Clients: What's Scaring off Candidates?

Posted in Blog on 18 Oct 2018

Big four accountancy firm EY’s recent acquisition of law firm Riverview Law hit the headlines and sparked speculation about a new wave of disruption in the legal sector.

While the extent of such disruption may take time to be noticed, there’s no disputing the expansion of a non-legal firm into legal managed services changes the landscape. This is especially true during recruitment, where a new and different market entrant can make competing for the best talent even more challenging.

With this in mind, it’s worth looking at what scares people off during recruitment to help improve a firm’s chance of attracting the highest calibre candidates.   


One of the first experiences a candidate is likely to have during the recruitment process will be a conversation with a recruiter or reading a job advert. At this point, while the description of the role is intended to sell the job and the firm, it can do the absolute opposite. Frequently used terms like ‘fast paced’, ‘cutting edge’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘fast growing’ can be construed as long-working hours, high pressured and stressful. This can put candidates off at the outset. It can prove more beneficial to focus on a firm’s corporate values and tangible examples of how these live and breathe in the workplace.

Beyond the job description, many of the best candidates take a read of a firm’s working culture by turning-up extra early for interviews. They’ll be looking at how they’re treated as they are kept waiting, while also considering what’s happening in the working environment beyond the realms of the interview room. Do people look happy? Are employees interacting with one another? What are noise levels like in the office? How are other guests and phone calls treated on reception? Such small details provide a snapshot of the day-to-day working culture and candidates will consider how these compare to the corporate pitch they’re sold during the interview. If they don’t marry-up, it doesn’t create confidence in candidates about the opportunity on offer.

Based on our experience of working with candidates, we also know that word of mouth and media reporting are crucial during recruitment. People want an honest view of how a firm is perceived. They will sound-out industry peers for their opinions and spend a great deal of time scouring social media and the web for employee comments.

They are also using business and legal trade media to get a grasp of a firm’s reputation. Reporting around contentious issues like redundancies and mass senior departures can obviously prove off-putting. However, you’re hiring smart people and savvy candidates are also reading between the lines. They’ll notice if there are none or few stories about innovation, success and progression, or what a firm stands for beyond its service expertise and financial performance. This quickly quashes any interest they may have in a particular firm and can deter their recruitment choices. Firms need a solid media strategy that delivers consistent and positive brand awareness.


It’s also increasingly important for branding and marketing to set a firm apart. Many candidates talk about a vanilla landscape, where so many firms communicate the same things, they see little differentiation. While ‘employer brand’ seems a bit of a buzz term, getting it right in terms of benefits, working environment and flexibility, and social impact can effectively influence a candidate’s decision about who they want to work for.  

Finally, it’s crucial the employer brand is unambiguous and authentic. For example, candidates have shared their dissatisfaction about actual flexible working options being a far cry from the what’s often championed in theory. This is often down to how ‘flexi’ is defined and understood by different parties but leads to people thinking a firm is disingenuous. This quickly scares away applicants.

For further advice on how to avoid scaring off the best calibre candidates, contact our team or learn more from the experts in our Advice Centre.

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