Friday, 16 September 2016

Professional Services Marketing & BD Recruitment Autumn Report 2016

Historically, Leighton Taylor has compiled a market report every 6 months – one at the start of the year and one half-way through. This year we felt compelled to wait a little longer to take in the Brexit effect.  
Here are our key points from both a candidate and client perspective that we feel would be very useful to take into account moving forward to the latter half of 2016.    

  1. How has the recruitment market within the professional services sector been post-Brexit?

It’s important to note that in the first half of 2016, the market was incredibly strong. Vacancies of all levels were coming in on a daily basis. When the vote to leave was confirmed, from a recruitment point of view, it was a case of sitting with bated breath to see how firms would react and if recruitment would go on hold.

What has actually transpired is very interesting. Immediately after the vote, we had real a wave of activity and with above average numbers of new roles coming in. We then had a couple of weeks of reflection, where internal discussions were taking place. A few existing roles did go on hold (for the Summer) but more often than not we were being told that it was business as usual and that in fact extra resource may be required. It has stayed that way through August (which is generally a bit quieter) with a steady stream of new and replacement roles coming through. Our advice to candidates (where we could also detect some caution) is that it still remains a very good time to look with plenty of opportunities out there, so don’t hold back on starting a job search. 

  1. So it remains a candidate-led market?

Yes it is. There are still more opportunities out there than available, relevant candidates.  Clients who are recruiting need to remain flexible and responsive in their approaches to CV processing, interviews and creating quicker turnarounds. Those that are happy to let strong candidates go because there may be others around the corner, quite simply, will not be recruiting the best of the best.  

  1. What specific candidate or skill shortages have we seen when recruiting in the past 6 months?

Specialist roles such as KAM, pitch, PR or Digital, continue to be difficult to source, particularly as expectations rise and rise internally.  

  1. How is the market looking for the next 6 – 12 months and why?

Brexit actually came at a good time of year as far with regard to recruitment. During the summer months, it has given individuals who were worried more time to discuss and reflect on how to move forward without losing prime recruitment time. The feeling is that the market’s building up to a very busy few months ahead, with the vast majority of clients stating that their recruitment plans remain pretty much the same, and in some cases, busier. 

  1. Other market trends

The last few months has seen much talk about flexibility in the work place within professional services firms. Many firms claim to offer agile working practices but far fewer actually carry this through. We are often coming across very strong candidates who can’t apply for certain roles because they require a certain amount of flexibility, whether it’s a day at home or having flexibility to do some of the school runs.  It’s a real shame because in a market that needs candidates, there are some out there who are stuck because of their personal circumstances. We cannot stress enough, the firms who do embrace it, stand to get highly loyal and motivated people who actually end up putting in more time to make up for the flexibility. It’s good PR for those organisations too, as they’re regarded as forward-thinking businesses that people actually want to work for. You will get back what you put in. 

We mentioned the increase in counter offers in our last report as another symptom of the battle for talent and this remains the case. Potential employers and their recruiters appear to be more aware of it now so can try and counteract any possibility of this before it is too late. Our view remains that if you are candidate being counter-offered or a firm attempting to keep someone with an increased salary; it will only be a short-term fix for both sides. It’s only delaying the inevitable. 

  1. Leighton Taylor’s blueprint to a successful recruitment process

  • If you are using agencies, don’t use too many and provide as much information as possible from the outset. An experienced agency will be able to distinguish a good culture between client and applicant.
  • Client Extranet Systems – We completely understand the need for these but every recruitment agency will say, it is essential to keep a good dialogue as well. Good candidates can be easily be lost in a pile so ensure that the line managers are aware that the interview selection process is fast, efficient and uncomplicated. Quick feedback is critical.
  • Both sides need to be as flexible as possible with interview timings.  Applicants need to show as much willing as they can (without drawing attention) but clients also need to understand that it is getting harder and harder to get out of work to attend interviews during the working day. Interviews at 7:30am and 6:30pm are not unusual anymore.
  • Research, Research, Research.  Some of the most common feedback we receive is that a candidate didn’t do enough research for the interview. We don’t think you can ever over-prepare and we will provide extensive notes on how to do this and what to expect.
  • More than ever the interview has to be a two way process. Well briefed interviewers and partners who don’t just question the candidates but also sell the merits of firm to candidates who will be comparing roles. Interviews can still be testing but shouldn’t be at all aggressive.  

 In summary, as we move into a very busy autumn period, it’s business as usual and a good time to both recruit (if processes are good) and to look for roles. The market outlook remains positive.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

One week on. How the referendum affects your job search.

The vote to leave the EU last week has obviously caused a lot of uncertainty in the markets, with the pound suffering (although recovering a little), no clear leadership in sight and a lot of general anxiety and unrest across the nation.
It’s not for us to state what’s right or wrong or try to predict what might happen in the future, but if you’re a candidate looking (or thinking about looking) for new marketing and business development roles in the professional services sector, here are our thoughts on the last week and how you might be affected:
The general (early) consensus seems to be that actually a significant number of professional services firms could be in even higher demand by their clients, providing advice on how to negotiate the months (and perhaps years) ahead. This is particularly the case for law and accountancy firms, many who had pre-planned for Friday’s result by providing 24 hour advice straight away afterwards.
For property and management consultancies it is less clear and the real estate sector especially could be more seriously affected (as investments go on hold) but it is too early to tell. What we can say is that the first week post- Brexit has been very much business as usual.
In fact, over the past 6 or 7 days we’ve seen an above average number of new roles registered with us across all types of professional partnership and all levels from Assistant to Director. Encouragingly some of these have been new clients to us with brand new positions. There don’t appear to have been any knee jerk reactions and we haven’t had any reports of existing roles suddenly going on hold. If anything, there are mutterings that firms might need to increase their marketing, BD teams and other non-fee earning teams.
So our message to anyone either actively on the market or thinking about looking for a new role is that: we know it’s early days but as we stand, nothing has changed and it remains a good and strong market for Professional Services marketers. Long may it continue!

Giles Taylor

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


If clients contact us and they are struggling to fill their roles, one of their main reasons for rejecting people at first interview is that they didn’t do enough research on the firm and so couldn’t talk knowledgeably during the meeting. Some candidates think they can simply have a quick look at the job spec, then the company online and head off to the interview - job done.
That’s all that’s needed? Right? Wrong.
Candidates are losing out on roles that they’re more than qualified for because they are overlooking doing proper research on their potential employer. If candidates don’t know enough about the company during the interview, they can kiss the job goodbye – even if they are qualified to the hilt for it. An interviewer wants to know that you want to work for that firm and if you’re not sufficiently prepared, you won’t progress.

Doing your homework about the firm you’re interviewing at should be a lot more in depth than a quick online browse.
Where Should You Be Looking And What Should You Be Looking For?

First stop, obviously the company’s website. You need to know what the organisation does. What is the company’s mission statement? Where are they located? Are they International? Find out specific areas of business, services or products that the firm is involved with.
Find out who runs the firm. Who makes up the management team, the Board, who are the partners and what do they specialise in? Who will be interviewing you? Do you know their names? What do you know about the people of the firm? Also try and find out how they go to market and how the role fits in – is it sector or practice driven or a bit of both.

Look at LinkedIn for even more information about both the company and the people that work there. What is being said about them on social networks? Can you find any common ground or interests with those who will be interviewing you? Clearly, you shouldn’t claim to have won the 2010 European Waterskiing Championship when you’ve only waterskied a few times, so don’t exaggerate or invent things - but if you know the person interviewing you is into waterskiing, there you go – some common ground to make small talk and also show that you have a life outside of work!
At senior management level, your knowledge should always also extend to financial data, corporate culture, structure, company history, market knowledge and any recent news. And that’s not a bad recommendation either for anyone else not at that level. It’s always good to know too much than too little.

Have a look and see what general coverage or industry news your potential employer has had? Newspapers and trade journals are the best place research but, remember, for some of these such as: or, you might have to have an online subscription. So if you’ve got any friends who subscribe to industry publications, then don’t be shy asking if you can borrow them. Again, if you’ve friends in the sector, ask them about the firm you’ll be interviewing at. What are their perceptions or the firm? Do they know anyone there?
Don't forget to prepare your own questions as well. Think about what you're likely to be asked and don't forget the old line, 'its a two-way street'. You will be expected to ask some questions about the firm, so make sure they are well thought out.

All of this information could be very useful in an interview as you can never be sure exactly what you’ll be asked.

As recruitment consultants, it’s our view that you can never be over-prepared for an interview. You may not always use all the research you’ve done at first stage but it’s better to have the knowledge than to not have done the research and be left struggling to answer questions from your interviewers.

Colette Norfolk, Leighton Taylor Consulting




Thursday, 11 June 2015

Tick Tock! The Right Time for Interviews

At a job interview:
"What are your strengths?"
"I'm an optimist and a positive thinker."
"Can you give me an example?"
"Yes. When do I start?"

Timing. Good comedians wouldn't be without it.

The importance of good timing spans more than a good stand up routine though.

Feedback from our candidates regarding the timing of interviews is an issue that seems to be coming up more and more in recent months. The traditional idea that job seekers should be prepared to take time out of work to interview if they are serious about a role holds some truth -however, if they're an outstanding candidate, with more options they'll have to choose far more carefully who they do or don't meet - especially if the interview has to be in work hours.

Firms who are serious about recruiting need to provide far more flexibility for out of hours interview slots. One Head of Business Development at a Global legal firm recently commented "We’ve realised we’ve got to make it as easy as possible for good candidates to come to us; we needed to be far more accommodating." He continues, "By giving far more options for interview times it shows our potential employee we value them, we want them as much as they want us - and we're prepared to go the extra mile to get them on board". 

By creating an 8am or 6pm interview slot, we're seeing first hand that professional services firms are profiting from this kind of approach. Feedback from our candidates says they need a better range of times for their interviews and are choosing who they interview or don't interview with very carefully as a result. Once again, this can mean competitive advantage for the firm that has a more progressive approach to the recruitment process.

Maybe firms who offer a wider range of interview slots might be having the last laugh after all...

Colette Norfolk

Friday, 30 January 2015

January - What a Rush!

We're only a few weeks into the new year, but having just sat down with the other consultants at Leighton Taylor to review the month so far, we've all said that we can't remember a busier January (and we have been recruiting in the professional services sector for nearly 20 years!).

It was similar to the start of 2014 (where January just kept on going from a very busy December), but this has moved up a notch. From Day 1 after the holiday break, the demand from our clients to recruit just hit us like a train and hasn't subsided! From a candidate perspective, this is fantastic news because it means there are plenty of roles out there at all levels. (It's key to point out too, that these are covering multiple disciplines, and are across all types of partnership - legal, accountancy, property, construction, and management consultancy). So this buoyant market results in good candidates having more choice.
But from a client perspective, what does this mean for your firm? How will your firm recruit the better candidates out there before someone else does? (see our last blog: Rules of BD Attraction )

One of the main things about firms who are managing to recruit the best candidates is that they are still the ones that are more flexible in their approach, who move really quickly (without multiple procedures) and who, if they see someone they like, make their move with minimum delay.

Many firms are realising this and altering their procedures accordingly, but we're finding some of our clients are still missing out on even meeting outstanding candidates because they've taken too long to react. Firms must realise that it's essential to move as fast as possible because even delaying by a single day, coming back on a candidate later than another firm will give them a disadvantage - and probably mean the difference between landing that person and missing out completely.

So our early 2015 message is that the market is buoyant and feels good - very good - and from what we've seen so far it's a truly excellent time to be looking for a role. From an employers' perspective, the competition for outstanding marketing and BD talent is at its most intense and this is unlikely to change soon, so don't delay if a good candidate comes your way.

Giles Taylor

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rules of BD Attraction

This Article was first published in Legal Services Network Briefing Magazine - September 2014

The current market is strong and confident, but we believe it more essential than ever, that law firms get the entire recruitment process right in order to secure quality talent. As we move into the latter stages of 2014, we have identified some trends and patterns that we feel would be very useful to take into account when recruiting for BD teams.  

  1. The current state of the recruitment market within the legal sector.

It’s extremely buoyant with a wide range of roles across the entire sector and at all levels (including more at a senior level). It is also probably the most competitive market (for sourcing talent) that our consultants can remember in almost 20 years of working in the sector. It is very much “Candidate-led” – more roles than relevant applicants - and very good people are at a premium.  The firms that don’t recognise this, struggle to recruit at the moment, as the process has to be spot-on from start to finish.


  1. Are law firms adapting to the current recruitment market?

Many have but some haven’t. There is a varied approach by firms to what for them is a very challenging recruitment market. Some continue as they did when the market was much more “Client-led” and subsequently struggle to fill roles for months (and in some cases much longer). Common issues revolve around complicated CV and interview processes (a good candidate is going to react better to a firm with a smooth, quick process) salary bands (where a firm is low in comparison to its direct competitors), lack of a bonus structure (more of an issue now that bonuses are being paid again) and a general lack of selling of a role on the part of a potential employer. More than ever an interview should be seen as a two-way process and quite often unfortunately it isn’t.


  1. Specific candidate or skill shortages we have seen when recruiting in the past 6 months

Specialist roles, whether they be pitch, CRM, PR, Digital or anything else are generally more difficult to source. We have also found recently that practice/sector based BD Manager roles (E.g. ones in Corporate or Financial Institutions with a strong pitch focus) can take a long time to fill. Firms need to try and make these roles as attractive as possible to candidates by ensuring they have broad remits.


  1. Is this likely to continue for the next 6 – 12 months and why?

We think that pitch specific roles and broader BD roles with a strong pitch element will continue to be more  thedifficult. One reason for this is that if good BD specialists come onto the market, often their primary motivator is to reduce this part of their role. At a BD Manager level in particular, the hours that many are expected to work (due to pitches and having smaller teams than before) can be quite extreme and this is why they are looking for a change. They will not be attracted to a role that on paper looks exactly the same.

  1. Beware of counter-offers!

There is an extremely high chance that high-calibre candidates (currently in employment) will be counter-offered if they resign. In fact we are finding that they may be counter-offered more than once, even after contracts are signed and start dates have been agreed. If this ever works, it is a fairly short term solution as candidates will generally be looking again within 3 – 6 months but it does mean, that offers need to be highly attractive and a candidate needs to be bought in completely to making a move. A good recruitment consultant can be invaluable in these situations.

  1. Leighton Taylor’s blueprint to attracting quality candidates in the current market!

·         Ensure the CV process is fast, efficient and uncomplicated both for the candidates and the agencies recruiting on your behalf.

·         Where possible avoid the use of specific firm coversheets for candidates. Good quality agencies should automatically provide their own as part of their CV which should include interview notes and information on salaries, notice periods etc. If agencies are asked to produce a specific firm CV & coversheet this will take more time and the CV may already have been sent quickly to (the majority of) other firms that just accept a normal (agency) CV. Less complicated = a quicker process.

·         Don’t hide behind a CV extranet system. CVs can just become a number when they are placed on these, so ensure that constant dialogue is maintained throughout the process. This incudes as much information as possible on roles (agency briefings are key), feedback on submitted CVs, candidates interviewed and also regular updates on timescales.

·         Well briefed interviewers and partners who don’t just question the candidates but also sell the merits of the firm to candidates who are generally going to have more than one option.

·         A smooth process from beginning to end, with limited delay. Also if you see someone you like, move quickly and efficiently and jump on them!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Christmas Cheer well into New Year!

Six or seven weeks into 2014 may seem an odd time to reflect on the market, but we've seen and experienced things over the past few months which have felt different (in a very positive way) to previous years.

The old recruitment cliché is that after a quiet couple of months leading up to Christmas (when recruitment is put on hold whilst the holiday celebrations go on), everything then starts again on the first day back in January. The general perception is that firms suddenly decide that the start of the year would be a good time to recruit as candidates will come flooding onto the market, the holiday period having convinced them that they want a change of role.

Having recruited these roles in the professional services sector for the past 17 years (and therefore having experienced that number of  Christmas/New Year periods) the reality is nearly always different. You tend to get slight changes in activity over the November, December months where it becomes a little quieter and more difficult to schedule interviews/meetings with clients,  and then you get a slight influx again - often starting a couple of weeks into January.

This year however has been noticeably different and we view this change as a very positive sign going forward. Reflecting back on the last 2 or 3 months of 2013, there was a constant and exciting flow of activity and no slow-down at all. Firms were posting new roles and holding agency briefings right up until Christmas. We even had some candidates going in for interviews on the afternoon of the 24th December simply because clients were keen to either get a process started or keep momentum going.

We also saw a significant increase in the number of interviews taking place between Christmas and New Year, a time when we were also getting many new enquiries from candidates. As we returned in the New Year, we had vacancy briefings with clients booked in for 10am on the first day back and we have seen no let-up in the proceeding weeks.

The fact that the holiday period remained extremely busy has had a fantastic knock-on effect in January/February. None of Leighton Taylor's consultants can remember a time (and this includes periods where the market was at it's strongest) when we have had so many offers made by clients (and therefore placements) in the first month of the year.

Overall it means clients want to recruit and candidates are confident enough in the market to move. Expectations remain high on both sides but we expect and hope that these are all good signs for 2014!