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Changing perceptions about recruiters

Posted by: Laurence Simons 30/03/16
Over the course of my career in legal recruitment I’ve had the pleasure of working with some truly talented legal professionals and great personalities along the way.  Many have been open and honest in sharing their views of us recruiters as a profession, which has been both interesting and eye opening.  I’ve been disappointed, though not always surprised to hear some of the negative perceptions of recruiters in the market.  Stereotypes exist about most professions however, and many of those about mine have been incongruous with my experience as a legal recruiter.

As a profession, we are often categorised as sales people out to make a quick fee.  Granted, in some instances this can be the case, and of course it’s no secret that we charge a fee to our clients upon successfully placing a candidate with them.  However, unlike many sales related positions, the role of the recruiter is unique in the sense that our product is people, and put simply, we will not be paid unless both client and candidate are happy.  Whilst our role of course involves presenting to both sides, we are not in the business of miss-selling to either party.  It’s in our interest therefore to service both sides of the process honestly and openly. 

More specifically, within professional services recruitment, such as legal, as recruiters we understand that we are dealing with exactly that – professionals.  Our approach therefore is not so much that of a salesperson, but that of an introducer.  Our success is not derived from sending unsolicited CV’s to hiring managers, but building lasting relationships with the companies we partner with, and the candidates we assist in their careers.  Our view is a long-term one; the newly qualified solicitors of today are our General Counsels and clients of tomorrow.

A common theme I have noticed amongst candidates is frustration at a lack of feedback or communication from recruiters.  Speaking from my own experience here, as recruiters we have to prioritise when dealing with applications; however there is seldom an excuse for a lack of communication once a candidate enters into the hiring process.  Where possible we seek out constructive feedback from our clients following the submission of a CV, and certainly following an interview.  We endeavour to keep applicants updated on the market, and our aim is to offer a level of service whereby even those applicants we have not placed this time around, will have had a positive and constructive experience, and will come back to us in future.  In my experience, when an applicant is dissatisfied with a process, it is largely because their expectations have not been managed correctly.  As a result, we aim to be consultative and realistic from the outset, whether that is in relation to salary expectations or simply the type of organisation a candidate hopes to move to. 

To summarise, the recruitment profession is extremely diverse, across the sectors it operates in, but also the firms which operate within them.  The fact remains that ‘people do business with people’ and any relationship will be based primarily on the consultant, not the firm.  As a candidate therefore, it’s important to work with one or two consultants who have taken the time to understand your goals, and where appropriate, managed your expectations from the outset.  From this point forward an effective and longstanding working relationship can develop.  

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