21 November 2005
Laying down expectations before signing on the dotted line is the secret to successful appointments. There is generally such an enormous relief for both candidates and employers when they find each other that they both tend to 'fall in love' and overlook the detail.
According to a survey conducted by Shaw Chapman of legal candidates and employers across the UK, a mismatch of expectations left 65 per cent of candidates feeling their employers did not fulfil their promise, compared with only 22 per cent of law firms disappointed with their recruits.
The answer is simple, but hard work - both candidates' and employers' expectations must be measured and checked to ensure that they are well matched. Removing the risks of employers failing to deliver on their promises is paramount to an associate looking to move to another firm. Sometimes a very competent and valued lawyer will need to move to another firm to make partner as their current employer's structure cannot accommodate the promotion. Others cite the need to move so they can expand their portfolio of experience with international work, bigger deals or the chance to specialise their skills.
Astute employers now focus a lot of energy and resources on retaining staff. Years ago, there was none of the current emphasis on training, mentoring and the social life of the firm. However, employers are now far more concerned with how candidates will fit in with their culture and ideology because they know it is the route to keeping people on board.
This is because the cost of a bad hire lies far beyond the direct recruitment bill. There are the hidden costs of induction and training, as well as mediocre performance, which go on year after year.
The hidden costs of the second-rate employee who never hits target and holds back the team from hitting theirs will always hold back a potentially successful business. Bad hiring cripples success. Employers wanting to hire more top people have to position themselves accordingly in the market. High-flyers have to be caught with the right offer from the right firm at the right time.
Convincing firms to make space for you
If you are one of those high-flyers, the research confirms that firms will create a role for a candidate if they see the potential - 93 per cent said they would. Employers look for eager-to-learn, hard-working team players that also have a client following. At that point, candidates are often self-financing, which means less risk for the employer.
Following this, employers look for a whole host of other qualities. These include evidence of entrepreneurial skills, a track record in marketing a niche and expertise, as well as winning new business. But candidates must also have the technical skills to service that business and lead a team in that discipline.
Management skills are crucial, as the ability to train staff and to build and run a division smoothly are obviously prized highly. Furthermore, employers want long-term commitment. They are looking to pass business on to new recruits, so they need to ensure they will not move on with the client in a few years' time.
So the best advice for any prospective candidate is to build technical, marketing and management skills - in that order - and then build evidence of a track record. Candidates who present these credentials tend to find ideal posts for the long term.
Shaw Chapman is managing director of recruitment consultancy Shaw Chapman