Getting Candidates to Say Yes during Covid

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After 21 years of recruiting, one of the most frustrating discussions is having to tell a client that the candidate has knocked back their offer. You get to the end of the process after numerous interviews and meetings and discussions and then find out that you are back at square one. Now, in a competitive market, it is understandable that good candidates may have multiple opportunities but what is unforgivable is when the candidate knocks back the offer for reasons we can control, namely the recruitment process itself. 

Here are five easy ways to minimise the chance of clients rejecting you:

  1. Understand the market

It is a candidate-short market. The borders are closed, there are few active candidates, risk-averse lawyers are reluctant to leave safe roles. The bargaining position that was with employers a few years back has switched. You need to appreciate that candidates are in demand and court them. While we know you think your firm is the best in town, unless you have the brand equity of Apple or Amazon, candidates may not have the same perception. 

  1. Interviews 

We get that face to face interviews are preferable to video ones but, in most of Australia, virtual interviews are now the norm. There is no point using old-world pre-Covid thinking when scheduling interviews. There is no slinking away from the office during lunches, candidates are more in control of their time. If you like a candidate you have two choices, see them quickly and lock them in or delay unnecessarily and wait for other opportunities to compete with yours. Once a candidate is on the market they will rarely look at just one role. Just like clients rarely want to see only one candidate.

If you need more than 1 interview (we suggest two minimum) then why not do it back to back. Meet with stakeholder 1 for 40 mins and if things go well, then bring in any other decision-makers. There is no rule that says interviews must be on different days. In this market, second interviews should take place no longer than 48 hours from the first. I know you are busy but if you don’t hire someone you will be even busier. 

  1. What is the purpose of interviews?

Pre-Covid interviews were mainly about assessing the skills, experience and attitude of the candidate. The interviewers also have another job and that is selling the benefits of the role to the candidate. Your competitors will be doing this so unless you want to try recruiting with one hand behind your back, you should follow suit. What is your firm’s Employee Value proposition? What benefits do you offer – phones, insurance, gym membership, additional leave and parking are now more common. The key will be flexibility and work from anywhere. Companies that impose a blanket return to the office full-time rule will struggle to attract candidates in a post-Covid marketplace. 

Tell the story of why your staff like working with you, how you looked after them during the pandemic, how their career will grow at your firm. Make them feel valued, not a robot that churns out billable hours. 

  1. Gamesmanship / Gameswomanship

There is nothing better than feeling like you got a good deal – particularly when it comes to buying a T-shirt in Bali. Bargaining on salaries, however, is fraught with danger. Make sure you offer a fair market salary to prospective candidates. Gain access to independent surveys based on real data (eg ALPMA’s salary survey) and work out what is fair. You should also consider what the candidate is currently earning and the psychology that people generally like to step up if they take the risk of a move.

  1. Recruitment is just the start

As Rick says to Captain Renault at the end of Casablanca ” I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

Remember, recruitment is not a one-off transaction like buying a car. Your staff member will hopefully be with you for a long time and how you treat them during the recruitment process will set the tone for the working relationship going forward. if they feel valued and respected you will more likely get a dedicated, long term, profitable employee.


Jason Elias

Managing Director, Elias Recruitment

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