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What candidates want (aside from salary)

While salary remains a factor as the new year ramps up, employers and employees are increasingly valuing things like culture, value alignment and authenticity, this pair revealed on a recent podcast episode.  

user iconLauren Croft 23 January 2023 Big Law
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Alex Giannopoulos is the manager of industry engagement and careers at Leo Cussen, and Linda Baxter is the director of continuing professional development for the education provider.

Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with Leo Cussen, the pair discussed the current recruitment landscape and what both candidates and employers can be focusing on in 2023.

In addition to revealing a nexus between legal education and legal recruitment, the pair also shared some tips for employers to improve staff attraction and retention and how candidates can best be chosen moving into 2023.


According to Ms Baxter, there are a number of things employers can look for before even interviewing a candidate.

“If in their resumé they’ve gone from job to job to job, that’s often what I would call a grasshopper, particularly if the roles are less than six months, because that can sometimes indicate they haven’t passed a probationary period. And if you’ve got multiples of those short stints within a law firm or legal department, that can sometimes indicate that they’re never happy or there’s some issue that arises before the probationary period is at the end, and the employment is confirmed. So that’s something that I would look for,” she explained.

“I don’t get too hung up on cover letters, personally, because sometimes you can have a great cover letter and yet the resumé won’t match the cover letter. I mean, at the end of the day, I’m looking at what the person is currently doing and what their experience is. I look for unexplained gaps in resumés, so I always want to know a little bit more about that.

“The other tip I would give is that if someone’s applying for a role, then that means that they’re on the market. If you’ve got multiple applications coming through and you identify a potentially good candidate, move very quickly because they will have other roles that they’re exploring as well. And don’t necessarily wait till you get, say, 10 good applicants. If you’ve got one, move as quickly as you can.”

In terms of interviewing candidates, Mr Giannopoulos added, in addition to asking prospective employees to prepare a short presentation, there are a number of creative ways to make sure candidates will be a good fit.

“A lot like every other part of the recruitment process, this has to align with the culture of your organisation. For example, a traditional interview is one way to go, but sometimes it can be a very sterile environment. It’s not as authentic, and you don’t necessarily get the real version of someone if you put them in a panel-type environment, talking in a very formal room,” he said.

“One thing that I’ve seen used very effectively in a number of organisations is the coffee chat, or the cocktail party, or the lunch. Certainly, if the role that you are recruiting for is someone who you’re going to be putting in front of clients quite a bit, and if it involves perhaps even having lunch with clients quite a bit, actually putting them in that environment as part of your selection process is a really effective way of seeing how they might behave in that environment if they were to get the job.”

Moreover, asking out-of-the-box questions that are less obvious can also mean getting more authentic responses.

“It might help to have one or two questions that perhaps are less obvious for a few reasons. One, to later ask questions that might actually align with what your organisation cares about. And it might even align with questions that help you work out whether someone possesses the kinds of attributes that perhaps didn’t work out in previous hires as well,” Mr Giannopoulos added.

“But the other reason also is so that you can get some more authentic answers, because the harder it is to predict a question, the harder it is to prepare a canned response. And ideally, you want to try and get authentic responses, and sometimes that means asking them to think on the spot so that you can get something genuine out of them. I always recommend asking a few questions that perhaps are a little harder to predict.”

Further, Mr Giannopoulos also outlined that one of the main shifts within the recruitment market post-pandemic is that candidates now look for a variety of different things in a role.

“Salary is always going to be a factor, but research continually shows us that it is not always the primary factor, and many employees are valuing different things. I think one of the key things to get an employee or potential candidate over the line is to find out what actually matters to them. Maybe it’s salary, but maybe it’s something else. Maybe they have a very busy home life, and it’s the ability to be able to work from home more often or to be able to get home earlier on some days,” he noted.

“Maybe they’re looking for other things. It could be value alignment. It could be the opportunity to travel with the organisation. It could be all sorts of things. The key is to find what matters to that individual. The ability to think creatively and to align what you offer with what matters to the candidate that you want to get over the line, that’s what’s going to probably help the most.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Alex Giannopoulos and Linda Baxter, click below: