As a Third Year Associate, How Do I Select the Right Recruiter for Me?

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Margaret Gilleran

I am a third year associate, and I am considering making a lateral move. I get calls and emails from recruiters all the time, but I am not sure how to select the right recruiter for me. What do you suggest?


Unlike many situations in life where you must rely on your instincts, there are actually some rules to follow when selecting a recruiter! It is so comforting to know that there is actually a "map" that you can follow and that, in all likelihood, will lead you to an excellent legal recruiter.

When you are selecting a recruiter, you should ask him how long he has been a recruiter. Would you want to be a surgeon's first patient? Or even a surgeon's fifth or sixth patient? You want to be sure that your recruiter is experienced. By making sure that your recruiter has sufficient experience, you reduce the chances that you will be surprised by any events during the course of your search. Yes, every search is different and presents unique challenges, but an experienced recruiter can avoid many pitfalls because he has seen them (and perhaps even fallen victim to them) in the past. Hence, a recruiter's experience is a key feature to consider, and if a recruiter balks at giving you this information, then you need not advance.

Second, you want to ask about his experience in the legal industry specifically. Many recruiters are former large firm attorneys and, perhaps because I am a former large firm attorney, I think that former large firm attorneys are one of your best choices. A tie for first place is recruiters who have worked on the other side of the recruiting process. If a recruiter worked in the Human Resources department of a large firm, then I believe that he too is well suited to guide you through the process. Both the former large firm attorney and former HR professional have a great deal of insight into how firms react to candidates. By "react", I include everything from a candidate's experience to how a candidate packages his experience on his resume to expectations during the interview process. We know what information firms consider important and, conversely, what information firms consider irrelevant. I will make one final plug for the former large firm attorney! A former large firm attorney truly understands your practice because he was in your position. In short, he speaks your language.

Third, you should speak to several recruiters before making your final selection. If possible, you should actually meet with them in person. I recognize that it is not always possible to meet in person, but if it is not, then you may consider Skype as an alternative. When assessing which recruiter to choose, you should ask yourself the following critical questions. Is he articulate? Is he knowledgeable about the firms and practice groups? What is his relationship and past placement history with the firms that most interest me? Has he conducted himself in a professional manner with me during our interactions? Are his emails to me well written and flawless? Does he promptly return my calls and emails? In short, do I want this person to be my representative to the firms?

Lastly (and forgive me for fibbing a bit at the outset of this answer), you do need to rely on your instincts, but ONLY after you have followed the very detailed map outlined in the foregoing paragraphs. If you adhere to the rules, you will find a recruiter who is right for you. With the right legal recruiter and some luck, you will have a very successful search.

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Assessing Which Recruiter      Selecting A Recruiter      The Right Recruiter      Find A Recruiter     

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