During the interview process, you’re doing everything you can do determine whether Candidate A is the right match for your practice. Candidate A is doing the same from his side. And yet, one of the most common pitfalls has to do with mismatched expectations for that critical first three to six months on the job. The basic problem: Employers are from Venus, Candidates are from Mars.
As the employer, you’ve lived with your practice forever (it seems). You know how you prefer engagements be done, and how those preferences differ from other practices. You may have watched previous new-hires as they assimilated into the practice. What you know is that anyone joining your firm is going to experience a learning curve. What’s more, you know that productivity (translation: chargeability) won’t reach the desired level until after a certain amount of time on the job.
Being from Mars, the candidate sees things entirely differently. He’s coming from an environment where – most likely – he’s already operating at reasonably high efficiency for his level. (If he weren’t, you probably wouldn’t be interviewing him!) He’s contemplating a career move because it will help him grow in the profession. The idea of taking a step back (or, sideways, at least) while assimilating into a new practice hasn’t even occurred to him.
One result of this clash of expectations is an inability to arrive at an acceptable starting salary. Another is that – not too many months down the line – you lose the employee and have to re-start your hiring process altogether. With a little forethought, however, these problems can be avoided.
Before you begin to interview, make an honest assessment of this assimilation period. How long has it typically been in the past? What can you, or the employee, do to shorten it? What are some reasonable productivity objectives to use as mileposts along the way? By understanding more about the process, you’re in a better position to assess the ability of your would-be employee to adjust.
As you interview, explain that you expect a period of adjustment. Naturally, the candidate will think the adjustment will be easier than you think it will. Balance that tendency by articulating the objectives you have in mind. Make it clear that the adjustment will impact productivity which, in turn, will impact compensation.
If you offer a slightly lower starting salary because you anticipate a steeper learning curve, be prepared to grant an increase for reaching productivity objectives. As an alternative, consider a small bonus for particularly strong performance during the assimilation period.
Being more forthright about this adjustment, and planning for it more carefully, will demonstrate to employees that you are focused on their success as well as that of your practice.