Tales of Ghosting: Tricks + Tips for minimizing the risk of candidate ghosting


Stephanie Newman

Stephanie is the VP of Attorney Recruiting at Parker + Lynch Legal, working with regional search directors and attorney recruiting teams across the U.S., as well as leading the National Partner Group, a team of tenured recruiters who focus exclusively on lateral partner recruiting.

She's also an Executive Sponsor of the Special Counsel Diversity & Inclusion Council and an enthusiastic supporter of D&I in the workplace, especially as it relates to the employment of adults with autism.

Candidate Ghosting is a relatively new, trendy phrase in the world of legal recruiting, but it’s a very real phenomenon and it’s not slowing down. 

The question is, why is it happening and what can you do to minimize the risk? Let’s face it, competition has always been tough when it comes to recruiting and retaining the very best legal talent, but when you also consider the latest unemployment rate (lowest in 50 years), the unprecedented number law firm mergers, and the rise of alternative legal service providers and additional career paths for legal professionals, you end up with an intensely competitive legal employment market. Candidates simply have more options than ever, and they are incredibly well informed about the market.

We surveyed a sampling of our recruiters who’ve dealt with candidate ghosting and compiled the survey results into three main takeaways:

Tip 1: Make a great first impression.

50% of the candidates in our survey ghosted after the 1st round of interviews with a law firm

The takeaway? The first interview is the first impression. In order to really engage the candidate, a Law firm must be well prepared to sell the unique perks and benefits of their firm early in the process. Candidates are seeking a well-rounded law firm with a genuine commitment to providing work/life balance. The overall “employment experience” is one of the top reasons candidates choose to make a lateral move, so firms should be prepared to pitch their firm from that perspective very early in the process.

Candidates want honest, transparent information about career paths, the firm’s D&I commitment, wellness initiatives, the firm’s humanitarian and philanthropic efforts and unique perks like work-from-home options, parental leave, pet insurance or pet friendly offices. Pitching those elements during the first interview is key to establishing your connection with the candidate and moving the discussion to the next stage.

Tip 2: Be aware.

75% of the candidates in our survey who ghosted had never made a lateral move before.

Let’s call these candidates ‘first-timers’. Law firms need to provide a lot of information early on to first-timers and be aware that they may not have interviewed since obtaining their first job in legal. You’ll want to gain an understanding of what the candidate would ideally want in their next move and ask thoughtful questions to find out what their expectations are, so you can personalize your interview as much as possible. First-timers tend to feel very loyal to their current employer and can experience pangs of guilt during the interview process. It’s important to take a very thoughtful approach and create an interview experience that’s both personal and informative.

Tip 3: Be strategic.

Treat your candidates the way you treat your clients.

When reaching out to candidates, personalize your correspondence–don’t use template emails or spammy, generic sounding correspondence; this de-humanizes your communication and sends a subtle message that the candidate isn’t important and not worth your time. Over-communicate throughout the process, call to confirm and re-confirm interviews and follow up when you say you will. Take note of the small things, such as the candidates’ likes/dislikes, personal interests, recent vacations or travel. When creating their interview schedule, personalize the process as much as possible by having the candidate meet peers at the firm who are from their alma mater or who have a commonality with their background or their interests. Have the associate candidates meet with the partners or associates outside the office for a meal–this demonstrates genuine interest and it speaks volumes when partners and associates invest their time outside of the office.

In the end, you still may get ghosted. If that happens, don’t immediately write off the candidate–take an honest look at your interview process. Is there anything you could do differently? Use the situation as an opportunity to evaluate your interview process: Are you using the right metrics to optimize the hiring process? Is your hiring approach organized and efficient? Have you added enough of a personal touch to the process? Competition for the best legal talent isn’t slowing down, so be open to change and don’t hesitate to shift your mindset so that you’re in the best possible position to attract the top lateral candidates and eliminate the ghosting effect!

Stephanie Newman is Vice President of Attorney Recruiting at Parker + Lynch Legal, the attorney recruiting division of Special Counsel. Connect with Stephanie via email or LinkedIn today!

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