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By Regina Olbinsky, Practice Advisor

In a recent Dilbert comic strip, the secretary greets a visitor by announcing that his name, Tom Jackson, is not on her boss’ calendar. She does have a “Gom Axfon, Fob Meterfon, and Dabe Aggams.” Instead of acknowledging that perhaps she made a mistake in what she heard and taking responsibility, she blames the guest and calls security to escort him away. To further illustrate just how wrong she is in her role, her response to her inquiring boss is to chastise him. What kind of impression – and a first impression, no less – does she give customers / guests? Not one which I would want – nor you, I imagine.

Ensuring that you have the right people in place is the most important thing you can do as a manager and a business owner – and that is exactly what your roles are. But knowing how to identify that talent, ask the right questions, and make the right decisions is one of the most difficult things to do. That employee’s role, whether a receptionist, paralegal, or staff attorney, does not differentiate the importance or the challenge of the assignment. And simply because the economy is down and more “talent” is available does not make it easier. Understanding at which level to hire, the competencies required to succeed, the right places to look, the right questions to ask, and the best tools to use in the assessment takes the guesswork and the “gut” out of the equation, making the decision a logical one.

Any time you have a vacancy, or there are bottlenecks in the system of moving files through, which require the addition of staff, you must assess (or reassess) the right level / position to fill. Once that is determined, the next step is to compile a list of competencies that ensure success in that particular role, i.e. Accuracy, Attention to Detail, Analytical Skills, Oral and Written Communication Skills, Typing Speed, Presentation Skills, etc. (If you have already completed a “job analysis” for all the positions in your firm, this list should already exist.) For each competency, you should have:

  • List of behavioral questions (and multiple interviewers delivering them) – which measure past performance,
  • Situational assessments (typing test, grammar test, writing exercise, etc.) – which measure proficiency level, and
  • Behavioral assessments (such as DISC or OMNIA ) – which measure style.

All these in tandem provide a rich and robust picture of each candidate and give you the answer on who fits best in the role you seek to fill. And that “fit” is a combination of skills, experiences, education, motivations, drive, philosophies, and values of the candidate as a measure against the requirements, values, mission, and culture of the firm.

Once these tasks are completed, you will be better prepared to make a decision from a pool of applicants, but more importantly, make a smart, well informed and right decision of who is best for that role and for your firm. Once the decision is made, don’t forget to check professional references – asking similar, behavior-based questions as you did of the candidate – to get a better perspective of this person in a former setting.

But your job is still not done. To ensure your selected candidate’s success, you must also offer a comprehensive orientation where firm mechanics and processes as well as performance expectations are clearly outlined; training is consistently offered and delivered; and coaching, open communication, and ongoing performance management is practiced on a regular basis.

Atticus, Inc.

This article was written by an Atticus staff member.

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