Tuesday, July 6, 2010

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For the most part, legal marketing executives possess tremendous interviewing prowess. Most are able to present their career stories in an attractive, cogent manner. Writing skills honed while developing marketing collateral; brochures, advertisements, press releases, proposals and presentations easily transfer into effective resume writing. Similarly, presentation skills are refined and come through during interviews. As a lot, marketing executives are typically well-prepared for interviews, having done their homework, often asking thought-provoking and insightful questions, and generally, having very likable dispositions. As such, many have the innate ability to take control of the interview — skillfully influencing the topic of discussion and cadence of the session.

Despite their interviewing success historically, candidates for legal marketing positions are more likely to be facing a higher level of scrutiny on multiple fronts that could easily trip up an otherwise strong interviewer's performance. The line of questions too may be very different from what they are used to. Law firms are assessing more carefully prospective leaders across all management fronts, but especially in marketing.


Chief Marketing Officers have expanded responsibilities and can now share the stage with or manage new chiefs. Chief Business Development Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Practice Officer are new titular terms (or new positions) sprouting up in many firms' senior management structure. Business development, strategy, and practice development can either be congruent with or carved out from the responsibilities of the CMO. Organizations are becoming more complex in a matrix reporting structure geared to serving an increasingly dynamic marketplace. One's ability to perform in such an environment is going to be tested early, so interviewers now seek to solicit an understanding of those capabilities among candidates for a particular position.


Reacting to their own mixed results in hiring talent into top legal marketing positions, law firms are certainly looking for better outcomes. The high turnover rate of senior legal marketing executives is well known in the industry. In a recent Korn/Ferry survey of The Global 250, overwhelmingly, respondents suggested they would be placing higher scrutiny and seeking a greater measurement of "ROI" from their management teams. Marketing ranked second in level of importance for firms in a sideby-side comparison of management functions. Getting the hiring decision right is crucial to achieving the lofty goals and meeting the heightened expectations for the marketing function.


Law firms started evolving their marketing model long before the present economic crises besieged the industry. Many firms had evolved the function beyond the traditional "mar-com" operation to a stronger focus on business development. This initially seemed to correlate with the development of much stronger practice group management structures where business development managers (BDMs) embedded in the practices carved out more aggressive "go-tomarket" strategies and key account management programs. Those BDMs not only made a huge impact on the success of the practices they supported, they also influenced the relationship dynamic between attorneys and marketing executives across the enterprise. With it, more one-on-one business development coaching is in demand and an expectation that BD skills can be "taught" to attorneys. The role of teacher is a significant development in the law firm marketing purview. The ability to teach/coach attorneys has crept into almost every CMO position description in the legal industry. Given the enhanced functionality of the CMO role, it makes sense that the way interviews are conducted with marketing executives is changing.


Competency-based interviewing that allows for interviewers to measure behavioral tendencies — socalled psychometric evaluation — has been around for many years. It has been used successfully in many industries, but has not moved into the legal industry with the same alacrity. That is changing. The ability to measure and gauge "fit" with a firm's culture and values is now viewed to be as important as professional and academic credentials.

Lawyers have become better discerners of marketing talent moving away from being easily enamored with the ideas generated by creative executives to probing for more demonstrable results during the interview process. There had been a tendency to buy the packaging and not unwrap it. That is not to suggest that marketing executives were paper tigers (although some are, I'm afraid), but instead to point out that the way these executives present during an interview, may be dramatically different from their actual managerial, learning, and thinking styles ... especially when they are behind "closed doors."

If you have not experienced this type of interviewing, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the model. While many human capital consulting firms have written professional guides on the topic, I found several helpful Web sites that give examples of often used questions through a simple search engine query. Many university career services and advancement offices preparing their students and recent graduates on what to expect will list specific questions on their Web sites.

Ultimately, these questions are all scenario-based, where the interviewer probes for an executive's behavior tendencies. Their utility in the interviewing and assessing of more senior executives is now more commonplace. The questions can be tough and often unsettling for the otherwise confident and prepared candidate. "Tell me about a time when someone helped you become more politically aware and sensitive to a firm's culture" or "Tell me about a time when you managed a reorganization" are but two examples of questions which probe for leadership characteristics.


Pressed by shrinking profit margins, firms will need strong financial leadership from their marketing executives. The scope of responsibilities of marketing organization may be expanding, but budgets and headcounts have been on a roller-coaster ride for months. Over the last five years, most marketing organizations have easily doubled and trebled in size, pushing some leaders of these organizations to manage people, processes, and budgets beyond their comfort zones. Building scaleable and sustainable models is admittedly difficult through wide market fluctuations. Interviewers will probe for a better understanding of ones ability to manage an organization in an effective manner. Ideas and creativity long hallmarks of the most exceptional marketing minds in any industry are giving way to managerial skills. Finance, HR, and operational know-how will be assessed alongside marketing prowess.


The changes in the legal marketing function have begun to influence the interviewing process. Behavioral competency is occupying a more prominent position in the marketing interview. Knowing your audience is a fundamental aspect of marketing any product. In the case of interviewing, understanding the shifting evaluation criteria for selection is an essential tool for marketing executives in this new era.

Source Citation
"Reinventing The Interview." Marketing the Law Firm 1 July 2009. Academic OneFile. Web. 6 July 2010.
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Gale Document Number:A202697295

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