Confessions of a Recruiter

16 April 2014

A key part of our job involves helping lawyers – especially younger lawyers – present themselves in the best possible light.  We want to help them make the best possible first impression so that they get that all-important first job.

Everyone who knows us knows that we typically discourage young lawyers just starting out in their careers from working with recruiters – even us!  We are always happy to give tips and suggestions on such things as CV preparation and presentation, but we have long believed (and our clients agree) that a recruiter’s involvement too early in a career can be detrimental; indeed, using a recruiter can, in many instances, actually keep a candidate from getting his or her first job.

Our tips and suggestions have been compiled based on observation, experience and plain old common sense, but we recently came across an interesting study that analyzes practices in the field of recruitment.  Although it involves recruitment across a range of professions, the report nonetheless makes for fascinating and enlightening reading, reinforcing what we have been telling candidates for some time.

We set forth below a few specifics of what we typically advise (with the results of the study set forth in parentheses)

Social Media:  We always encourage young lawyers to scour the various sites to which they belong to remove anything such as photos, tweets or postings that may put them in a less-than-positive light (one in three employers reject candidates based on something found online).

Attention to Detail:  Because the practice of law requires laser-sharp focus and attention to detail, we always tell candidates to pay particular attention to spelling and grammar.  It is, for instance, a huge mistake to misspell the name of the person you are addressing (just one spelling or grammar mistake can cause a candidate’s CV to be rejected).

Photos on CVs:  I have never been a fan of photos on CVs.  I consider that a photo never conveys what the candidate thinks it does (88% of CVs with a candidate’s photo are rejected).

Cover Letters:  I do not like cover letters or, worse, so-called “motivation letters”.  They are for the most part lots and lots of words that say very little.  I admit that I never read cover letters, and we encourage candidates to forego them altogether (83% of cover letters will never be read).

Professionalism on Display:  A candidate’s professionalism is on display from the very first encounter with a potential employer.  We always encourage candidates to use contact details that reflect professionalism.  So, if your email address includes anything like “partyboy”, “hotchick”, or “sexy” anything, please change it! (76% of CVs are ignored if a candidate’s email address is unprofessional).

The “Eye Time” on CVs:  We always remind candidates to prepare and present a neat and orderly CV that sets forth key information in an easy-to-read manner.  We would prefer to see a candidate present a one-and-a-half page CV than to cram everything on to one page.  Nothing is more frustrating for us than trying to find important details buried in a garble of words.  We always refer to this as our “ten-second rule” – if we cannot find what we need in ten seconds, we move on to the next candidate (the average time looking at a CV is 5-7 seconds).

Selectivity:  Finally, we always counsel young lawyers to be selective in their approaches.  Do not apply for each and every position simply because you need a job  .  .  .  any job.  Employers can sense desperation and will reject anyone who comes across as desperate.  Take time to research why the job is right for you and, more important, why you are right for the job.  Do not rush to submit your application so that you can be among the first candidates; it never works (the number one reason that an application is rejected is because it is received within “200 seconds” after a job is posted).  It is worth noting that our current record for a first application is just over seven minutes from the time a job went “live” online, and this from a candidate who is always among the first two or three applicants for each and every job we post.


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