Top 3 Biggest Myths about Working with a Legal Recruiter
by Nicole Callahan
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What are the three biggest myths about working with a legal recruiter?
Leave your firm, then call a recruiter for a new job.
Work with as many recruiters as possible.
Lie to your recruiter to make yourself look good.
Yes, even legal recruiting has myths associated with it. Many people have preconceived notions about how to best work with a recruiter. I am writing today to tell you that some or all of those notions may be misguided. Below are three of the biggest myths relating to working with a legal recruiter, demythstified (sorry, I couldn't help myself).
Myth #1 - You should not contact a recruiter until you are just about out the door of your current firm.
So many people wait until they are ready to walk out the door of their current firm to contact a recruiter. I talk to candidates every week that would be happy to leave their firm the next day. While sometimes it takes getting to that point to make the important decision to make a lateral move, it is best to plan ahead if possible. There are several reasons to leave time to plan – planning time. First, it usually takes more than a day or even a week to find a job. Sometimes it takes months; sometimes a year. Many factors come into play, which is an entire blog topic in and of itself for another day, but they include the time of the year (it is often slower around the holidays and during the summer), the state of the market, and the applicant’s skill set. You don’t want to put yourself in the position of being out of your old firm before you are in your new one. Another reason to plan ahead is to allow time to gain additional skills before you make the move. After consulting with a recruiter, you may learn that gaining certain specific experience, such as licensing work or working with expert witnesses, may boost your resume and you can set goals to attain such work at your current firm. You can use your planning time to work toward achieving those goals and update your resume accordingly during your application process. Giving yourself some leeway time also allows you to work on other tasks with your recruiter, including revising the format of your resume, creating a deal sheet or list of representative cases, and gathering or creating writing samples. If you think you have a set time that you may want to leave your current firm, shortly after the New Year (i.e., post-bonus) for example, and you consult with a recruiter three to six months prior, it will give you a chance to tailor your skill building, evaluate the market, and interview. If you don’t have a specific time line in mind, your planning time will just be the time it takes to find the right new position for you.
Myth #2 - You should work with as many recruiters as possible.
While you would think that working with a bunch of different recruiters would maximize your chances of finding a great new position, that is not necessarily the case. First, working with more than one recruiter means more work for you. Only one recruiter can (should) submit your information to a firm. This means that you must keep careful track of which firms each recruiter has applied for you, including the office location. If you do not keep careful track and two recruiters wind up sending you to the same firm, it appears to that firm that you are very disorganized, which is bad. Looking for a job while you have a demanding job (which you should if possible, because it is easier to find a job when you have one – again, a topic for another day) is difficult and time consuming enough. Juggling multiple recruiters on top of that is even more burdensome. Additionally, and from the recruiter’s perspective, if you have only one recruiter applying to firms on your behalf, that person can truly network for you, because he or she knows the entire repertoire of your applications. For example, he or she can inform firms when you are interviewing elsewhere, evaluate trends in the responses to your applications, and discuss the possibility of a good match at a particular firm’s office in another geographic location if the original location to which you applied does not have an opening for you. By limiting your recruiter to a less than full view of your application process, his or her ability to advocate for you is also limited. That being said, if you feel that the recruiter with whom you are working does not have your best interests at heart or is not keeping up with presenting you with opportunities, then certainly do seek out another recruiter with whom to form a better working relationship, and move forward with that person.
Myth #3 - You should tell your recruiter only the positive things about yourself so that he or she can present you in the best light (aka, it’s ok to lie to your recruiter).
This may be the biggest myth and mistake of all. When I practiced law, one of the first things I was told as an associate is that clients lie. They will blatantly lie right to you and, as you may have experienced, the result can be a heap of trouble. It can get you in trouble in court or with an administrative agency, and it often prevents you from being able to advocate for your client in the most effective manner. The same kind of situation can occur if you lie to your recruiter, or fail to reveal something. A classic example of such an instance is leaving your current firm or being let go during the application process and not telling your recruiter. It almost always comes to light eventually anyway, so there really is no point in withholding the information. Plus, it is most often better to deal with a potentially negative situation earlier rather than later. Moreover, your chances of getting an interview or an offer from a firm significantly decrease when the firm finds out about your little (or big) lie/omission. Third, your recruiter cannot do his or her job to the best of his or her ability if there are things that he or she does not know. There is a solution to every problem, and it is your recruiter’s job to find that solution with you, for better or worse. Your recruiter can be your best advocate only if he or she knows everything relevant to the application process. So, tell him or her everything.
I think working effectively with a legal recruiter by avoiding the three above myths serves well for most things in life – plan, be loyal, be truthful. The good you give you will get in return. Or, alternatively and perhaps more fitting for attorneys, what goes around, comes around.
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