It is no secret that I’m very interested in how teams work, how individuals (ME) fit into a team, and how we all come together to get the job done.

A colleague of mine posted an interesting job description for a Director of Law Firm Marketing and Public Relations:

  • “Intense Measurement” is your mantra. You prescribe to the theory that water boils at 212⁰F. Not at 210⁰ or 211⁰. It has to be 212⁰F. Even if you have 99.5% of the heat you need – your water is at 210⁰F – it won’t boil. Yet if you just tweak one or two small things – move the pot slightly to the right or increase the fuel a hair – suddenly everything changes. The water starts to boil. The same applies to the Marketing and Public Relations Director’s job – you can put lots of effort into it, but nothing “boils” until you look for those missing, magical “degrees” that could change everything. Whether you need to place more “streaming ads” on sports radio stations on Mondays, you need a direct response campaign during the heaviest tax return weeks, or you’re convinced we need a same-sex only divorce site (one in five couples meet online, but three-in-five gay couples meet online)…you never give up and the “perpetual beta” is something that you focus on day-in and day-out;
  • You’re a quick study with strong people skills…you have the ability to read people quickly (and accurately)…you are approachable, inspire candor and welcome multiple points of view;
  • Basic marketing research skills: you know how to collect information, analyze research and develop reports explaining their findings. You use calculations and formulas to evaluate data as you attempt to forecast future trends, and use information you find to support these claims;
  • You have a love and knack for writing, you “rock” in social media marketing, and you can write original copy based on your solid understanding of our primary areas;
  • You are proficient in Microsoft Office and Acrobat, and you know the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, and
  • You can juggle multiple priorities simultaneously, establish clear priorities, meet deadlines and remain laser focused on the goal in a never-ending environment of change.

I love it.

I would hope that the resumes coming in will be include a wider pool of folks who will be the right fit, but perhaps not have the spot-on skill set that you would get from a functionally focused job description.

Some of these skills can easily be learned, especially if you have an inquisitive personality, and enjoy learning new things. But you cannot teach someone to be inquisitive or have a desire to learn.

Reminds me of some interview questions I’ve been asked over the years: “How can you market us in New York when you live in Los Angeles?” “Can you tell us about your experience marketing lawyers within the ABC industry?” “Who are your PR contacts in XYZ community/industry?”

Really? Why not ask me what I’m going to do in my first 90 days?

I don’t need to live in Santa Barbara, or Silicon Valley, or Denver to understand how to build up and learn about those markets, manage resources, and identify opportunities. Yet I have successfully taken on responsibilities in all of those markets, and work with lawyers to expand their practices in each community.

I knew very little about the insurance industry when I took on my current job. Probably why I subscribed to every insurance industry/business publication I could find during that first week.

We recently held a very successful industry conference for one of our practice groups. I didn’t sit in the sessions as my head was focused on all the logistics and I wouldn’t have heard a thing.

One of the lawyerly types said I would probably be bored learning about the minutia of what they do.

Actually, I do need to know what the lawyers do, and how the clients operate, but on a just below the surface level.

As I told one of my partners: I need to know enough about what you do to identify opportunities and help you market your practice.

But the real answer goes a bit deeper then that:

  • I need to understand the marketplace where the attorney operates. I need a clear understanding of who their buyer and influencers are.
  • I need to know the legal resources used, and where to find the answers to questions I might have.
  • I need to know the legal terms, and the major laws and legislation surrounding the industry. Where are the hurdles and brick walls that clients come up against?
  • I need to understand the business lines of the clients involved, and how they are currently operating in the marketplace. I need to have a clear understanding of the business needs and concerns of the client.
  • I don’t need to know enough to do the lawyer’s job.
  • I don’t need to run the client’s business.
  • I need to be able to connect the dots between the client’s business problems and our attorneys’ legal solutions.
  • And I really need to understand how my firm and our attorneys differentiate from our competitors.

So lacking specific industry, marketplace or functional experience should not be a game-stopper for interviewing or hiring an individual for a specific job. For those involved in the hiring process I would want to know:

  • How does she fit in the existing teams within the firm, practices, departments?
  • What are the qualities of his personality that will move projects along and get the job done?
  • Does she have the thirst for knowledge and inquisitive nature to seamlessly take over an existing position, or create a new one?
  • Can he fit in and manage the attorney personalities within our firm and culture?

Back to the questions at hand: Should you be hiring for fit or function. I’ll go with the Pareto principle on this one. 80% fit and 20% function.