As featured in Attorney at Work on July 17, 2019
A checklist to use before your search begins.
Sooner or later, all firms find themselves asking whether they should hire a marketing or business development professional — closely followed by “how” to hire and whom.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the five factors that signal your firm and partners are ready to hire someone. Typically, it’s the realization that the firm’s growth has stalled and the current working model actually hinders growth.
Now let’s talk about how to find that professional.
How Do You Identify the Right Person? Three Elements.
Experience has taught me that no single criterion will determine the “right” match, but common patterns often emerge. Over time, I’ve developed a framework based on what I know law firms value. Here are three key elements.
1. Organizational Cultural Fit
It’s always essential to test technical expertise. But organizational and cultural fit is more important. At its core, cultural fit is about ensuring all of your professionals share the values your firm and leadership have established. Put simply, it’s “the way things get done around here.” For some firms, that means hiring entrepreneurial professionals in an environment that encourages creativity and risk-taking. For some, it means hiring professionals who thrive on competition in a driven and hierarchical environment. Each firm is different, so each hire will be different.
Cultural fit is hard to incorporate into a formal interview. To properly consider whether the values of the candidate match those of your firm, create situations where the candidate is more relaxed and make sure the person conducting the interview is armed with the right questions.
People choose to stay at firms because of the cultural fit and the right leadership at the top. Technical knowledge is simpler to identify, and gaps are more quickly resolved through training.
How senior and involved in the business will this professional be? There are four levels for the professional you’ll consider hiring.
3. Recruiting Strategy
You may not realize it, but your recruiting strategy affects your firm’s reputation and how the industry responds when you’re searching. Think about how long it should take to run a search, who should be involved in the process, and how people will engage with the candidates along the journey.
Marketing and business development professionals do have the reputation of typically changing jobs frequently. Senior marketing and BD folks will seek out roles with more authority, empowerment and strategy. For mid-level professionals, what’s important to them when they move relates more to the culture, firm leadership and a firm’s tendency to promote from within, as well as title advancement. For juniors, it’s typically all about promotion and work-life integration.
Against this backdrop, we’re experiencing extreme competition in the legal profession and a 50-year-low unemployment rate. Handling your first search well and hiring correctly will help you avoid headaches and preserve your reputation as a well-run and progressive firm.
Specialist knowledge, professionalism, transparency, proactiveness, deadline-driven; these things are, in my experience, critical to a successful search. Failed searches have at least one and often most of these elements missing from a sound recruiting strategy.
It is a challenge to make the decision to hire and then find the right marketing or BD professional for your firm. Before you hire, consider this checklist:
And remember, this is a defining, exciting and precedent-setting time for your firm. Getting it right is far more important than quickly checking it off your list.
Have you ever written a marketing or business development job description (JD)? If you are a hiring manager for business development and marketing roles, then the answer to this question should indeed be ‘yes’.
Now ask yourself: Is your JD an effective marketing tool? One that communicates with impact and is on-brand? If not, it’s a missed opportunity. I outline some do’s and don’ts to help you answer ‘yes’ again.
Some bold ideas:
Best practice recruiting involves two things: a sound strategy, and good execution of that strategy.
Earlier this year I outlined an approach to ensure best practices are applied when recruiting the interpersonal roles of professional services marketing and BD people. I now share some key factors to help implement that approach.
Recap on strategy
By way of a quick cap, an effective best practice recruiting approach to attract the right marketing and BD professionals includes:
Here are some ways you can ensure effective execution of this approach. Keep in mind that all of these require only minimal planning, and will ensure a seamless, sophisticated and thorough interview meeting process for all involved:
Interview meetings, and the whole process of conducting these meetings, is not easily done. There’s planning, logistics and effective execution to all happen at the right time. But importantly, you, at your firms, have to judge a candidate and make a call about whether they are right for you while they are doing the same in return. If you follow this approach and execute effectively, this hard decision does become a little easier. Make it as easy as you can: arm yourself with the right information and plan accordingly, involve the right people, and ask the right questions. You will then feel fully informed to make the right decision.
Resumes are highly individualized documents that share the highlights of your professional career to date. They should be brief and concise, be a chronological account of your different roles, and be written in your voice.
I see a lot of resumes given what I do. And I love reading each and every one, as every person is different and tells their story in their own way. Sometimes, sadly, they say “I’m not a good candidate”.
They are not necessarily easy documents to write. But, there are some common mistakes I see all the time which I feel can be easily rectified with minimal effort.
What should your resume actually say?
Your resume should say only the following:
Triple-check. You might be surprised to hear that most resumes I read contain some sort of error. Many people have looked at it 20 times and are unable to see the mistakes. When I can point these out prior to representing you to a firm, it is fine, as you get a chance to fix them. But when you’re submitting your resume directly to a firm, they notice this and will likely not move forward because of a perceived lack of attention to detail. My advice: read your resume out loud, or, read it while pretending that you’re reading someone else’s document with the intention of looking for errors.
Style versus substance. If you’re going to seek feedback on your resume, ask only for their substantive comments. Its really important your style and voice stays in the document. And many people make the mistake of correcting on style only (because substance involves a higher knowledge base).
Brevity. Be brief and concise. A resume is not a place to list everything and hope something resonates. It is a summarized version of your professional self that is tailored exactly to the role you are applying for. (The interview is the place to elaborate and hand pick great stories to show your experience.)
Best practice recruiting involves two things: a sound strategy and good execution of that strategy.
Applying recruiting best practices to the interpersonal roles of marketing and BD has never been more important. Rarely are personal attributes - from one’s style, approach and energy - as on display as they are in these roles. Marketing and BD roles are influential and highly visible, as they deal with many people each and every day. Getting someone who can have a positive interaction with each person at every turn is essential.
Many firms struggle to find the right people. A best practice helps to professionally and purposefully recruit the right marketing and BD people for your team and your firm.
This blog focuses on the first part of that best practice, namely, the strategy or plan. In a follow up blog, I will discuss how to effectively execute on that plan.
Part 1: An effective strategy
Use the above six-point strategy when you next need to hire. And then compare it with your old method to see where you noticed the value. Adding the right people to your team and to the future of your firm is the most important thing you can do. Commit to the strategy and have confidence that it yields the best results.
Unequal pay between men and women exists: it’s been widely reported that women earn around 80% of what men earn.
One issue contributing to this is a lagging effect. Offers that are based on what salaries are currently being paid, which for women can be around 20% less than men, perpetuates the status quo. Numerous states, cities and counties in the US are trying to address this issue by enacting new laws and regulations to address what questions employers can ask around salary and salary history. By doing this, the hope is that people are offered salaries that accurately reflect their experience and skill set in their market.
This affects professional services firms because as laws have changed, and are still scheduled to change, this will affect the hiring practices within firms, written or otherwise. These new laws prohibit hiring practices which ask a potential candidate about their salary or salary history.
Firms would be prudent to take a stand on this issue early. First, to get ahead of compliance, and secondly, to impress potential candidates through their proactivity to be on the right side of these discussions.
We are having many conversations with firms on this topic to help ensure both compliance and best practice going forward.
Current status on law’s affecting the question of ‘how much did you make last year’
Some states, cities and counties have specifically banned questions on ‘how much did you make last year’. Here is a list in order of the date the bans or prohibitions were enacted:
Bans or prohibitions not affecting the private sector
Other states and cities have some form of salary history ban, but as of yet they do not affect employees in the private sector:
As an employer located in a banned state or city, what is prohibited
Some employers have argued that a candidate’s current salary is an indicator of their market worth. Other employers feel ill-informed without a current salary read because they use that salary as an indicator when offering a new salary for the role they’re recruiting for. But these new laws prohibit that exact practice, as it perpetuates the gender pay gap (and other discriminatory practices). Experienced HR professionals and search professionals will already know good salary ranges for the role they are recruiting for. If employers don’t know this, that’s an area where search professionals can show their value.
A salary is rarely an indicator of worth. Salaries are more often than not a reflection of the prior employer’s pay policies and attitudes relating to their employees. And employers can have outdated or behind-market salary ranges that they try to retroactively apply, particularly if they haven’t gone to market for some time. And, as we’re seeing, one effect of this is that it can disadvantage some women and other groups in the workforce.
On the candidate side, they are often reluctant to reveal their salaries. It is highly sensitive and personal information that – if they don’t have a rapport with the firm or recruiter they’re working with – they don’t yet know or trust what is to happen with that information. Whilst recruiters and HR professionals might be used to dealing with salary information on a daily basis, it shouldn’t be lost on them as to how candidates can feel about talking about salary generally.
Going forward, firms need to develop better and different strategies for finding the right candidates for the right roles, and in turn paying them the right package.
Firms can use interviewing techniques or specific-issue reference checking to test a candidate’s experience, skill set, knowledge and individual value. These methods don’t rely on salary and therefore don’t go up against these now prohibited questions on salary. High value search and recruiting partners differentiate themselves by using these techniques, and don’t rely on prior salary as a short-cut.
Firms should ask questions around salary expectation. Firms should know, either through their experienced HR professionals or their search and recruiting partners, whether those expectations are realistic. (If they’re not, that is a different conversation.) If a candidate’s salary expectation does not align with a salary range for a role at a firm, then that role the candidate and firm are discussing together is not going to be the right fit for both at that time. And that discussion is fine to have. But a firm can’t use salary history or data to formulate an offer.
A national firm would be wise to have only one policy across their firm which deals with their hiring policies to comply with the salary ban laws, as these new laws are simply the first of many. Savvy firms should draft a policy based on the strictest interpretation, and apply that across all offices to avoid a complicated state-by-state approach down the road. Taking a fair and modern approach will become a selling point for your firm. Your clients, your employees and your potential employees should know about this.
Where does your firm stand on this greater issue
These new laws go to the heart of a very important discussion in our society. This affects both women and men.
Your firm leadership should establish where they stand on this issue on principle, and beyond that which is currently required by law. Your clients, your employees, and potential employees, will all appreciate you being prudent and aligning yourself on the right side of the discussion.
Enjoy the discussions. We are in exciting times.
(NOTE: This article is not to be taken as legal advice. The author is not a practicing attorney, nor does the author purport to be. For any legal question or issue related to these topics in your state or city, you should seek advice from a practicing attorney.)
Kate Harry Shipham is the Principal of KHS People LLC, a search firm for BD, marketing and sales professionals in law, accounting, engineering and architecture firms. Kate has done search and recruiting for eight years, and prior to that was an attorney. She loves what she does, and is always open to continuing the discussion: firstname.lastname@example.org