Law Firms: The questions to ask an international candidate

Law firms - Questions to ask an international candidate

Virgin Gorda in BVI

Perhaps the biggest challenge for those of us involved in international recruitment is how to gauge whether an applicant is serious about making the move. Will they go through with it when an offer is put in front of them? Get this wrong and we can find ourselves back to square one just when we thought we had cracked it!

It's not an exact science of course, and in some cases, even the person concerned might have felt thoroughly committed until the moment it comes to signing on the dotted line, but we have become pretty good at spotting the warning signs. Below are a few of the methods we use.

WHY DO THEY WANT TO MOVE OVERSEAS?

Stage one, for us, is to establish the answers to ‘why’ they are considering this move.

  • “Tell me about the thought process you have been through to decide on an overseas move”.
  • “What does your family think about the move?”
  • “Are you looking at opportunities closer to home?”

We’re hoping to get the sense that the person has indeed thought about it and discussed it with their family. We want to establish whether this is the ‘dream move’ or whether it is a fall-back option if things don’t work out locally (or most likely, somewhere in between).

We also take this opportunity to get some basic facts such as whether the person has visited the location and/or knows people there.

WHY DO THEY WANT TO MOVE TO THAT LOCATION?

A quiz on the history and geography of a place might be a bit much but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test applicants on their knowledge of the location. Our method tends to be ‘open questions’ to get someone talking, perhaps something along the lines of:

  •  “What do you anticipate that you will find different about life in Hong Kong compared to London?”
  • “Outside of work, what are you looking forward to most when you arrive in the Cayman Islands?”
  • “So, tell me your impressions of what life in Dubai will be like.”

Whilst the answers in themselves may or may not be of interest, the thought processes can shine a light on whether the person has put in the required level of thinking and background research. Just imagine yourself, trying to answer one of these questions about a place you haven’t got a grasp of!

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL.

By the second interview stage, a serious candidate should be mentally picturing themselves making the move and that means they should be thinking about the logistical issues so perhaps try more detailed questions along the lines of:

  •  “Have you looked into school places yet?”
  • “What are your thoughts on whether you might look to buy property or rent?”
  • “How is your husband/wife’s job search going?”

We wouldn’t necessarily expect someone to have all the answers at this stage, but we would hope that they would have thought it through and perhaps even have some questions. Warning bells would be sounding if someone was still not showing signs of taking these points seriously.

ASK THE QUESTION.

As the process comes towards a decision, in our experience, people who are lukewarm about a move at this stage in proceedings rarely, if ever, go through with it. After all, relocating involves a fair amount of effort so there needs to be some degree of excitement. So, it’s time to put them on the spot:

  • “Do you have any reservations about the move that you would like us to address?”
  • “Is there anything that would stop you from accepting a role if an offer were made at the right level?”
  • “How much time would you need for relocation?”

EXECUTE EFFICIENTLY.

Finally, assuming things have progressed well, and an offer has been made, we’re now at the real pressure point. If an individual has demonstrated their commitment throughout the process, we would expect them to be ready to accept, subject to agreeing terms and answering any questions.
Of course, it is perfectly advisable for a lawyer to take a couple of days at this stage to give it some final thought, but we would recommend:

  • Putting an expiry date of no more than seven days maximum on the offer.
  • Requesting that the recruiter (or the candidate themselves if direct) compiles a comprehensive ‘snag list’ of outstanding questions within 48 hours of the offer being received.
  • Where appropriate, organising an informal follow up chat with the candidate in order to run through any queries in person or on the telephone.

The real warning sign at this point is a request for more time to ‘think it through’ with no specific questions outstanding. In truth, much as we may hope to be wrong, any experienced recruiter knows that these words sound the death knell of this placement!

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

We hope that our thoughts on this key international recruitment issue are of interest, particularly to any of our clients or contacts who are new to this. If you have other tips or methods that you have found to be successful, please do share and we will include as we update this advice.

ABOUT US.

Origin Legal is one of the United Kingdom’s leading independent legal recruitment specialists. Our international team has twenty years’ experience of placing lawyers worldwide. If you would like any advice on the recruitment market, please do get in touch with:
Jason Horobin +44 (0)1206 233514 [email protected] Charlotte Hooper +44 (0)1206 233515 [email protected]

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