When you’ve been in the recruiting business as long as we have, you notice some behavioral patterns. Some of those patterns are a little, let’s say, irritating. As a public service to the legal recruiting industry, we thought we’d put together a list of what not to do as a law firm or candidate engaging with recruiters.
Assuming you are not yourself a recruiter, why should you care about this? (Other than not wanting to be a terrible person!) Whether you are a law firm leader or a potential lateral candidate, it turns out that treating recruiters respectfully has real benefits for you.
From the firm perspective, it’s important to understand that recruiters don’t prioritize firms equally. Our job is to move lawyers from one firm to another. The reality is that if we aren’t making placements with your firm, we’re looking to move your people to firms that work constructively with us. So from a talent retention perspective, it helps to have a solid relationship with the recruiting community. How recruiters perceive your firm also has an effect on your broader reputation in the market. When we are placing at your firm, we talk to hundreds of candidates, encouraging them to consider joining you. This is a marketing function — it builds a positive perception in the industry. Naturally, being on the recruiter naughty list will have the opposite effect.
From a candidate perspective, there is a good chance you’ll be back on the market at some point in the future — or at least that you’ll be open to considering an especially great opportunity. Having a relationship with a recruiter you trust is beneficial both for learning what’s happening in the market generally and for getting early notice of specific opportunities. Burning your recruiter bridges squanders those potential benefits.
So with that in mind, here’s what you shouldn’t do:
- Refusing to pay: After hiring a candidate, the firm claims it knew of the candidate before the recruiter introduced her, and therefore it doesn’t owe a fee. This tends not to be mentioned until the end of the process, after the recruiter has already shepherded the candidate through.
- Dragging it out: The firm gives the same search to multiple recruiters in succession, without hiring anyone, causing the search to be stale by the time we’re asked to drum up candidates.
- Cutting us out: The candidate learns of an opportunity from a recruiter, then reaches out to the firm directly or via a friend who works there.
- Gaming the clock: After the recruiter submits a candidate, the firm waits exactly six months (when its obligation to pay a fee expires), then reaches out directly to the candidate.
- Below-market fee caps: The firm expresses interest in working with a recruiter but insists on paying only half the market rate.
- Window shopping: The firm takes a meeting with any candidate the recruiter submits, but it never hires any of them.
- Feigned interest: The candidate uses the recruiter to get a competing offer, with the goal of building leverage against their current firm to gain a promotion, a higher salary, or enhanced remote-work flexibility.
- Setting false criteria: The candidate declares they won’t move unless it’s for X amount of money. The recruiter convinces the firm to increase its offer by a six-figure sum, exceeding the candidate’s threshold. The candidate still rejects the offer.
- Inconsistent feedback: The firm rejects a candidate as too junior, days after hiring a candidate of the same seniority level.
- Radio silence: The firm provides zero feedback on a seemingly strong candidate.
- Unrealistic expectations: The firm is exceedingly picky about candidate credentials, despite offering nowhere near market compensation.
- Confidentiality fails: After the recruiter submits a candidate on a confidential basis, the firm carelessly asks around about the candidate, causing the news to get back to the candidate’s current firm.
- Late conflict discovery: Disregarding the best practice of conducting early conflicts checks, the firm discovers an insurmountable conflict near the end of the process.
- Hiding the ball: The candidate fails to tell the recruiter about competing interviews or offers, causing the recruiter not to press the firm to speed up its process, and causing the candidate to miss out on what could have been an offer.
- Ghosting: Candidates, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Whether in the dating market or the job market, ghosting people is a bad look!