Tech Tools: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
By Martha Fay Africa
HOW WELL DO technology tools work in the recruiting process? Some headhunters express some real reservations about its effectiveness for either candidates or hiring law firms and legal departments -- because of misuse, abuse, time and access issues. But others acknowledge how technology has helped the recruiting process, and in some cases, even "leveled the playing field," and helped reduce bias in hiring.
Here's what some of my colleagues at Major, Hagen & Africa see as the best and worst in recruiting technology:
More resumes are being sent to us by candidates -- and from us to employers -- via e-mail. This makes processing easier (no scanning or filing of paper) and helps us forward candidate resumes more easily and faster to decision makers in the firm or corporation. No more fuzzy faxes either.
-- Anna Tsirulik, New York
Web site hyperbole! Candidates can be misled by the tremendous amount of information available on law firm Web sites. Each firm claims to have done more work in X area than their competitors, to have more expertise available at a moment's notice (without documenting the claim) than others. Candidates get confused. It often takes an industry insider (yes, a headhunter is one such source) to differentiate between claims that represent a law firm's attempt to market itself, rather than to record actual expertise.
-- Frank D'Amore, Philadelphia
Good Tech/Bad Tech:
Busy partners who want to explore the job market, but who don't want to take the time to re-do their resume, often refer us to bios on their current firm's Web site. If the bios are up-to-date and well-constructed, that's a big plus.
Then, when a potential employer wants to talk with them, all the lawyer needs to do is show up for the meeting.
The downside is that unscrupulous headhunters also can access the Web resume and pretend to represent the partner without having been authorized to do so.
-- Janet Markoff New York
Many clients laud the increased speed and efficiency brought on by the use of e-mail as a recruiting conduit. It's a win-win for everybody: Firm recruiters can respond more rapidly to candidates they are not interested in, and can circulate "hot" resumes instantly to a wider number of decision makers within the firm.
-- Martha Fay Africa San Francisco/Palo Alto
Unauthorized headhunters represent themselves as being able to submit candidates to an employer, based solely on having seen a job listing on a firm Web site. They solicit "choice" resumes and submit them to the employer in the hope that the employer will begin to accept resumes from them, in addition to the search firms already being used. Meanwhile, the candidate assumes they are in play for a position and loses out because the employer will not accept resumes from unauthorized search firms. Happens more than you might think!
--Catherine Butts, Atlanta
One of our employers relocated to an area that was relatively inaccessible to many of their lawyers and staff. Realizing that so much of corporate communication is done by phone, fax, or e-mail, and with fast broadband connections available, the firm concluded that it made little or no difference, for the most part, where its lawyers were located. Faced with losing valued employees, and/or a difficult time recruiting, the employer offered telecommuting and reports good results.
--Miriam Frank, Chicago
One employer has started using a new "paperless" recruiting system, which is not perfect, but is recognized as saving lawyer and staff time. The software helps decision makers check files online and speeds up the review process.
The hitch: Some of the senior attorneys aren't buying into the project, and still insist on paper resumes and evaluation forms. Because they must be included, their resistance slows down the system.
Los Angeles/San Diego
Not There Yet Tech:
One corporate employer advertises open lawyer positions on its Web site with limited success.
Why? They surmise that the candidates they really want to hire do not have the time (or possibly the interest) to surf various corporate Web sites.
The employer finds it frustrating to spend senior attorney time pouring over resumes from unqualified candidates -- time that could be better spent addressing in-house client needs.
The Web makes it easier for our client to attract resumes, but if they are not the right ones, is that a good thing?
--Bob Graff, Atlanta
Here's a recent scenario that illustrates good tech:
A husband gets a great job offer in the Southwest, and his wife, a star sixth-year associate in a major multi-national law firm, thinks her career will be dead when she moves with him.
But instead, her employer agrees to let her to telecommute and try out the new city, while preserving her "space" in the firm.
She now visits the home office at least once a month, and not only is she still on partnership track, but the telecommuting experience has increased her firm's appreciation of her value.
--David Sewell, Houston
With employers and candidates located literally all over Southeast Asia, in-person contact is rare.
E-mail obliterates the barriers imposed by time zones, accents and distance, to level the playing field for distant candidates and to enable employers a wider pool to choose from than in pre-tech days.
--Melinda Wallman, Hong Kong