Recruiting in a “candidate-led” market

Published On: November 26, 2020

01603 516261   |    07960 743650   |

01603 516261      07960 743650


A “candidate-led” market is one that is essentially a market where candidate demand is greater than supply. In the legal world it usually occurs when there is a shortage of suitably qualified people to fill specific practice areas. As a result, firms find it a struggle to recruit the talent they need.

Two general reasons for a “candidate-led” market are:

  • Firms expanding their practices and therefore increasing market demand in those areas
  • Fewer lawyers looking to move due to unfavourable business or other conditions. (At present, this is likely due to Covid-19 and the associated uncertainties some lawyers perceive in their practice areas)

But why do some firms still manage to attract candidates regardless while others struggle to do so?  In this article we have listed a few key points a firm should consider to improve their chances of a successful hire. These points are presented below.  

Make sure your firm’s online presence is highly relevant and professional

In deciding whether there is interest in your firm, many candidates will look at your firm’s website, LinkedIn profiles, Legal 500 presence and social media channels.  Content that is likely to be of interest to candidates includes being able to easily find the type of work the firm is doing, and, the career paths of recent lateral hires.

Detailed job descriptions which outline the skills and required qualifications also help, but not if they are so detailed that they deter suitable candidates. 

Arrange interviews promptly

In the context of a “candidate-led” market and where very few candidates are applying for jobs, firms should arrange interviews promptly. This also applies to candidates who may be receptive to a move as a result of talking to an agent. By promptly we mean within days, not weeks. Otherwise candidates may not feel they are important to you and lose interest – especially if they weren’t looking to move in the first place.

Address the reasons why candidates might move

Your recruitment agent should tell you in advance of any interview or chat what the drivers are that might encourage a particular candidate to move to your firm.  In our experience, one of the most common reasons why solicitors move is for career advancement, and ultimately, Partnership. If you have been told this about a candidate in advance, it is good to set out ways in which a solicitor may make Partner in your firm.  The more transparent and frank you can be about what it takes, the better your position generally. This might mean referring to billing targets and or specific skills/experience your law firm needs.  You might also have promotion criteria that you can talk about, show or share with candidates.  Anything you can do which helps to set out a pathway to a greater career success, the better your chances of making a successful hire.

Choose your interviewer carefully

An interview is more likely to take the form of a chat for anyone with a few years’ PQE behind them. So it’s important to think carefully about your choice of interviewer as people connect more easily to people like themselves.  And, just as importantly, the chosen interviewer should of course have prepared for his or her chat with questions ahead of time.

So, for instance, imagine you’re trying to hire an employment lawyer, and one comes along who is 6 years’ PQE. They are an Associate but their goal is to become a Partner.  The ideal choice of interviewer apart from the Head of Employment, would be someone who joined your firm as a lateral at Associate and has recently gone on to make Partner.

Address candidate concerns – early, quickly and thoroughly

Some candidates will choose only to relay concerns to their agent after any meeting (rather than directly to a firm if that firm is hiring directly) although some, usually more experienced candidates, will raise them during a chat.  Either way, you need to recognise concerns when they arise so that they are addressed and resolved and your chances of recruiting are improved. Quickly making an offer after any chat, without taking into account any candidate concerns is unlikely to help improve the outcome.  Our agency specifically asks candidates if they have any concerns or feelings about the firm they’ve met with.  When they do have concerns, with permission, we relay them to the firm, and usually this results in a second  meeting (assuming the firm is keen to progress matters).

Make a competitive offer

This may seem obvious to you but our experience says we still need to emphasise it.  A competitive offer is one which is competing with the candidate’s current position. This may include:


If the candidate is still employed and not working their notice then the firm needs to put together an attractive salary offer.  Going in far too low can ruin a relationship before it starts, lead to an outright rejection and cause embarrassment for the firm.  It can also harm your future chances of hiring because legal candidates tend to know other legal candidates whom they’re only too happy to share negative experiences with.

If you are using an agent find out, ideally in advance of meeting a candidate, what their salary aspirations are.


Candidates who choose to move in this market are, in our experience, doing so because they’ve realised that they wish to have more work-life flexibility.  It is wise to find out what their expectations are.

Benefits (holiday entitlement, medical insurance, car parking etc)

If you can’t compete with the candidate’s current benefits, you should think about putting something of equivalent value onto salary.

If you are using an agent, you should expect your agent to tell you, in advance, everything about a candidate’s current position along with the candidate’s salary and current benefits package. Again, paying attention to the details here pays dividends.

Dispatch offer paperwork quickly

Offer paperwork (cover letter and a full contract of employment) needs to dispatched quickly – within 24 working hours, not days and definitely not weeks.  This sends a strong message about the type of law firm you are and the level of client service you provide. Your offer should be emailed and also sent out in hard copy, with a pre-paid return envelope for convenience.

Stay in touch during notice periods

Most solicitors are either on three or six-month notice periods; this is a very long time to wait until you talk again. Stay in touch during any notice period. We’ve had clients (pre-Covid) invite candidates to meetings, dinners, social events and training seminars whilst they work out their notice.

Note that during Covid, our clients and their hires have had to adapt.  Solicitor hires have used the opportunity to meet remotely with various team members they will be working with via Teams or Zoom, normally outside of normal working hours. This allows the new hire to talk and learn more about the new firm. It also helps them feel important and happy about joining, which will enable them to hit the ground running.

Consider using an agency to increase applicants

In a candidate-led market, using an agency or recruiting specialist can help to increase the number of applicants.  The best candidates often aren’t looking to move firms, but an agency can work with you and draw up a list and then make contact discretely to suitable potential candidates.

Using a recruitment agent can also help to get candidates “over the line” and, ultimately, to become future employees. If you choose to use us, we can tell you specific things that you can do which are unique to your firm and situation, to help improve your chances.  Please note we don’t try to work for every firm and some firms we can’t work for due to our existing client base.


Hopefully these tips are helpful and will provide you with a real chance of beating the market odds and making a successful hire. 

If you want any help with your recruitment needs, do get in touch anytime.


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