Is it right to be brand precious in 2020?


In a busy recruitment market we’ve enjoyed a degree of objectivity from clients, and actually that is the case more often than not in the legal sector. However, I’ve detected some elevated client expectation in the current market. Comments about employer brands and candidate backgrounds not being of interest. There’s a lot of chat around the professions mindset toward grades and academic backgrounds, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, but just as open to prejudice is past employer brands.


Lack of awareness?

As an experienced recruiter I have a decent understanding of the clients and I only take candidates to brands where my experience would suggest they’ll be well received. I don’t take a volume activity approach and neither do my team. Having candidates rejected is normal, but the logic sometimes right now seems to be a misunderstanding about candidate availability, and on occasion inflated view of employer brand potency. Too often the irony is that this “not from that brand” justification for rejecting applicants is frequently coming from employers who historically hire exactly from that sort of background, and whose ranks of staff come from a very diverse mix of brands.

Personally I think there’s no place for disparaging comments against other firms, downstream or otherwise. And it’s also terrible feedback for a candidate to hear…so I’d urge clients to be a bit more thoughtful and considered when justifying not shortlisting candidates. Let’s turn the tables – if candidates said “not interested in your brand” as an employer you’d be hacked off and you’d want to know more about such judgments. Candidates might be individuals but their automatic reaction is the same. Law firms spend a lot of time and money over a prolonged period presenting an image to the labour market, and it’s immediately tarnished with poor feedback.


Acknowledge the context.

We all know that the legal profession is notoriously difficult to get into. I see candidates with shining academics and first class degree’s working for sole traders and brands that are certainly not on the radar of the majority of lawyers. Their academic background might lead to a logical expectation they’d easily get qualified with a Top 100 firm, but contrary to that their starting point into the profession has been much more modest.

It takes time for lawyers to choose their direction, and in a sector which is structured around ‘Post Qualification Experience’ it’s not untypical (and it’s perfectly acceptable) for a candidate to take a number of years to move into higher ranked firms if they want to do so.

As a point aside, I have contacts of old who have risen from ‘high street’ to global brands, and who on LinkedIn don’t list their early career history. It’s a shame that the insight and belief and hope that candidates from similar beginnings might have for themselves is taken away because of incomplete professional profiles. Whether this is from some sort of embarrassment or whether there is a more practical reason I don’t know, and whether that’s a decision of the employee or their employer I don’t know either. But profiles telling a fuller story would 100% validate what I am saying in this blog.


Approach it differently.

What I’d like employers to do is to appreciate achievements they’ve witnessed of colleagues within their own organisation who have joined from diverse backgrounds, acknowledge a candidates own track record and core strengths, and hire them to fulfil their potential. What I’d expect as a consequence of such a choice is a committed and focused new recruit who is keen to repay the faith shown in them and to make the most of every opportunity. That attitude is priceless if contrasted to an expectant, over-confident and unappreciative candidate who has had a straight forward ride to date in their career and so feels they are entitled for that to continue.

Looking beyond current employer brand is a massive opportunity for a prospective new employer if they can just get past their initial knee-jerk “not the right background”, as it is arguably not a fitting mindset for 2020.

What I’ve learnt over the last 20 years is that every candidate is different and pre-conceptions don’t apply to all, so the only way to truly assess someone is to engage with an individual and get their side of the story. That is something that Brooke Thornham will keep doing when new people work with us as it’s always rewarding to help forward those candidates which other recruiters or employers will discard without proper consideration and in doing so they’re missing a trick.


For further information on how the Brooke Thornham team can help with your legal job search or recruitment get in touch here

Share this: