should begin your screening process with many candidates. Ideally, you should have ten to twelve applicants who meet your requirement for basic qualifications. The more resumes you start with, the better chance you have of finding the right candidate.

B) First Screening

Begin sorting through resumes as soon as you receive them. Sort them from the weakest potential to the strongest. Don’t take too much time on any one resume. Your first sort should be effective, but this is not a final run. However, it is important that you eliminate the weakest candidates right away.

C) Second Screening

Review the resumes for a second time. Again, quickly sort through the weakest and the strongest, and eliminate the weakest.

D) Calling Candidates

Using the resumes from your second screening, call the candidates and conduct a very brief phone interview to determine whether or not you wish to arrange an in-person interview. Doing this is a time-saver, and can be very effective. You don’t have to tell the candidate how long you wish to speak with them. If you decide within the first few minutes that the person is not suitable for the position you don’t have to set up an appointment to meet them. Get to the point quickly. Confirm with the candidate that what salary you offer is acceptable to him/her. If it isn’t, say good-bye. Don’t waste your time or the candidate’s. Next ask questions that concern the candidate’s qualifications based on the content of the resume.

If this phone interview goes well you may be surprised that you have spent several minutes to an hour on the phone with the candidate. If the phone interview goes very well, set up an appointment for the candidate to meet with you. If the phone interview is alright but you’re not sure, wait until you have finished all of your phone interviews before you make an appointment.

E) Meeting the Candidates

Set aside sufficient time to interview candidates in person. If you have several candidates you wish to interview in person make sure you schedule them to meet with you so that you have sufficient time with them. Take notes during your interview. Pay attention to certain habits, the way the candidate holds himself/herself, etc. Pay attention to the candidates’ language and social skills during the interview. Remember that your staff is a reflection of your business. This does not mean the candidate should win a beauty pageant or a popularity contest. It means that the person should present themselves in a professional manner. At the interview, have the candidate complete your employee application.

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