Published on 19th May 2014
The legal market is highly competitive on many levels, and competition for top talent is no exception.
It’s widely accepted that the industry’s BD and marketing functions are evolving as firms implement new initiatives to drive business growth. Securing the best people is essential to achieving growth goals, yet successful firms don’t always win that war for talent.
Common hiring mistakes
For large firms with large reputations, a common hiring mistake is to rely too heavily on their own perception of the firm’s brand and its level of prestige in the market. While this carries weight with candidates, it’s not enough to successfully secure a high-quality candidate, as most develop a perception of the organisation based on initial research and interactions. Most candidates research firms online, so it’s vital your online presence, whether on a website or on social media, adequately reflects your culture and values.
At interview stage, it’s important that everyone involved in hiring is fully briefed on each candidate and that they appropriately question them. But employers also need to present the firm and its opportunities in the best light during the interview. Just as marketers have to sell a product or service, interviewers need to sell their firm – so talk it up, and sell a little! This will help you to stand out from the crowd, not only on a reputational basis but also in terms of engagement.
Investing effort in building a relationship with the candidate throughout the interview process will also decrease the chances that they will decline any offer you later make – and it decreases the likelihood of their being tempted by a counter-offer to stay where they are. Bear in mind that if you want a really strong candidate, their current employer is more than likely going to fight to keep them – and if you haven’t sufficiently engaged with them during the interview process, they will be tempted to stay put. Better the devil you know…
There are small, simple yet powerful things you can do to show a candidate you’re interested and mean business.
Do your homework – read the CV thoroughly before each interview (and make sure everyone involved in the process does so). Check the candidate out on LinkedIn – this shows not only your strong interest in them, but it also demonstrates you are fully committed to the hiring process.
Candidates like to know you are serious about your hiring intentions. When interviewing candidates, ask them what really interests, drives and motivates them. Use this information to sell your firm’s ability to deliver all of those things. If they want things you can’t deliver, they are probably not the right person for you.
A key differentiator in this relentless war for top BD and marketing talent is feedback.
You can never give too much feedback. We are constantly surprised by the lack of quality feedback our candidates receive from clients across a range of industries. If you really want to stand out and build a reputation for being an employer of choice, get this right. While providing feedback might feel time consuming, don’t underestimate its importance in the recruitment process.
Another important factor is the length of the process.
You know great BD and marketing professionals are hard to find, and that everyone is looking for great talent – so when you start the recruitment process, be committed to seeing it through relatively swiftly. This doesn’t mean rushing, but don’t dally, either. Top marketers are likely to receive counter-offers from other companies, so act swiftly, be thorough and you will win more than you lose. Is the best way to win not to play?
When you’ve found the person that makes your heart sing, what then?
First, make an offer in a timely manner. Do not falter at this critical stage. Think long and hard about all the influencing factors – current salary, the amount you are willing to offer for the role (there will be a range), the value of this candidate to your firm, and the potential loss if you don’t get this candidate. Don’t try to save money when hiring top talent. Make reasonable, attractive offers that are in line with the market and the candidate’s experiences – pay them what they and the job are worth. Many a strong candidate has been lost when firms have tried to snag themselves a bargain. Don’t do it – the candidate will think you don’t value them enough and will go elsewhere.
Of course, there is another way to win this war for talent – don’t enter it in the first place.
Retention is as important as attraction, so think about how you retain your top marketing talent. This isn’t necessarily about financial reward (but do make sure they are rewarded fairly), as often the main motivators for leaving are linked to other things. Do they have a strong relationship with their manager? Are they challenged and developed in their role?
Marketing in particular is a field that is constantly changing. Have you provided sufficient training opportunities to enable your marketers to keep up to date with these developments? There are many other factors, including the ability to work on interesting or different projects, secondments, non-financial rewards and recognition and, importantly, opportunities for advancement within their career – in fact, in a recent survey carried out by Ambition, opportunity for advancement was cited as the most important factor for a quarter of BD and marketing professionals.
It’s a talent battle for marketing and BD people, all over again. But there are many ways to get the best people on your team – if you’re prepared to work at it as hard as candidates have to grab your attention.
The above article was published in Briefing on Marketing in April 2014 (www.legalsupportnetwork.co.uk)