How to Find Good Employees Who Become Great

A few years ago, a senior partner at a law firm called me because he wasn’t sure how to find good employees.

The firm had been searching in vain for a lawyer who checked all the boxes. After getting nowhere in their search, they turned to me.

As they described the person they wanted, I thought, “Do they want a lawyer…

…or a unicorn?”

I’ve run a lot of searches, and found thousands of good employees for my clients. But the person they wanted seemed too good to be true.

I told them so, but they insisted on launching the search.

You can guess how this ended.

I came back a few weeks later and said there is no lawyer out there who checks all the boxes they wanted.

I recommended that they hire someone who checks most of the boxes and then train that person to fill in the blanks.

They didn’t like that advice. So we parted ways. And they hired a new recruiter to run their unicorn hunt. Last I heard, they’re still hunting.

This story is loaded with recruiting lessons that apply to all businesses — not just law firms.

Here are three tips to show you how to find good employees who can become great ones.

If You Want to Find Good Employees, Set Realistic Expectations

There are plenty of good candidates out there if you want to hire a good employee. If you want to hire a perfect employee, good luck. You’ve narrowed the field. The pickings are slim.

Set realistic expectations. Don’t hunt for unicorns.

Search for Employees Who Are Trainable

Some candidates check most of the boxes, but they are not eager to fill the gaps and to learn. When we recruit, we always screen for “trainability.” If a candidate does not seem trainable, we disqualify them, even if they seem like they could be a good employee.

How to Find Good Employees and Transform Them to Great Ones

The firm that hired me focuses on a very narrow legal niche. They sought a litigator with knowledge and experience in that niche. I suggested they find a great litigator and then train that lawyer to master the details of that niche.

That’s how most employees transform from good to great. They come in with a solid foundation. They are eager to learn and grow.

You can find good employees like that with less cost and effort. And then you can transform them from good to great with training.


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Chuck Vogel