Almost everyone involved in recruiting students or associates has a nagging fear: have any skeletons snuck out of the firm’s hallowed halls, and into its reputation?
What is said (online or off) about your reputation as an employer may be out of your control. But it isn’t out of your influence. Once people believe something negative to be true, it can take years to persuade them otherwise. You can minimize the chances of this happening by following a few of the guidelines below.
1. Link your recruiting objectives to overall firm objectives. If you want to build a reputation in a certain region, industry or market, using certain internal features such as project management techniques or star performers, your recruiting strategy needs to align with these goals. Which social media groups provide opportunities for you to do this?
2. Integrate your recruiting strategy with your firm’s social media strategy. Most large firms or departments will have a social media strategy that supports your overall reputation building strategy. Connecting your recruiting-focused social media activities to others on behalf of your firm will strengthen the value of your communications.
3. Ask your communications or marketing department to create talking points for you to incorporate into your social media activities. They should sound “human”, providing guidelines for staying on-message. The best social media conversations are informal and informative, as well as professional.
4. Understand your ‘real’ reputation. Perception is reality. What do opinion leaders such as career development officers (CDO’s), legal media and alumni say about your firm? Monitor what’s said about your firm online through google alerts and media scans. Ask your in-house communicators to tell you about client interview comments related to training and recruitment. And try to keep it in perspective (one or two critical comments don’t make for an overall judgment of the effectiveness of your training programs).
5. Differentiate your firm through the social media you choose to participate in. You might lead a student “tweet chat”, or you could write Slaw blog posts on student recruitment trends. Doing this consistently is like choosing which coffee shop you’ll frequent – people will get used to seeing you there, and it will convey something about your identity.
6. Review and reinforce your social media policy. Discuss it with new recruits. Put it to the test in mock scenarios so people understand what is and is not considered acceptable. Also review your privacy and confidentiality policies to ensure understanding.
7. Don’t believe your own press clippings. It’s tempting to cite your latest Chambers ranking or the most frequently recommended lawyers in your firm as a recruiting tool. But do students really care about this? Chances are, they care about your workplace values as demonstrated by the way people actually behave, your ability to help them learn skills and advance, and what the people they deem to be influential have to say about your organization (opinion leaders and peers).
8. Measure. Which measurements will meaningfully indicate recruiting success? The number of candidates who follow your social media profiles? The number of conversations that people in your firm have online with potential recruits? The number of attendees in a sponsored social media discussion about articling at a firm of your size or nature? Benchmark what it is you want to achieve against your current recruiting activities in social media and beyond.
9. Be real. If you value the investment you make in training programs, then say so. Talk about how you train people to work together to create advantages for clients through the unique combination of expertise and resources found at your firm. Avoiding platitudes, highlight the positive reality of life in your firm. Nothing irritates people more than arriving at an organization only to find out that it has made promises it can’t or won’t keep.
10. Incorporate social media strategies into crisis communications plans. Reputational crises often catch firms off-guard. Ensure that your communications department is up to speed on the activities and events that pose a risk to your reputation as an employer, and that you have a response ready. Social media demands a quick response at the best of times, but especially in a crisis.
12. Find opportunities to stay ahead of the curve. What will be important to law students and junior associates in five years? Begin speaking about your ability to anticipate and meet those needs. Consider the social context you will recruit in. How much debt will young lawyers graduate with? What will cost of living expenses be in your city or region in 2018? How will clients and other stakeholders expect you to operate as an employer or service provider?
Ideally, potential recruits will have a neutral or positive opinion of your firm before they consider applying. If they are active on social media, they’ll monitor your profiles, observe your tone and chosen conversation topics, and draw conclusions about your reputation. Social media is just one tool among many to tell people what you stand for. The more consistently you convey your values and objectives – through all of your recruiting strategies – the more successful you’ll be.