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Expectation - v - Experience

In Category: Thoughts
Published: 08/01/2015

Legal recruitment can and should be a fantastic branding and business development opportunity for any employer. Swift and effective communication, understanding the expectations of potential laterals and empathising with them will always send a great message to the market whereas poor communication and apparent indifference will have the opposite effect.  

In law, more than in any other area of business, the candidate you reject today could well be the client you wish to court tomorrow. Legal careers are no longer linear and the growth of in-house legal departments means that laterals do not necessarily go to another firm or disappear from your market altogether; the odds are good that they will seek an in-house role and will then have a voice in the selection of external counsel. 

Candidates do not form a negative impression of a firm if they receive a swift and courteous rejection; they will understand that their skills are not a complete fit, they are in a competitive market, there is no position available or the role has been filled etc. They will remember that they applied to work with you and may continue to harbour a hope of doing so in the future.

Candidates who never hear back from the firm in response to their application may, given time, treat this as a forgivable omission. Interviewed and declined laterals who receive fudged, inaccurate or wholly absent feedback will feel slighted but will generally acknowledge that this was a failure in their particular process and is not necessarily indicative of any failure of the firm.

What really generates antipathy is discourtesy and delay in a process that advances beyond an initial interview. Where a candidate has committed to a process; met with a firm on one or more occasion, perhaps prepared a business case and used up annual leave they very reasonably expect prompt and courteous communication from the firm concerned. Long silences and unnecessary delay is almost universally seen as a lack of respect.

The Managing Partner of a client of ours told me that he was finding it frustrating to get his department heads to hire the people they need: the first frustration was getting them to define the person type they need and the second was getting them to hire anyone they met. He told me that he had heard a great phrase recently “Perfectionism promotes procrastination”. A large part of this behaviour will be a hangover from the recession and when work volumes were low and pipelines uncertain this conservative approach made great business sense. We are now in a growing and recovering market which means that we are job rich and relatively candidate poor. Our candidates are certainly finding that rather than struggle for one offer they are picking between two or more offers. Competition for talent has returned at all experience levels.

All lateral candidates do expect and deserve to be treated well – the hiring process is critical to their understanding, and, by extension, the market’s understanding of the culture and behaviours of the firm involved. Candidates of any stripe who are treated poorly will generally continue to be active in the market whether in a competing firm or in-house and will carry with them any impression gained.

Recruitment is a great opportunity to deliver a very positive message to the market about your firm – not every discussion can lead to a hire but swift and effective communication allows every hiring process to have a positive outcome. Cogence Search specialise in London Legal Recruitment, we understand the market and while supporting individual legal careers we seek to protect the needs and interests of our clients. 

Written by Mark Husband

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