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With employers being flooded with candidates for any job they post, it's more important than ever to make sure you understand how your behavior may look on the other side of the hiring desk. Here are my top five pet peeves that I see over and over from job applicants.
1. Not asking questions. I want to know that you're interested in the details of the job, the department you'll be working in, your prospective legal supervisor's management style, and the culture of the firm. Otherwise, you're signaling that you're either not that interested or just haven't thought very much about it.
Good questions to ask include:
How is work distributed/how will I receive assignments?
What type of assignments do attorneys of my level typically work on?
What do you find most challenging about your practice?
2. Refusing to have an honest discussion about your fit for the role. If you never get out of sales mode, we can't talk honestly about your weaker points, which means we can't make sure those weaknesses aren't fatal ones for the job. Yes, I know you might have been advised to tell me you have no weaknesses or that your biggest weakness is perfectionism and you work too hard, but you might as well wear a sign saying, "I'm being disingenuous." Candidates who can’t or won’t come up with a realistic assessment of areas where they could improve make me think they're lacking insight and self-awareness … or, at a minimum, just making it impossible to have a real discussion of their potential fitness for the job. I want to know about your weaknesses not because I’m trying to trip you up, but because I genuinely care about making sure you’re a good fit for the job. I don’t want to place you in a position you’ll struggle in, and I definitely don’t want to have to fire you a few months from now. Isn't it better to lose the job offer now than to be fired in a few months because you're not the right fit?
3. Stalking the legal hiring manager. Being enthusiastic and proactive is good. But calling more than once a week, emailing obsessively, or following up over and over after I've already told you I'll be in touch next week crosses the line into annoying and may kill your chance at a legal offer.
4. Showing up without an appointment. Most law firms include specific instructions about how they want you to apply, and unless "in person" is included, don't do it. Hiring managers are busy and want you to follow instructions and respect their time. (And yes, everyone has heard a story about someone who went by to drop off their resume in person and got interviewed and hired on the spot. It's still, in general, not a good tactic.)
5. Being a jerk when you don't get the job. Usually if I hear anything from applicants in response to a notice of rejection, it's a “thank you” for considering them or a request for feedback, but occasionally a candidate responds with an angry email instead to express disbelief or outrage that he or she didn't get the job. Not only does this look naive, entitled, and rude, it ruins your chances of ever being considered by that employer again. Not a good idea.
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