Joe Blackburn
Joe Blackburn
Senior Associate

Articles From the Team

Finding a good cultural fit in the age of Zoom

2020 and the current economy has presented a whole manner of challenges to the UK Legal recruitment market. A lot of firms are struggling due to the market conditions and adjusting to whatever will end up being our new normal. Whilst confidence has started to recover and firms are beginning to come back to market looking for new members of staff, there are still many potential difficulties for both candidates and clients alike when it comes to finding the right fit.

The importance of cultural fit

One of the most frequent answers to the question “what is most important to you in your search?” is cultural fit. It’s a given that people can have very different perceptions as to the definition of culture, but for the purposes of this article, I am assuming that most people want to find a team or candidate that they get on with, and who has similar professional values and perspectives. Undoubtedly, in the age of the video interview, culture has become more difficult to accurately evaluate during a recruitment process.

Initial things to consider

First and foremost, it is important to take your time deciding exactly what it is that is important to you. What are the absolute non-negotiables and what do you consider ‘nice to have’.  Once you have this deciphered you can start to find the right match.

Secondly, as the large majority of interviews are now taking place online, it is much less of a commitment to agree to meet with the partners in the team. Taking this change into account, asking questions directly to the partners about your non-negotiables is the best way to find out the firm’s policies on things like flexible working and working hours.

Thirdly, seek advice. In my experience, the majority of city centre moves at qualified level involve a solicitor moving to a firm which they already know of. Speak with people who know the firm, whether that be contacts who already work there (if appropriate), recruiters with a good existing relationship or people who worked at the firm previously. Doing this will greatly assist you in starting to build a cultural profile. I would recommend taking this step after a first stage interview, as it is important to have the full picture about the firm and role before approaching people who currently/previously worked there.

What to ask at interview

There are many questions, both open and direct, that will help you sway an interview in a culturally focused direction. Tailor the questions to what is important to you, and you can even have a tick-list of questions in front of you to make sure you ask. On a zoom call, the people on the other end won’t be able to see any notes you have in front of you – a great advantage of an online interview. Some example questions are below:

  • What would you say are the average working hours of the team?
  • Do you have an annual target for chargeable hours?
  • Do you and the team do much together socially, outside of work?
  • What is your policy when it comes to flexible working? Do you ever work from home?
  • How would you describe the current team dynamic?
  • Have many people have left the team recently?
  • How does the team communicate feedback? How do you give critique?
  • Why did you choose to work here?
  • How would you describe your management/leadership style?
  • How does the team celebrate exceptional achievement?

If there is a particular thing you are worried about, it is also pertinent to use previous examples to help get an honest and direct answer. If you have experienced something negative with a previous employer that you want to avoid, give a considered example and ask how they would respond.

Managing the process

As the process advances, ensure at each stage that you are comfortable with the amount of information you have from your potential employer regarding culture. If a firm is asking you to accept a job with them, they should be willing to resolve your reservations and answer any potential queries. If for example you want to meet the rest of the team, go ahead and ask. In times like these it is even more important to make sure you are making the right decision. Don’t feel like anything that is crucial to your situation is a waste of anyone else’s time. Shape the process around your values and don’t make a decision until you’re confident that your non-negotiables are satisfied.

For further advice on how to get the most out of a virtual interview process, please get in touch with me.

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