Thinking of hiring this year? Take a moment to think about the candidate experience.

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Whilst 2019 was a great year for many reasons, the financial services recruitment market for lawyers was probably the worst since the 2016 referendum, which can be entirely put down to the uncertainty. The need to hire in-house lawyers was evident, but widespread cost cutting, headcount freezes and unprecedented delays was not kind to potential recruits, resulting in a poor experience for many applicants. And a poor candidate experience from one company is a good hire for their competitor.

What do we mean, bad experience?

  • Lengthy application processes – put off up to 50% of candidates from the outset.
  • Malfunctioning online portals – don’t work correctly, have the wrong information, have expiry dates that automatically reject candidates etc.
  • Poor job spec – generic templates, copied and pasted, too prescriptive or demanding, lacking information about required duties, and with no sell.
  • No job spec – cautious lawyers won’t apply, regardless how much information the recruiter has, and chances are you will only see those for whom the search is most urgent.
  • Lack of feedback (or any response at all!) – candidates will try unconventional methods to get through and there is a huge long-term negative impact on the organisation.
  • Delays during the hiring process – waiting for approvals from the top, changes from perm to contract or put on hold, changes in requirements.
  • Not informing the recruiter – who can only cover for so long before all parties look unprofessional and candidates question the commitment to hiring and culture of the organisation.
  • Cold formulaic interviews – mean lawyers walk away ambivalent at best, and in a competitive market you will lose them.

What can you do differently?

  • Put yourself in the applicant’s shoes – hiring managers are often candidates too, and we can see the difference when they are!
  • Get your budget, need analysis and approvals done first – or at least communicate to the recruiter that you are just wanting to explore the market.
  • Write an accurate job spec from scratch which sells the role and the organisation. An accurate and informative job spec often creates the positive first impression and shows that you have thought carefully and are serious about hiring. And if something changes, change the job spec.
  • Respond to all applications, and ideally within a week, but a maximum of 2.
  • Communication – if there are delays or changes, be honest in explaining why and use the recruiter to manage the candidate’s expectations.
  • If you say you are going to interview a candidate, arrange it within the next 48 hours.
  • Put some thought into your interviews which will leave a good impression even if the candidate is rejected. Make interviews informative, honest and friendly and ideally different and fun.
  • Provide feedback – one sentence is fine, but more than a no thanks. This also goes a long way towards helping recruiters get it right, saving you time. Make it constructive and honest.
  • Take responsibility for passing on the feedback, don’t assume because you are one step removed it is done. Make sure that it goes to HR and they pass it to the recruiter. If it is on email it is more likely to be forwarded and remains accurate.

And why does it matter?

  • Because the talent on the market, some of which hasn’t even applied, is walking into your competition.
  • Because those candidates are often also your customers, or potential customers.
  • Because a candidate is more likely to shout about a bad experience than a good one.
  • Because a negative reputation, so easily shared with social media, will mean you struggle to attract talent.
  • Because a bad experience at 1st interview will affect how they perform at 2nd meaning you are losing people down the line.
  • Because a new recruit is likely to put in more effort when they start if every experience they have had during the process has been positive, and they are likely to stay in their jobs longer too. Employee engagement starts with the first impression.
  • Because the candidate you turned down may well be suitable for something down the line and will only apply again if they have a good experience.

We constantly hear that the biggest setback to company growth and productivity is being able to attract talent. Company performance and long-term business is affected by how you hire. An impressive candidate experience is far less demanding and expensive than the longer-term alternative of consistently replacing employees and attracting new customers.

January 2020

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