How to avoid being gazumped when making a new legal hire

Talent acquisition is the top priority for law firms large and small, but finding the perfect candidate amidst a competitive market isn’t always easy. Your search could lead you down several dead-ends before you conclude an interview feeling confident in a candidate. Finally, after making what you thought was an attractive offer, you receive an email thanking you for the opportunity and informing you of a counter-offer they’ve accepted from a competitor. You’re forced to start your search again, having wasted time, money and resources. We’ve all been there: the candidate seems like the perfect match, so why didn’t they accept your offer? In most cases, hesitation to sign a contract is a sure-fire sign that more could be done to seal the deal. As time ticks and the position remains unfilled, how can you ensure your preferred applicant won’t get swiped up by another firm?

  1. Know your candidate 

An attractive job offer is one that has been tailored to the requirements, priorities and personal preferences of the candidate, so use the interview to gather as much intel as possible. Ask the applicant about their career ambitions, their plans for the next 5-10 years and any concerns they have about the job description. As well as salary requirements, it will also be beneficial to determine the candidate’s ideal working environment, preferred hours and management style. By building a clear picture of what an applicant is seeking, you can shape your offer accordingly.  

2. Know your competition 

As candidates’ demands and expectations shift, firms seeking to grow their workforce should make an effort to understand current salary trends in order to get a handle on what other firms are offering. As well as financial compensation, what benefits packages do your competitors offer? How do they compare with the perks of working at your firm? Remember, if you’ve found a candidate who ticks all your boxes, it’s not hard to imagine that they tick the same boxes for a vacancy at another firm. Understanding how your law firm differs from your competitors and the ways in which this unique value makes for a more compelling offer is key.  

3. Sell the opportunity 

If your firm is looking to secure top legal talent, you’ll need to prove you can offer more than just a salary. Promote your firm as an employer of choice by presenting the vacancy as an exciting and unmissable opportunity for the right candidate. This is a chance for you to create non-financial value, highlighting the particular perks that may come with the role such as flexible working hours; promotion schemes or training courses paid for by the company. No matter your budget, make sure to emphasise to the applicant how their role will contribute to the business and the impact their commitment will have. For many candidates, company culture will determine whether or not a role is right for them, so do not hesitate in highlighting your firm’s core values during the interview. 

4. Make your move

Once you have made your decision, don’t procrastinate. Try to act within 24 hours after the final interview – not only does this demonstrate your interest to the candidate, it shows that you respect their time. The longer you leave an applicant without an answer or even feedback from their interview, the more chance you give a competitor to make a counteroffer. Remember, attempts to low-ball your candidate to save on costs could lead them to look elsewhere. If this truly is the right person for the job, make an offer that is both fair and competitive. Once the offer has been made, make sure to follow up in writing and provide a sensible deadline for their response.