Insight into Hiring Right – A Headhunter’s Perspective

Written by Jennifer Evans, Executive Legal Recruiter


Early on in my career, I was introduced to the teachings of Lou Alder; he is best known as the “Original Headhunter”. His insights on how to attract and evaluate talented professionals are valuable tools that I have incorporated into my recruiting practice.   With today’s challenges in finding quality hires, I thought I would take a moment to share.

1)      Performance Based Job Descriptions –The majority of legal job descriptions today still focus on desired skills and are limited in focus related to job performance. Lou’s stance is that when evaluating the success of an employee, the focus is on his work performance; therefore, when recruiting for a new hire, shouldn’t the focus also start here?  

Granted a legal professional must have the skills & experience to do the job, but by taking it a step further and asking –“At a 90-day review, what performance objectives would I like this new hire to have met?”  A hiring manager is forced to focus on what someone needs to do to be successful, not just what skills he needs to have.

“…focus on what people need to do, not what they need to have.” (Lou Alder)

 2)      Do not make any judgment calls for the first 30 minutes –This was a huge learning lesson for me! Early in my career, I would fall in love with a new candidate based on their résumé and their personality. Unfortunately, this caused me to make critical hiring mistakes. After incorporating this tip into my recruiting practice, I was able to improve my selection process.  I now focus more on accomplishments, past performance, behavioral based questions and drilling down to uncover what truly motivates an individual.

3)      Hire individuals that are MOTIVATED by their work– In legal hiring, it is required to focus on an individual’s years of experience in a specific area of law. However, I am a strong believer that where the true legal talent can be found is not just in finding individuals with the desired experience, but also in finding individuals that are personally motivated by the work & environment. 

Yes, even when recruiting for a Tax Attorney – Understanding individual motivators is still central to the screening process.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of 
The Adler Group — a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring(sm). Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author for the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, “Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Hire Top Talent (2007).”