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Summary: Did you just have a law firm interview and now the law firm has gone silent on you? Find out why in this article.
Question: I received a first round interview request and thought the interview went really well, but my recruiter and I have not heard anything from the firm since. What’s going on here?
Answer: This is, unfortunately, an extremely common phenomenon in the world of lateral hiring and recruiting, one that frustrates both recruiters and candidates. Unless the firm’s recruiting coordinator is extremely candid, it is mostly just a guessing game to figure out the reason for the delay at the time it is happening, but the following are the most common “behind-the-scenes” reasons for radio silence in the middle of an interview process:
1 – The firm is interviewing multiple candidates. This is generally the most frequent reason for a delay in a response between the initial interview request and either a request for a second round interview or a rejection. Many firms will let us know they are interviewing multiple candidates in the first round for a given position, and will sometimes provide a time frame for when they expect the first round of interviews to conclude so as to manage expectations on the candidate side. But often times there will simply be silence – the firm may be pursuing another candidate more actively, hoping to make an offer that will be accepted, but wants to keep the other “good” candidates available if possible on the chance that the preferred candidate does not work out. This can take anywhere from a week to a couple months, depending on the firm and their process, and is usually the reason why a firm that was otherwise very keen on a candidate suddenly goes quiet.
This is understandably frustrating, but it is just part of the lateral hiring game. If you had a good first round interview but have not heard word one way or another, it is good to be persistent in following up with the firm until you get an answer, along with offers of additional information or other updates. The most helpful thing to do is to continue your job search in the hopes of getting an interview process going with another firm, or multiple other firms. Once you are also interviewing elsewhere, firms that have otherwise been silent and/or putting your process on the back burner while pursuing another candidate can be motivated to move the process along and give you an answer more quickly. This is one reason I always encourage my candidates to apply to a larger number of firms – having more interviews and potential lateral options strengthens your position as a candidate. Not to mention I have worked with countless candidates who were pleasantly surprised with firms they had not initially considered. Many even ending up at firms they were initially wanting to reject outright.
2 – The work in the practice group doing the hiring slowed down. The primary reason firms look to hire laterals is that they have clients who need legal services above what the firm is currently staffed to provide. If there is enough overflow work and a firm is understaffed, they are leaving lots of immediate money on the table, and running the risk that the client might take their business to another firm more equipped to handle their full range of legal matters. A firm might begin a hiring process, only to have a deal fall through, or a case settle, or a client depart (or a partner depart and take multiple clients with them), which results in going from an overflow of business to a lack of business. While this does not happen all that frequently, it does happen, and can shift things from a positive and promising interview process to a rejection based on business needs.
3 – A firm has enough work to hire an associate, but a limited hiring budget where multiple partners are competing to justify a lateral hire. Some partners are fairly aggressive in asking firm management for additional hires for their office and practice group. Others are less so. There are instances where partners will initiate a lateral hiring search before they have the final approval from the office or firm-wide management to actually make a hire, because they figure that if they find a stellar candidate, it will make the argument to justify spending some of the firm’s hiring budget easier.
We almost always try to determine which partner or partners are leading the charge for a given job listing or search, and the reasons behind the search (overflow of business, anticipating growth in a particular sector or practice area, etc.). This helps us not only find more suitable candidates, but also helps us set expectations. Especially at the level where candidates may have a book of business that is respectable but not self-sustaining or even rain-making, firms will frequently interview these candidates on an informational or prospective basis, and then make a business decision based on both current work needs as well as how the candidate generally fits within the firm’s longer-term goals. Asking what is the current reason for hiring a lateral attorney is a question I always encourage my candidates to ask, because it will give them information on whether the firm has a longer or shorter term need, and also can provide clues as to what type of matters the candidate will be staffed on, and who the candidate will be working with in the near term. Knowing a firm’s near- and long-term growth plans for a given office and practice group can be essential in making a smart career move.
4 – The interview actually didn’t go well. This is rarely the case when a firm goes silent – if the firm is going to pass on your candidacy due to a lack of fit, proper experience, etc., the rejection usually comes fairly soon after the initial interview. But sometimes the decision takes longer than expected.
No matter what the reason for a delay, candidates and their recruiters should continue to pursue their job search with other firms aggressively, and also persistently follow up with firms where they have already interviewed and are awaiting a decision. Persistence is key in most things in life, and your job search is no exception.