Selecting a legal recruiter that’s “right for you” is immensely important. The firm you select and work with should be a trusted and reliable asset to your career growth. Their communication with you should be proactive and transparent. Their work for you should have an impeccable attention to detail. An effective recruiter will have a superior knowledge of the marketplace as well as strong personal relationships with the firms and corporate legal departments looking for talented candidates. Legal recruiters should also rely on a data-driven strategy designed to bolster your personal and specific search for upward mobility—not a general strategy tailored for all-comers.
Keep in mind, many legal recruiters are playing a numbers game when looking for clients—they contact as many attorneys as possible and attempt to interest a few of them in positions that may (or may not be) the right fit for the candidate. This approach is arbitrary and depersonalized. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Purchasing a new home is a good analogy. If you’re in the market to buy a new home, you’ll probably partner with an agent that you trust to understand your family’s needs and desires. Beyond budget, nuanced ideas about school systems, neighborhoods, architecture and interior design need to be fully understood by both parties. Buying a new home is a big decision that will have a significant impact on your life. The same is true when considering your career.
It’s imperative that you ask potential legal recruiters two sets of questions. First, questions that will help determine your initial decision regarding which recruiter is best suited to meet your needs. This career counselor should direct your job search with a long-term vision as opposed to the headhunter-type simply dumping job postings on you. Secondly (once you’re already working with your recruiter of choice), you should present questions aimed at job specifics.
Two Possible Questions to Ask When Selecting a Recruiter
Does the organization or individual recruiter work with any employers on an exclusive basis?
As mentioned above, recruiters who hawk publicly-advertised positions in a shotgun manner are offering you very little in terms of understanding your precise and distinct expectations. In fact, some of these publicly-posted jobs may already be gone.
Their answer to this query is very important because chances are you don’t want to work with a recruiter who only has a grasp on positions that almost anyone can read about online. Rhetorical question warning: What value does that offer? A savvy candidate should prefer a recruiter with some exclusive and/or close relationships with firms and in-house departments. This usually means the recruiter is an entity trusted by employers to suggest top-flight and talented individuals—or they wouldn’t be working with them so closely. Your recruiter should have a well-rounded appreciation for both candidate and employer—this is the foundation to making robust and long-term connections. The very best recruiters have worked hard at developing valued relationships with various employers. This reality should give you peace of mind knowing that you’re working with a recruiter offering strong bonafides and integrity.
Does the potential recruiter have a hands-on and specific strategy?
First and foremost, the recruiter should detail for you how they plan to guide your career direction. They should explain to you their established practice and how it will be tailored to your particulars. For instance, a recruiter with a powerful data-driven approach can open up a world of possibilities customized for your talents and background.
A world-class recruiter should take an active role in helping to create and/or update your resume. They should also offer strategic advice when it comes to prepping for the expected battery of interviews you will encounter. The recruiter should offer strong intel on the firm or company in question, briefing you in a comprehensive manner.
If possible, meet with potential recruiters in person. It will offer you a much more detailed representation of the individual and their organization, including the pros and cons you may not pick up when speaking remotely.
Sample Questions to Ask When Strategizing with a Recruiter
Here are a few straightforward questions you may want to ask when directing your career search.
How long has this position been open?
How long have you been recruiting for it?
When pitching me and my credentials, how do you plan on setting me apart from other candidates?
Tell me as much as you can about this firm (or company)?
Major case wins?
Why do you believe I’d be a strong fit with Crane, Poole & Schmidt?
How many candidates have you placed in this company (or firm)?
Have there been other candidates considered for the position?
If so, do you know why they weren’t offered the position?
How do you believe this position will enhance my long-term career goals?
What’s the culture of this firm or company?
There is a school of thought in the legal recruitment world that the recruiter should have a law degree and use their purported credentials in your job search. This belief can be very stifling to your career goals. These recruiters tend to look for “low hanging fruit” in their world and their world alone. Recruiters without law degrees tend to look at the entire spectrum of opportunities, making them much better at thinking outside the box in service to your career.
You want to partner with a recruiter who’s plugged-in and busy—speaking with firms, companies, and attorneys on a full-time basis; consulting on resumes; scheduling interviews and then helping candidates prepare for those interviews. You want a recruiter who is attending conferences and staying ahead of the curve on industry trends. You ultimately want a recruiter with vision—one who knows you, the marketplace, and how your career can flourish in that marketplace. Remember, the very best recruiters are great matchmakers.
Finally, trust your gut. References and testimonials are important, but nothing replaces chemistry.