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How to hire successfully into a professional services firm

Hiring successfully into a professional services firm is a specialised task. Every sector has its own unique challenges and characteristics, but those in the professional services industries require a particularly expert response. Why is this? The success of professional services firms relies heavily on the quality of their client facing employees. Any advantage in securing the very best talent will result in a competitive edge. The efficiency and effectiveness of the talent acquisition process is more distinct in professional services than in most other sectors.

Hiring successfully into a professional services firm is a specialised task. Every sector has its own unique challenges and characteristics, but those in the professional services industries require a particularly expert response. Why is this?

The success of professional services firms relies heavily on the quality of their client facing employees. Any advantage in securing the very best talent will result in a competitive edge. The efficiency and effectiveness of the talent acquisition process is more distinct in professional services than in most other sectors.

At Cielo, our experience in the professional services sector can provide your organisation with four key lessons to help achieve this:

Differentiate your employee value proposition
Challenge: Job seekers can be forgiven for thinking that all professional services firms offer similar roles with similar packages and career paths. Finding the compelling differences available at your firm can make all the difference in convincing the best talent to join you, no matter how minor. These might focus on working with a particular Partner within the firm, or on a specific project area, or increasingly one differentiator is to focus on an element of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Solution: Having the talent acquisition skills and tools available to really analyse your current employer brand versus your direct competitors is essential.

There is ongoing research about how the pandemic has or will affect the desires of candidates looking for a move. Whilst it is too early to draw definite conclusions about how these will manifest regarding the professional services sector, having a framework within which to consider them and a vehicle to act upon them, will be the key success factor.

Speed is of the essence
Challenge: The best candidates are highly sought after and will know that they can catch the interest of multiple organisations very quickly. Delivering a unique proposition within a highly professional candidate experience alone, will not deliver results if the process is slow. Without advanced, ahead of the curve sourcing strategies to identify candidates, you will always be playing catch-up.

Solution: Having the talent acquisition technology and processes in place to effectively build and maintain talent communities will mean you can engage the best talent before they receive multiple competing offers.

Understanding why a candidate is looking to move
Challenge: Candidates in the professional services sector can often be looking to move for not particularly obvious reasons.  An underwhelming bonus or knowing that their next project is likely to require onerous travel commitments could be the cause. Being able to select the best candidates in the professional services sector is often largely about understanding accurately what is driving their desire to seek a new position.

Solution: Having a recruitment team that understands the drivers of those working in fee-earning professional services roles is critical. A selection process that can go beyond matching relevant skills and experience is worth the investment. The best recruitment processes are increasingly sophisticated in understanding strengths and motivations, in addition to the more typical assessment areas such as competencies and experience. Motivation can be especially valuable for a professional services firm to ascertain, to help plan how the individual might fit into a particular team and what development or succession planning considerations might need to be made.

Give a great experience
Challenge: The best candidates expect a recruitment experience every bit as professional as the services that they deliver to their end clients. Any sense that the process is generic or is only geared up to handle mass applications for bulk hiring positions will serve to differentiate your brand – but in a negative way.

Solution: Design a thoroughly thought-out recruitment process that includes in-depth engagement and tone of voice training for the recruitment team as well as the hiring manager to enable them to position your employer brand ahead of the crowd.

Tone of voice training is still surprisingly rare, but it is a powerful way to ensure that not only your employer brand but your overall corporate culture and identity are reflected in every interaction with candidates. Consistency and professionalism are values that the best professional services candidates exhibit in their work, and it can be a powerful differentiator in a recruitment process.

In summary – staying focused on understanding and meeting these four key challenges will secure the best people and create a pipeline of talent who view your brand positively so that you will meet your future needs.

Andrew Manning, Senior Vice President, Cielo

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