Admittedly the vast majority of my experience has been limited to working with small law firms (typically under six attys). As you may expect, hardly any of my clients have the resources to conduct the kind of rigorous testing on new hires that the big law firms do.
And arguably, it is the small firms that have the most riding on a good hire b/c there’s no-where to hide a bad hire within the organization…and no where to hide from the person if your office is only a few thousand square feet. Here’s what I teach my clients. . .
1. At the end of the day, most of what you are going to hire any staff person to do falls into either one of two categories. Things you can teach; and things you cannot teach.
2. For the things you cannot teach, the ONLY thing that matters is attitude. For the things you can teach, the most important thing is attitude. . . unless you get really lucky and the new hire happens to already be trained to do things EXACTLY the way you like, or can settle for.
3. Despite what they say to the contrary, no-one you interview plans to still be working for you in 5 years. Anyone who really does still intend to be working for you in 5 years should probably be disqualified from consideration. People work for their own reasons, not for yours and it’s a mistake to think you can figure-out their real motivations. So much easier to simply let them know that you know, so they know that you know they probably don’t expect to be working there in 5 years. Find out what their real ambitions are and try to figure-out if you can make the job one which helps them get there.
4. Trust your gut. But don’t just trust an un-trained gut. I highly recommend Gavin DeBecker’s "The Gift of Fear". It has nothing to do with hiring or law firm management, and everything to do with learning how to trust you gut. While you are at it, you may as well buy a dozen copies because as soon as you’re done you WILL go back for more to give to everyone you know!
5. Invest the time to document procedures for how you want tasks accomplished. Then train to the documentation & evaluate to determine if there are flaws with the documentation or the person who either cannot or will not follow instructions. The best hires will follow instructions and know intuitively that the most appropriate time to suggest improvements is not crunch time, but sometimes people in new jobs get nervous & try too hard to impress, so just tell them this fact ahead of time.
Hope this helps,