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Calling Mr Perseverance and Miss Analytical

Calling Mr Perseverance and Miss Analytical


What can law firms learn from Mr Men themed personality tests for new hires, asks Matthew Kay

The author Roger Hargreaves penned his first Mr Men book in the 1970s and this spawned a hugely successful series of children’s books, with 85 characters and sales of over 100 million copies worldwide. Little did Mr Hargreaves realise that his popular characters wouldn’t just delight children, but would also serve as a useful business tool.

Recently, John Timpson, from the shoe repair and key-cutting family business, revealed he uses the Mr Men characters while interviewing, assigning prospective members of staff Hargreaves-inspired monikers – a Mrs Cheerful is likely to get a half-day trial in a Timpson store, with a Mr Lazy likely to be shown the door, no matter how impressive their CV is. The thinking behind this interview tactic is that skills can be taught, but personality is ingrained and harder to change.

But what can law firms learn from this recruitment tactic? While Timpson offers a very different service, this core thinking that personality is key will resonate with many law firms. Of course, in the legal world, skill is very important, but it can be hard when sifting through a mountain of near-identical CVs to distinguish who might be the perfect fit for a firm’s culture – especially at the more junior end. A couple of interviews often aren’t enough to make a decision around best fit and that’s where personality testing can be used to great effect.

Personality testing as part of the recruitment process can be a really helpful way to identify candidates who will not only bring the right technical ability to the role, but the right personal skills as well. The tests can be completely custom-designed for a firm’s needs and can be used to help identify a specific personality type which has already been recognised as a good fit.

At Vario, we’ve really pioneered the use of personality tests in our recruitment process. As a contract-lawyering provider, we’ve found that personality can be just as important as skill for our clients. As our Varios are placed into an assignment and expected to perform from day one, we’ve found that traits such as social confidence, resilience, flexibility, and performing well under pressure all make a good contract lawyer.

We have worked closely with a business psychology company to create personality tests for new Varios. These tests have been carefully honed over time and are now a very reliable way to match a lawyer with their perfect assignment. They focus on two broad areas – people and relationships and drivers and emotions – and not only can they tell us if an individual will make a good contract lawyer, but we can also use the information gleaned from the tests to find out how an individual will react in a variety of situations. We then use this information to match our Varios with the right client.

It is my prediction that more law firms will start to use personality testing as an element of their recruitment process, as the sector focuses more on emotional intelligence and all the skills a lawyer can bring to a role. Although whether Mr Men will feature is debatable!

Matthew Kay is director at Vario at Pinsent Masons