7 Top reasons why candidates move on from their current position

Written by Kara Plummer – Legal Professional Consultant

2017 remains a candidate short market for law firms in the Australian market. The market is a competitive one and it’s likely that candidates may be interviewing for more than one role. You need to do what you can to secure good candidates.

A crucial first step in your candidate screening process is taking some time to fully understand why a candidate is looking to move firms. It’s very easy to glide over the reason without asking too many details, however in order to secure a good candidate, you need to properly understand what they’re looking for what they’re really after in an employer. Without this information, you’re flying blind. Knowing the candidate’s real reason for moving on will help you determine how to tailor the recruitment process, giving you the best shot of securing a candidate.

In our experience, these are the top 7 reasons why candidates choose to move on from their firms and some tips in terms of what to do in an interview process to attract them:

1. Rotten mentoring

Candidates at the junior and intermediate stages of their career want to work in an environment where their superiors can be approached for advice and able to provide constructive feedback.  If this is the reason they’re looking to move, be mindful of who you include in your recruitment process – make sure the interviewers are approachable and are able to confirm that your firm is able to offer proper mentoring.

2. Wanting better work/life balance

It’s sometimes unusual for candidates to be open about wanting a better work/life balance, but it is a genuine reason why some people want to move, especially if family commitments require it.  We all know that some firms are able to offer less hours than others and there’s no point talking about work life balance in an interview with a candidate if there’s really no chance of it being on offer after they start.  If yours is a firm that can genuinely offer this to a candidate, be open about what sort of hours a candidate can expect to work, or if yours is a firm that can offer part-time or flexible work arrangements, talk through what sorts of arrangements you may be able to offer.

3. Wanting a step up to a larger firm

Wanting to move to a larger firm applies mostly to junior or mid-ranking lawyers wanting access to higher scale and quality of work and more structured training and development.  Needless to say, if you’re courting a candidate from a smaller firm, talk through the work and clients on offer at your firm. These types of candidates will want to chat to you about the type of work going on in the team and the structure of the team so they know they’re not just going to get stuck on leasing or due diligence if they move. Getting a good partner into the interview willing to chat through some interesting work is a good plan for these candidates.

4. More $$$

Some candidates can genuinely be underpaid – some are just plain greedy. The trick is to work out which category they fall into.  If they are genuinely being underpaid, talk through what sort of salary they may be able to obtain and discuss other benefits and entitlements you can offer.

5. Wanting to work for an international firm

Due to the large numbers of Australian lawyers who move overseas to practice, candidates sometimes move to position themselves in an internationally recognisable firm from which they will be able to move overseas at some point in the future. Obviously you don’t want a candidate to join and 3 months later, ask if they can be seconded to the London office, but the ability to move internationally at some point in the future is a genuine reason for moving.  They’re probably not going to be completely transparent about their motivations for moving, however if you believe that’s why they’re looking to move, talking about the international work done in the office or the possibility of a secondment down the track is a good idea.

6. Wanting improved progression prospects

If a candidate is moving because of a lack of progression in their current firm, they will want a really thorough run down of the structure of your firm’s team and the criteria for progression at interview. The ones inquiring about partnership prospects will be particularly eager to talk through your internal process regarding this. It might also be worth mentioning circumstances where previous lateral hires have joined and success stories in terms of them progressing.

7. Wanting to move in-house

A lot of lawyers in the current market are keen to move in-house. The attraction of working for one client as opposed to many, moving to be closer to the business, no time-sheets, the opportunity to work on a broader range of legal matters, – these are all facets of that might attract lawyers to working in-house rather than stay in private practice.  If you’re recruiting for an in-house position, find out why your candidate is attracted to in-house work. A candidate who has worked in-house before or has been on fairly lengthy secondments in their current role are usually the ones that adapt the most easily into an in-house role as they already understand what it’s like to work in an in-house environment and what challenges they may face in making this move.

Taking the time to really investigate why a candidate is looking to move is a critical step in the recruitment process. Spending time during the process to understand their real motivation for a move will enable you to tailor the process and have a much better chance of securing them for your firm.