Recruitment has changed since the pandemic

Recruitment in the professional services sector has become more competitive since the pandemic.

We are currently experiencing a ‘candidate market’. The unemployment rate nationally fell to 6% unemployment through the end of March 2021. What is interesting to note, is unemployment for degreed professionals is now under 5%, and 1.5% away from hitting its all-time low, which was achieved in 2019.

The pandemic has made legal, accounting, financial adviser candidates take a step back, take stock and assess what they want from their future, what work-life balance looks like to them, and others are more cautious than ever about considering a move.

Here are some tactics to help your recruitment and promote your firm and vacancies to candidates.

How can you attract the best candidates?

With greater demand for quality candidates across the country, they can now be more selective about what jobs they apply for and can apply to firms with a reputation for good quality work, with an attractive salary, but without the expectation of travelling into London 5-days a week! The market has just got more challenging and competitive and with so many firms offering candidates the opportunity to work from home. I fear because of this, we may lose more quality candidates around the UK to London firms, so regional professional services firms will need to re-assess how they go about attracting them back.

If you haven’t done so already, give your hybrid working arrangement/policy some careful thought and consideration. Most lawyers that I deal with have enjoyed this time working from home. They have realised that they are both more productive and can give their firm more time, due to less commuting. Many firms I speak to are currently rethinking their future flexible working policies each taking a slightly different approach. Arguably the more flexibility you offer, the wider the pool of candidates you are going to attract. A regimented one day a week from home will no longer hold up. Those that offer total flexibility, or a 50/50 home/office split, are coming across as the most attractive employers.

What is the best way to interview candidates?

We talk a lot about ‘chemistry’ being the ultimate fit for both clients and candidates. To get a good sense of ‘chemistry’, it is vital that both parties feel at ease, so I always say to clients, put your technical and competency-based questions away for your first meeting.

The first interview is about hooking them in! It is as much about you selling your firm, the team, the quality of the work you do, and selling the role to the candidate, as it is about the candidate selling themselves to you. I would even say your ‘sales pitch’ is more important. We are in a candidate-driven market – they are in demand, and ultimately, they are most likely to have more than one choice. I usually share with my clients the primary motivators to why the candidate is considering a move to ensure these points are covered off by the client in that initial meeting (literally ensuring they are ticking all the candidate’s boxes!). As a recruiter, my role is to help, support, and navigate all parties through the interview process.

Clients that go down a more informal approach in interview style, typically attract the most candidates. If you put someone at ease, you will see their true self (the good, the bad, and the ugly!), and you will be able to determine whether they will fit into the existing team, and equally, they will come away getting a true sense of what it would be like to work for your firm.

I love nothing more than hearing a candidate leave a meeting when they are positively pumped about the firm, and I can sense they are jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of joining them! I never get this call after an hour-long interview where they have experienced intimidating technical drilling. At that point, you have more than likely lost that candidate.

After the first informal interview where you have established, there is a good ‘fit’, you can then cover technical aspects in the second stage. You could even consider a technical assessment/task in between the first and second stage interviews.

What else do firms have to consider?

In most cases, it comes down to personalities and where the candidate best sees themselves fitting in. A recent and frustrating caveat is that money has played an ever-increasing part in the decision-making process. Something I had hoped would emerge from the pandemic, is that regional parts of the UK would benefit from an influx of London lawyers or accountants looking to escape to get a better work/life balance. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of that yet. So many candidates are looking for opportunities to work from home, but it seems London is still as enticing as ever for candidates, but I haven’t given up hope.

How do you get candidates to apply in the first place?

Old school interview approaches need to be put in the bin. If you don’t change your approach, then you will never get the top pickings. Think about your USPs and company values. What makes you different, unique, ‘better’ than your competitors, and then share those with the outside world. Share these with your recruiter, the candidates you get the opportunity to meet with, share them through your marketing, and even put them on your social media!

Gone are the days where you advertise for a role and sit and wait for the CVs to start rolling in. You need to be more proactive in your approach. In fact, you almost need to market to your candidates the way you would market to your clients. Use the available communication and marketing channels that you have and get creative. There is so much competition, and you need to stand out from the crowd as an attractive option. As my daughter likes to say, you need to ‘be a flamingo amongst the flock of pigeons!’

Hayley Rose is an Associate Director in the Legal Division at Harvey John.

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