Filling vacancies at professional firms (part one)

Oct 23, 2007 | Recruitment

I thought I’d share some thoughts here that I have raised with many firms over the years in the context of their recruitment needs and how they fill vacancies. I touched upon this in a recent series of postings ‘winning the war for talent‘.

Imagine for a moment that your firm has placed a recruitment advert in the professional press. What do you think is the first thing that any half-decent candidate is going to do these days if the advert catches their eye?

The very first thing they’ll probably do is to think about whether they know anyone else who works there and try to find out what they think of the firm. But this is only really likely with the largest professional firms.

What is the other quite obvious thing to do after you’ve seen a recruitment ad that sparks your interest? Remember – you’re trying to think like a target candidate.

Anyone worth their salt is going to check your website. Firms tell me that they can’t recruit enough good staff. There are more vacancies than good quality candidates. Which firms do you think the good quality candidates choose to go to see? I suggest it’s the firms whose websites make the firms seem attractive places to work.

So go and have a look at your website. It may well be great in many respects. But now try to think like a good quality candidate. What would you find attractive? Let’s start with your careers page. You do have one don’t you? Or do you just have a bland ‘vacancies’ page, as if you were a supermarket with vacancies for additional cashiers or cleaners? To my mind a professional services firm should be enticing new recruits by talking about their potential careers with the firm rather than the positions the firm wants to fill.

(I came across one firm recently with an advert in the professional press to fill two positions in the firm. They did have a careers page on their website but sadly it said the firm had no vacancies. What sort of impression does that inconsistency give about the firm – in the minds of their target candidates?)

On the same theme – What can a candidate find out about what it’s like to work at your firm? Your website probably has many messages aimed at persuading prospective clients that they will be well looked after and what sort of approach the firm adopts to client service. Good. But what about that other audience for your website – prospective candidates and staff (and possibly even future partners)? What messages do you have to convince them that they should come and talk to you? To attend an interview? Why should they respond to your recruitment ads as compared with those placed by other firms?

I’ve noticed that one of the quasi-template approaches for accountancy firms’ websites includes a jokes page. I’ve seen it on various firms’ websites recently. I’m not convinced it’s a good idea. On the one hand I like the fact that it shows the firm/partners don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s probably good. However most of the jokes insult accountants. Do younger accountants (of the age you’re looking to recruit) find them funny though? I don’t know. Incidentally I also wonder if they reinforce (bad) accountant stereotypes in the minds of prospective clients so they could be counter-productive in this respect too.

So what would I encourage you to include on your website to entice prospective recruits? Simply – more attractive information and more compelling messages than those of the firms with whom you are competing for candidates in the war for talent.

I’ll share some ideas along these lines in a future posting on this blog. [You can find it here now >>>]

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