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Guide to interviewing a legal locum

by Laura Hayward | 27 March 2019

It is no surprise that the legal locum market is hugely candidate led and many of my client’s continue to struggle to attract and retain highly skilled legal locums. This could largely be down to the way legal locum candidates are handled during their hiring process, from what they are told at interview to the length of the whole process. In this blog, Senior Manager Laura Hayward offers her advice on successfully interviewing a legal locum to ensure you do not lose out at the final hurdle.

Over the past 12 months I have seen a real shift in candidate availability in the legal locum market and it is almost always the case that candidates have 2/3 legal job offers on the table at any one time. As a specialist legal Recruitment Consultant I see this day in day out. I make an offer to a candidate which they then consider alongside their other options, meaning that someone will always be left disappointed and without the legal support they need.

So what can you as the interviewer and decision maker be doing to make sure you secure the candidate that you want during the interview process? Here are some tips based on feedback I often get from candidates which have highlighted some common themes.

Sell the role to every legal locum you meet!

As a legal Recruitment Consultant a large part of my role is selling the position I am recruiting for, making sure I am giving each locum candidate as much information as possible to gain their interest. This may sound obvious but this then needs to be followed through in interview.

I quite often have candidates who are put off the role in interview when a panel member uses words such as ‘dull’ or ‘boring’ when discussing day-to-day duties which understandably puts people off! Speak positively about the legal role you have and think carefully about how the candidate may feel if you speak negatively about the work that they like doing. If you were spoken to about a role in this way would you want it?

Instead you want to excite the candidate at this stage. Highlight the best aspects of the role, gauge the locum’s legal experience and tell them how this would help them fulfil the position and talk about the team they will be working in. These are things every legal locum candidate wants to know, and getting candidates excited at interview stage is vital to attract them to your organisation.

Remember to always sell your organisation to legal locums

Similar to the above, legal candidates always want to know as much as possible about the organisation they are interviewing with so be prepared to give them as much information as possible. You should talk about what career development opportunities there are, what high value work they might get to deal with, as well as any big projects that may be on the horizon. You should also think about what else might entice the legal candidate and what the benefits of working for your organisation are.

A prospective candidate wants to know that they will fit into your organisation and that they will enjoy themselves. There is so much to consider when it comes to setting yourself apart that it is really worth taking the time to understand and communicate the benefits to the interviewee as part of the meeting. These are all things that candidates care about, and if you can show that you are offering more than your competition, you are much more likely to secure the top legal locums on the market.

As the interviewer, sell yourself to legal locums

To me this is the most important element - if the legal locum does not feel that there is any sort of ‘connection’ with their prospective line manager it is unlikely that they will pick that organisation if they have several offers to consider at once. A big part of the decision making process is around personalities – did you establish anything in common in the interview? Were you professional and personable? Did you try and get to know them, whilst also discussing their experience and assessing their technical competence?

If you do not build up rapport from the offset, it is likely the candidate will leave the interview feeling that they may not fit in. This is something you cannot afford to happen as it would likely result in them accepting a rival offer from another legal team.

I think that the above three points seem obvious, however these are the most common elements of a candidate’s decision making process. Yes, candidates have requirements around hourly rates, working from home arrangements, days per week amongst other things, however when faced with a couple of offers it often comes down to the how the interview went, what the potential is within the role and organisation, and the initial thoughts around their prospective line manager. 

An interview needs to be considered two ways; it is not simply an organisation assessing whether a candidate is the right fit, it is also the candidate assessing whether the organisation is the right fit for them. An interview is a two way process and it is really worth taking a moment to consider how you conduct your interviews, what information you pass on, and what impression you make. If you can reflect and adjust these things it may greatly assist you in securing the candidate that you want each and every time!

We have a wealth of experience helping legal teams with their interview process and also attracting the very best legal locums. If you think that you may need some help, or are struggling to attract top legal talent to your team, get in touch with me today.

Alternatively, you can check out our employer resources section for even more help on attracting and retaining the best legal candidates to your team.