Choosing a legal recruiter

By Kristi Edwards


Once you have made the decision, for whatever reason, that you would like to move on, you will probably need to instruct a recruiter.  We would say this wouldn’t we? But finding a recruiter you trust can not only save you immense amounts of time and misery in the long run but can inform you on the market, draw out your strengths and present them in the best possible way and help you to negotiate the various hazardous situations that can arise during your search. A word of caution here though. Don’t just choose the first one you speak to, or the first one that calls you, whomever you select will be representing you to the market. You will need to trust them enough and have sufficiently open dialogue with them that they understand your goals and are able to give you no-nonsense, well-informed advice.


Just a quick note on ethics (or rather the lack of that still seems to permeate the industry) - having only ever worked within certain ethical frameworks in terms of the confidentiality of candidates’ details, we find it astonishing when we discover that recruiters are still releasing candidates’ details to third parties in the absence of express permission. One of the first questions you should ask relates to how a recruiter approaches the sending of your CV and details. Make sure they are unequivocal on this point; that they will never do so without your permission. For your part you must be very clear as to your instructions to avoid any “misunderstandings” which some recruiter seem prone to make.


Another useful tool is to question a recruiter on how their performance is measured. Are they deemed successful because of the number of CVs they send out in a week? Many recruiters, unfortunately, are still measured by the volume of CVs they send with some agencies still under the misapprehension that more CVs sent will equal increased chances of making a placement. This approach does not work; recruiters who work this way spend minimal time on creating a bespoke approach to the firm in question, sometimes an approach being made with little or no detail through an entirely inappropriate channel. In addition and more worryingly, we feel it can lead to issues of a less stringently confidential approach to the release of your details bourn of the need to meet volume targets.


You should only ever instruct a recruiter that you feel comfortable talking to. Open, full communication is the only way they will be able to represent you properly. This open communication covers not only your goals and ambitions but any difficult issues that will form a part of full representation. It is vital that any potential issues are flagged early with your recruiter and that you feel confident that they will be a strong advocate on your behalf. Most issues that you feel are ‘deal breakers’ are matters that we have dealt with time and time again and can often be easily explained to the satisfaction of our clients when we have the benefit of full disclosure (and that means all the facts) from you.


An effective recruiter will spend time not just listening but probing also so you will need to be comfortable enough to be open. This communication between candidate and recruiter is possibly the most important building block in a recruiter working effectively for you.

Another thing that you can and should ask about is a recruiter’s relationships with their clients. On what level do they operate? Are they a purely “service” level provider or do they possess genuine insight into their client’s business? This goodwill or strength of relationship is the capital that a recruiter earns from client based on prior performance and the delivery of high quality candidates and is the nuanced force that drives the entire recruitment process. Doubtlessly, a good recruiter will really make a difference and the strength of his/her relationship and his/her access to real decision makers will put you before another candidate.


Just like a recruiter’s relationships with clients, you should also pay attention to their relationships with past candidates. It is always a good idea to consider a recruiter who has successfully worked with a colleague or an acquaintance in the past.

If you have the first three right - that is, you have found someone you feel is ethical, that you can communicate honestly with and who has a track record of successfully placing people into the kind of environment you are keen to work in, this final one should not be too difficult. It is important in addition to these first three that you enter into a business relationship with your recruiter. This means that you should keep up your side of the bargain too – be prepared and prompt, completely open and honest in the provision of relevant information and trust and respect the relationship. Now that you have decided to use a recruiter, trust and respect them enough not to milk them for information and then use it yourself to approach firms independently. It does not work and when you get a little further into the process, you will wish that you had someone to negotiate your salary package and chase up interview feedback, whilst you remain at arm’s length from the nitty gritty of the process.


Oh, and do make the effort to meet your recruiter in person as it is almost impossible to represent someone properly or, from your perspective, to make a decision on the elements we have discussed above in the absence of  a face-to-face meeting.


© Edwards Gibson

Archived Articles