Listen to Your Recruiter

Listen to Your Recruiter

Your legal recruiter can be an invaluable asset in your job search. The headhunter (and most of us don’t mind that term) can best help you achieve your career goals if you communicate openly and honestly, are responsive, and respect the recruiting process. The following strategies will help you get the candidate/recruiter relationship off to a good start.

First, some definitions: You, the job seeker, are the candidate; and the prospective employer is the client. The recruiter’s job is to locate prospective candidates to fill the client’s hiring needs and is paid by the client, usually a percentage of the candidate’s first year’s compensation, but only if the candidate accepts the position and stays there for a guaranteed period of time. Therefore, it is in the recruiter’s best interests to make sure that it is a good fit for both the client and the candidate and, although, you are not technically the recruiter’s client, your recruiter is looking out for your interests, also.

When a recruiter calls, be receptive. Even if you have not been contemplating a move, listen to the opportunity. You may find that it is the perfect next step towards your long-term career goal. If you are not interested, suggest other attorneys who the recruiter might call, or provide helpful (non-confidential) information regarding your law practice or your firm. Likewise, the recruiter can be a valuable source for you regarding compensation, your marketability, and trends in the legal community. In this dynamic marketplace, you never know when you might need to call on a recruiter. If you have established a congenial relationship over time, you will have the respect and attention of the headhunter when you need it.

When you first meet with your recruiter, you will be evaluated on your presentation, just as you would be on an interview with a prospective employer. Dress appropriately, be prepared to discuss your background and what you are looking for, bring an updated resume, writing samples, transcripts, and information regarding your client base if appropriate, and have some references in mind. Be open to any suggested revisions to your resume.

The more information you can provide to your headhunter regarding your background and what you seek, the better she will be at finding the right fit. If, at some point in the process, you decide to broaden or narrow your search, communicate that fact immediately. Recruiters understand that all discussions with candidates are strictly confidential. No information will be revealed without your specific authorization.

If you are engaged in an active job search, it is expected that you will be exploring your own sources and may also be working with one or two other headhunters. Therefore, it is important that you keep a list of prospective employers that have already been contacted on your own, through friends or other contacts, or through other recruiters. As your search continues, keep that list updated. Recruiters do not want to waste their or their clients’ time duplicating efforts.

Rather than increasing your chances of landing an interview with a prospective employer by authorizing more than one contact, you will look desperate or as if you do not have control over your search. Some prospective employers will decline to pursue a candidate who came in through several sources rather than risk a fee dispute.

If you choose to work with more than one headhunter, do not share one’s client list with the other. If one suggests a prospective employer who you previously have contacted on your own or who you have authorized another recruiter to contact, simply state that there has been prior contact. Although the larger law firms may utilize multiple search firms, many prefer to use only a few, or will establish exclusive relationships for particular searches. Recruiters work hard to nurture their client relationships, and do not want them disclosed to their competition.

As with any relationship, the primary rule for working with a headhunter is to be honest. Do not embellish your resume or inflate your salary, billable hours, or client base. Any experienced recruiter should know enough about the marketplace to discern whether or not the figures you quote make sense in your current environment.

Be candid regarding your reasons for seeking a new position. If you have been laid off or fired, or have some wrinkle or blemish in your record, tell your recruiter the complete truth. An experienced search consultant will be able to coach you in strategies to best address the facts with prospective employers. The legal community is small, and most facts will come out at some point in the recruiting process. It is best to deal with the situation up front and get it behind you rather than having it pop up later in the process where trust will be destroyed, dashing your hopes of landing your target job.

Most search consultants keep copies of old resumes and copious files on candidates and prospects. Therefore, if you present your headhunter with an updated resume that omits past jobs or changes history in any way, it most likely will be discovered. Do not ask a reputable recruiter to submit something that has been falsified. Headhunters have the contractual and ethical obligation to provide accurate and complete information about their candidates to their clients. Once you have been found to be fudging, you will have lost the recruiter’s trust, and possibly their interest in representing you as well.

Your headhunter knows what their clients are seeking and are likely to hire. Therefore, do not try to convince your recruiter that you can fill a position for which you are not qualified. If, for example, a search is for a junior associate, your recruiter cannot send your resume if you are a senior lawyer, and vice-versa. Similarly, if a search calls for a specific level and type of expertise that you do not have, being “a quick study” will not justify the submission of your resume.

Except on rare occasions, recruiters cannot create a position where one does not exist, but job searches open and close continually. Even if there is nothing available for you at a particular time, that situation may change shortly. It is worth taking your time to meet with your recruiter and provide her with all of your information with the understanding that she may contact you any time there is an opening for which you might be qualified. You want to be ready when the perfect position becomes available.

With open and honest communication, your headhunter can help you land the job of your dreams.

Valerie Fontaine
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