There is a school of thought which says that recruitment is the hardest sales job around due to the two-way relationship involved in all deals.
Whether this is genuinely the case I’m not sure (for example I’d rather work in our field than Kabul’s Head of Tourism) but there is a certain logic to the argument.
There are very few other jobs which involve both the client and the product having ‘a mind of their own’; if you go to buy a new television it’s highly unlikely that the television is going to decide that it would rather stay where it is as it’s not sure about your long-term commitment to the area, or has concerns about cut-backs you’ve recently made which resulted in the kettle and toaster being let go.
You can also avoid the painful occasion where the television decides that you’re the new owner it’s been looking for, advises the staff in the shop that it’s moving on and then suddenly gets counter-offered to stay in a deal including a higher display shelf, prime corner location and spot near the PlayStation 4s.
The art of senior level legal recruitment comes down to two distinct and equally key matters; can we demonstrate to our client the benefits of engaging a certain individual, and secondly have we made sure that the firm which our candidate is speaking to is the right one and one which meets their personal requirements?
The conception of recruiters as ‘job brokers’ is a nonsense when recruiting for qualified legal professionals, where a war for talent has existed and still exists at present:- quite simply there are rarely enough high-quality candidates to fill the vacancies which arise, albeit that this trend has reversed somewhat in the last few years. This becomes even less relevant when firms are making lateral hires, as either the recruitment is opportunity-led and/or the candidate has a portable following and practices are eager to secure the individual or team and the work which will come with them.
Instead the recruiter’s role is to effectively represent their client in the market and encourage an in-demand candidate to meet with the practice. The firms who are most successful in recruiting the best talent have either a strong brand & reputation, an excellent recruiter who can extol their virtues in the market, or ideally both of these attributes in their armoury.
When the individual is sat round the table, staring the managing partner in the eyes this is not the point where the ‘selling’ of the firm begins; in fact this may be eight or ten stages down the process. This work has already been carried out by the recruiter over the course of several conversations which not only establish the needs of the candidate but then move on to discuss how Firm X or Firm Y matches these requirements. Long before the candidate meets anyone from the practice he or she will already have a vivid idea of why this opportunity may be right for them based on the work the recruiter has carried out.
To do this effectively it logically follows that firms in turn need to ‘sell’ themselves to a recruiter. At VG Charles & Co our approach has always been that unless you know everything there is to know about a client, including profit margins, equity spread and PEP right down to whether the office is dress-down for Comic Relief, then you are not truly able to paint an accurate portrait of the firm and why they would be well-suited to your candidate’s ambitions.
The firms that we recruit for most successfully are those who appreciate the added value which the recruiter brings to the table, and have invested the time in making sure we are can give potential employees a true insight into life at the practice. Let me make it clear that it’s not always a pretty picture that they paint; some clients intimate that they expect long and unsociable time commitments, some that their partners must always be on call even at weekends and some who confess that they “sweat the assets”. Whilst there is usually an upside to this such as better remuneration or high quality work, these are aspects which a recruiter should be making sure that candidates understand, meaning that again by the time the firm meets the candidate at interview both parties know what the other is expecting.
The candidate has an idea what the practice can offer them and how this matches their own ambitions.
The firm knows what they’re looking for and has a rough outline of what the candidate can bring to the table.
And then the selling can begin……..