Managing Totum’s growing portfolio of manager and senior manager opportunities across marketing & business development (BD), and HR, is keeping us all busy at the moment. But amid a rising competition for the best talent, how can you ensure that your firm gets the very best candidate for the job?

Firms of all sizes are recruiting into new and replacement roles. Marketing & BD is constantly busy, but interestingly I have also seen an increase in HR roles over the past few weeks.

There are some great candidates looking to move, and these candidates are in a good position. Even in more economically precarious times, the legal sector is seen to be a safe environment and it is understood that when firms are recruiting for a role, there is a strong business case to be doing so. Law firms don’t have a short-term approach to recruitment.

This is reinforced by a thorough interview process whether for an interim or permanent opportunity and the evidence that firms are careful to find candidates who tick every box on an ever increasing wish list. As always there is not a huge pool of candidates that fulfil these wish lists so they are in high demand as firms compete to attract talent.

The X factor

When discussing retention and attraction recently, a client asked me what normally motivates good candidates at this level to move – is it salary, career development or something else?

My answer was that it is usually a mix of issues that have culminated over some time rather than one single thing. Even if the candidate has become disillusioned in a role it can often be a difficult emotional decision to leave.

So, with all this in mind how do candidates decide which role go for? Beyond the career progression and an uplift in salary, which is a given, what else is on a candidate’s wish list?

A lot of candidates I meet, particularly those from within the sector, say that that they are looking for ‘something different’. In certain areas of the market that are particularly busy – for example, BD – there are often a number of management roles on offer. Rather than adopting a blanket approach, which candidates may be inclined to do at a more junior level, or similarly simply being attracted by a brand, candidates are looking to differentiate between opportunities. They are on a quest to find something different. This can be difficult, however, especially for those coming into the legal sector for the first time.

It is our role as recruitment consultants to help candidates understand the differences, and help guide them to the roles and firms that offer the closest match to what they are looking for culturally and for their career development. The more information clients can give us the easier that is.

Selling your firm

A comment I hear regularly from candidates is that all the job descriptions look the same. As someone who sees a lot of job specifications, I have to admit it stands out when we are sent a job specification which has been put together differently. It has an impact and I think it is often something firms overlook.

Occasionally, a firm might use the same spec for more than one role. Although the levels and titles may be the same, and therefore the roles have the same technical requirements, the roles will be different. As a CV is the candidate’s first opportunity to sell themselves, and there is a lot of emphasis on this, a job specification is a firm’s opportunity to do the same.

Whilst candidates don't always make a decision solely on the spec, their immediate response is often based on this. And we are then in a position where we need to instil excitement and bring a specification to life.

In a highly competitive market, where strong candidates are in high demand it is vital that firms produce more than a formulaic wish list. Candidates look for intelligence, commerciality, innovation, strength and a sense there is buy in for business support.

A job spec needs to show the firm’s personality and culture. Candidates want to see commitment to training and professional development, career development, maybe opportunities for global secondments. Some firms have even gone so far as to create micro sites or areas on their websites that give profiles of those in their business services teams.

Whilst all of this helps to attract those already in the sector it will also help to dispel the myths amongst some potential new talent outside. So often those in the Big 4 have told me that the perception of the legal sector is that it doesn’t offer business services professionals any of those things. This is a perception we are doing our best to change.

It is great to be able to present candidates with job specifications that get them engaged and excited at that very early stage. And by going that extra mile, your firm will be taking an important step to attracting the best talent because candidates will feel that the role and your firm is offering something truly different.

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