First Impressions

They say that ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’.

I have no idea who said it originally, but whoever it was is absolutely spot on.

Within legal recruitment we commit a large part of our time to preparing candidates and clients for interview to ensure that both parties do the best possible job of selling themselves to the other. As the war for talent reignites it is just as important for the interviewer to convince any new recruits that the firm can meet their requirements as it is for the potential employee to show that they are the person for the job.

Usually when you are dealing with high calibre lawyers the basic rules of making a good first impression are generally ingrained already……usually….!

Wearing a best suit and a well-ironed shirt tends to be part of the culture with most client-facing solicitors anyway, along with polished shoes and the ability to employ a smile and a firm handshake. Even in these days of relaxed dress-down cultures, most lawyers are only the time it takes to put on a tie away from being in interview attire.

What does continue to both surprise and frustrate us though is what we would consider to be the ‘pre-first impression’. Allow me to give you two examples, both of which have happened in the last fortnight:-

  • First example; we are asked to recruit a corporate associate for a large regional player which consistently punches above its weight and attracts high calibre individuals from leading national and international firms. Having introduced one particular candidate we are asked to supply additional information as to why this person is considering leaving their present firm after just four months.
    Obviously we know the true nitty-gritty of why this person is leaving as well as the ‘official’ reason, but as a matter of course we contact the candidate to cross-check this so that there is no discrepancy. After two days of waiting we are forced to go with what we have so that the candidate does not appear to have ‘gone cold’. Following this the firm comes back with four possible dates and times, which we again speak to the (now-delighted) candidate about, who promises to get back to us in three hours once she’s checked her diary.
    Two days ago, and counting.
  • Second example; working with a Magic Circle senior associate who is looking for opportunities closer to his Thames Valley home. He has particular opinions of some firms in the area, some of which are very accurate, others we would say are wide of the mark.
    One firm which he wasn’t as clued-up on actually would represent a very good move for him, and after discussing the benefits of what they could offer him versus his requirements he is happy to have a conversation with them if they are interested.
    The firm is indeed interested, and so after identifying two suitable gaps in the diary we advise the practice that either of these dates would suit, and await their confirmation.
    That was a week and a half ago.

In previous blogs we have discussed a number of benefits of utilising legal recruitment companies for both candidates and clients. The ability to work proactively and confidentially on your behalf, provision of targeted and impartial career advice, and even using a recruiter as a go-between in salary negotiations can make the whole process go much more smoothly from both sides, with each side having a reduced level of culpability if a ‘dealbreaker’ is introduced into the equation when it comes via the recruiter, albeit at the candidate or client’s behest.

What is also important, and is perhaps not as well-documented, is the use of the recruiter as a ‘buffer’. Whether it be a firm looking to delay a decision and hoping to ‘buy’ a weekend without upsetting the candidate, or whether it be an individual looking for an extra day for another offer to land to contrast and compare, we can be involved in making sure that this leeway can be found without making one side look like they are stalling unduly. It’s much harder to do this when speaking to the other party directly!

However, our buffer can only work so far. If you are unable to come back with interview times in less than a week then exactly what kind of preconceptions will any firm or candidate have about you?

“Yes, we do invest in the greatest IT systems that are out there, and everyone has access to everyone else’s diary for greater transparency and cohesion between our teams……but it takes me three days to discover that the partner is in France that week.”

Or for a candidate:- “I pride myself with providing the highest levels of client care possible. I have my BlackBerry/iPhone/carrier pigeon* (*delete as necessary) beside me 24/7 and will always respond within 15 minutes, no matter how insignificant the query. However when it comes to my OWN CAREER you’ll be lucky if I even acknowledge your interest before the end of the month.”

Let me make this clear:- impressions matter. At ALL stages of the process. You may turn up for interview on time with your designer suit and your shiniest shoes plus tie with matching cufflinks, but if your dealings up until that point have been less than professional you’re fighting your way uphill from the start.

So in summary; yes we appreciate you’re busy. We understand that you have clients who are also demanding some of your time. Yes we know you have other concerns apart from organising an interview, but bear in mind that unless you can give it 100% of your attention for 2 minutes now you may have to sell yourself a whole lot more later on to get that deal you’re after.



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