LFMM 040: How to Hire the Best Administrative Assistant Ever
In this episode of the Law Firm Marketing Mastery Podcast I talk about how to hire the best administrative assistant for your law firm.
One of the things I’ll mention on this podcast and on this blog from time to time is how much I appreciate the work of my administrative assistant, Kate. She is a jack of all trades, answering phones, filing documents, performing marketing tasks, providing customer service, doing sales, and much much more.
Sadly, Kate is leaving the firm. She’s pursuing a goal her and her boyfriend have of opening their own business, and they are moving away from Seattle to do that.
Like I say in the podcast, though, I’m sad and happy at the same time. I’m sad because I’m losing a great person from my firm. But I’m happy because one of the reasons I hired her is because of her ambition, drive, and spirit. I knew she’d leave at some point – that’s one of the things that I like about her.
In any event, my loss is your gain, because today’s podcast is all about how I hire the perfect administrative assistant for my law firm. No, this isn’t necessarily law firm marketing related. At least, it’s not specifically about getting new business for your law firm, though I can tell you if you hire the wrong person for this position it will cost you a lot of money (and if you hire the right one, it can increase the value of your firm exponentially).
Enough chit-chat. Let’s get to it.
In this session you’ll find out about:
- My 7 step process for hiring a great administrative assistant;
- How to cut off the worst 15% of candidates with no work on your part;
- The most critical action you can take when hiring someone; and
- much much more!
Items Mentioned in this podcast include:
My Law Firm Receptionist/Paralegal Job Description
As promised, here’s the exact job description I posted for the open position at my firm:
We are a small Seattle DUI, criminal, and traffic ticket law firm. We are looking for a full time receptionist/legal assistant to join our team. This person must be able to start by September 16, 2013.
The primary duties of this position are what you might expect in a legal assistant/receptionist position. You will be the first point of contact for the firm and will be responsible for greeting everyone that comes into the office. Likeability is important. Additionally, you will be asked to do administrative work, including faxing court documents, creating court documents, managing the calendars of the attorneys, processing mail, running errands, etc.
No legal experience is required. We will teach you everything you need to know. What is required is a good attitude, a strong work ethic, a desire for self-improvement, the ability to solve problems, the ability to follow directions, and a team first attitude. Experience in sales is a plus, as is a college degree. We also have a firm mascot, Piper, a yellow lab, so an affinity for dogs is a must.
To get this job you’ll need several skills: familiarity with microsoft office; familiarity with gmail; ability to type 50+ words per minute; and the ability to meet deadlines and keep detailed schedules.
Pay is dependent on experience. The opportunity for growth within the firm is great.
If you are interested in this position, please email a cover letter and resume by replying to this ad. The subject line of the email should say “I want this job!” The cover letter should be no more than 1 page and should, at least, answer the following questions: (1) what about this position appeals to you; and (2) what is your favorite book.
Feel free to use it for your own employee search.
Round Two Example Problems
The people that make it round 1 don’t just automatically get an interview. First they have to pass round 2. Round 2 involved two things. First, they had to edit a document I sent them. Second, they had to tell me what they’d do in two scenarios.
Below are those two scenarios.
A firm client calls the office with a complaint. They are upset because they have to pay for the fine for their ticket, which we got reduced (this is a good thing). They thought we would pay for the fine, even though our fee agreement is clear that we are not responsible for the fine. How would you handle this situation?
I call you from court. It’s 10:00 a.m. I’m due in another court at 10:15 a.m. and there is no way I can make it. How would you resolve that problem?
My Interview Questions
Finally, I’ll give you my interview questions. And, as an added bonus, I’ll give you a short explanation of why I ask each question (you’re a lawyer, you don’t ask any superfluous questions, right?!).
- Read your resume, give me a two minute bio – personally and professionally.
This is just an easy way to kick off the interview and get to know a little bit about the person you’re talking to “off resume.” I always like to know where people are from and how they got to where they are.
- What do you know about us?
What I’m looking for here is if they care enough about the job to check us out beforehand. I want someone that’s not just excited about getting a job – I want someone that’s excited about working with us. Additionally, the demonstration of doing more than the bare minimum is a good thing.
- Why are you out looking for a new job?
I want to know why they are leaving their current job or why they currently don’t have a job. This is a great opportunity to follow up with a question about the things they liked and didn’t like about their old job.
- What are you looking for? What’s your dream job?
I want people with big goals, with dreams. That’s why I ask this. If someone’s dream job is to be my assistant, I’m not sure that’s the person I want for the job.
- Curveball – if partner/boyfriend/significant other was asked what the one thing was about you that drives them crazy, what would they say?
This is an easy way to find out about their personality quirks. And it’s the type of question that usually elicits an honest answer – no one wants to say something someone close to them wouldn’t actually say.
- Experience – pick something out on resume
- What did you do in this role? Context/results?
- What problems did you face?
- How did you solve them?
This is your typical show me your problem solving skills question. For most, this will also involve some sort of personal conflict, either with a customer or a coworker, and hearing how they dealt with that is helpful.
- Goals for this year.
Again, I want people on my team that are working to be better. I’ll usually follow that up by asking if they have any new year’s resolutions to spark something.
- Five years.
Same reason as the last question.
- What would you do in first 90 days to get up to speed?
- If had 6 months to live what would you do?
I don’t just want someone on my team that will do the job. I want someone that shares some of the same personality traits of the rest of us (i.e. I want them to be able to fit in with us). This question usually gets people talking about things outside of work and shows me a little bit about who they are.
- Why you over other well qualified candidates?
This is a tough question because the candidates don’t know each other. All I’m really looking for here is some enthusiasm for the job. And, if they give an awesome answer, all the better.
That’s it. Again, use this stuff if you want. And think about the things you want to know about your candidates and structure your questions accordingly.
Questions for Checking References
The last step before hiring is checking the references of your candidates. In the podcast I mentioned several questions I ask references. Here they are:
- What are the best qualities about this person?
- What are the worst qualities about this person (or what is one thing they need to work on)?
- If the opportunity arose again, would you hire this person to work for you? Why?
- What’s the most important thing about this person that you think I should know?
References will often give you the best insight into your candidate, so don’t skip this step just because you have to talk on the phone to someone.
The Coffee Challenge
Your coffee challenge for the week? Simple – give away your favorite book and ask the person to read it and report back to you.
That’s it. Report what happens and your thoughts in the comments below.
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