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How Do Managers Hire the Best Candidate?

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Did you know that according to Gallup, companies hire the wrong candidate about 82 percent of the time? In other words, companies tend to only get the right candidate less than twenty percent for each attempt at filling a vacant seat? You don't have to be a mathematician to know that this is a bad way to do business.

But sadly, the mechanism that results in choosing poor candidates is still the paradigm that most law firms use to hire attorneys. What are some of the things that firms should be doing but are not?

The Gallup Poll

In one of their 2014 polls, Gallup concluded that companies generally failed to latch onto the right person for the job 82 percent of the time, meaning that companies completely dropped the ball by an embarrassing rate. The poll paid particular focus on management seats. In a nutshell, hiring for management talent might have been the primary impetus for filling a very crucial seat, but filling it with the wrong warm body could cost the company major revenue numbers -- and they have.

Analytics, References, Schools

The poll seemed to indicate that a lot of hiring managers fell into the habit of hiring people based on past history -- which is fine, but hiring based on past history should be differentiated from a sense of "they deserve this job." This latter is completely wrong. The real focus ought to be on whether or not someone has what it takes to do a job.

In fact, it gets worse. Since the 2008 sub-prime recession, companies have gone analytics crazy and have augmented (if not supplanted) their hiring departments with machines that scan resumes for the key words that highlight the supposedly ideal candidate. In that case, all you've presumably done is given an interview to the candidate who knows how to game the system.

In law, it's not much better. The legal industry is obsessed with high-brow fraternalism and tends to promote based on the very traits that are inimical to teams and efficiency: nepotism, alumni groups, favors. Actually, in the law, it seems that "knowing the right guy" has even more currency than other industries.

We all know that social capital is not equivalent to talent in a particular field, but this doesn't stop reality from being reality.

The Personal Touch

So what to do? Well, firm managers should make it a point to get nosy about the hiring process. Phil Friedman at Fortune noted that all companies should consider looking beyond what is on a candidate's paper before hiring that person. This is something that many companies today are less inclined to do because doing something like that requires the investment of time, effort, and most importantly, money. It's just far easier to have computer programs sift through the resumes first and to believe that this will eventually lead to the best the market has to offer.

The better strategy is to have a personal stake and investment in looking at a candidate's credentials. This could be as simple as just sitting down and discussing something outside of work. It's a time investment to be sure.

But the payoffs can be enormous. Plus, companies should be aware of the unseen profits to be had just for getting rid of unfit employees. Get personal in the hiring process, because spending more time up front will reduce costs in the future.

FindLaw has an affiliate relationship with Indeed, earning a small amount of money each time someone uses Indeed's services via FindLaw. FindLaw receives no compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

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