What Does Your Firm’s 'Body Language' Say About Your Firm?

What Does Your Firm’s 'Body Language' Say About Your Firm?

Recently I wrote about the importance of being aware of body language during an interview. Body language creates a picture of who you are—Confident or nervous? Extroverted or introverted? Happy and open? These are cues interviewers look for. But it works both ways. Interviewees are equally interested in your firm’s “body language.” That, too, paints a picture. It’s part of the reason some firms have an easier time attracting talent than others.

Think about it. Just as you have a first impression of a job applicant, for better or worse that applicant has the same sort of initial reaction to your firm. What would you think if you were walking into your firm for the first time? How about if you were looking at your firm’s website?

Be objective, and remember that some first impressions are subliminal. Part of the image you portray is intangible; it’s more of a feeling that joining your firm will be a good—or bad—fit. It matters.

Look at your reception area. What does it say about your firm and its culture? Here are some things people look at:

  • Is the reading material fresh and current? (Because if it’s not your firm might not be.)
  • What is on the TV? CNN, CNBC, FOX, MSNBC, a video about the firm, something else? (Keep it neutral.)
  • Is the furniture modern or traditional? (Indicates something about firm culture.)
  • If there are flowers or plants, are they fresh and watered? (Dead plants and flowers can indicate a sense of carelessness.)
  • How does the receptionist greet visitors? (Distracted? Smiling?)
  • Is s/he dressed casually or in formal business attire? (Clear indication of firm culture.)
  • What is the lighting like? (Light and bright?)
  • Do meetings start on time? (Can be an indication of how people are treated.)

This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about how people respond to the nonverbal clues your firm is sending them. Even if yours is a virtual firm, you are working somewhere, and that somewhere is visible in online meetings.

And so is your website. Older firm websites operate more or less like firm brochures. They are static and usually pretty uninteresting. There is a lot of stock art and the partner photos, if they are there at all, generally are very formal. The information on them is evergreen; it doesn’t matter if it is ever revised. Except that does matter. It’s a statement, true or not, of how your firm works.

Whether you are a suit-and-tie firm or have a “dress for your day” policy; whether your firm’s kitchen area is neat or messy or has complimentary drinks and snacks; whether office doors are open or closed throughout the day or whether there are open community spaces where people can gather and socialize; etc. All of these things combine to send a message to your employees and potential employees.

The type of person who will be attracted to the opportunities at your firm will be influenced by some combination of all of these factors. Some will have greater weight than others, but which those are, depend on the person viewing it.

For a relationship to work, both parties need to feel comfortable. It is less likely that someone with an entrepreneurial bent will be attracted to a suit-and-tie firm, just as someone who likes structure probably would be unhappy at an unconventional firm.

If there is a disconnect between your firm’s culture and its body language, think about what you can do to align them. Here are three easy fixes that are a great place to start:

Look at your physical space. You can’t be something you’re not, but you can make sure to show the best about your firm. Make sure your receptionist is professional and friendly. Be sure any common areas are tidy and any reading matter is current.

Redo your firm’s website. Older websites can make your firm seem stodgy. From the typeface you use to your logo; investing in a new website is an investment in your firm’s future. A lot can be done for a relatively small amount of money.

Have a social media presence. Just as a company researches job candidates’ social media presence, the reverse is also true. Having such a presence means you are a 21st century firm. You can be sure it will be noticed.

Your firm’s body language matters. Pay attention to it. Others do.

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