While early 2023 was off to a slower start for hiring managers across sectors, if there is anything that has become evident over the past 6 months in the legal market, it is that we are quickly transitioning back into being a client-driven market that is rich in candidates.
Where businesses floundered in a market dry for talent not so long ago, there has been an influx of talented lawyers keen to move, whether that be in-house or into private practice, making applications for open roles increasingly competitive. In the in-house market, where August can yield more drawn-out processes, we continue to see strong applicants for a host of roles, some of which suitable candidates won’t even get calls for. Candidates continue to voice their concerns around not getting called back for roles and applications despite having picture-perfect profiles. This begs the question: How does one make a lasting impression to hiring managers in a fast-paced, voluminous market?
As anyone following my own LinkedIn page will note, not only have I spent the past 2 years working as an in-house legal recruiter; but have also recently undergone an intense hiring process myself for a training contract. If there’s anything I can empathize with, it is these frustrations. However, through my capacity as both a recruiter and an applicant, I would like to share the top five tips that I’ve found help make a difference in the uphill battle that is the current legal market and successfully landing a job this quarter!
1) Prepare and Re-Prepare Your CV
While this may seem incredibly trivial, I consistently receive CVs from top solicitors with spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. Though I will make the necessary amendments as a recruiter before forwarding these CVs to clients for my top candidates, there’s no denying how this looks to hiring managers – particularly when trying to recruit individuals in a profession where having an eye for detail is essential. Where such errors could be overlooked in a quieter market, I would urge anyone applying to roles to review their CV, run it through an AI tool for spelling and grammar, and ensure it is the best representation of themselves to avoid giving hiring managers a reason to reject them. I myself when applying for training contracts never neglected a quick copy-paste into Grammarly and dropping my university careers service an email to have a read through of what I was putting out there.
2) Read the Job Advertisement – Twice
A strikingly large number of applications we receive via LinkedIn, or other platforms will come from good candidates for jobs that they are clearly unsuited to. While job descriptions online do tend to be vague and advertisements often anonymous, it escapes no one’s attention that the applicant has not really considered whether their skillset matched the job. Particularly in a rigid industry like legal, a hiring manager will usually not call an insolvency lawyer for a role as a M&A lawyer. Applying for jobs is a time-consuming process – expend your time and resources on the right jobs!
3) Consider Your Priorities in this Job Search
Now that you’ve gotten your foot in the door, you want to keep it there. A question I always ask candidates is about their priorities in a job search. Some will be motivated for progression opportunities, some money, some a better work/life balance… Whatever the reason for a move, it’s important to be transparent about these drivers to avoid getting through a difficult process, coming to the end and not being able to accept an offer.
4) Communicate with Recruiters
In a similar vein to the above, recruiters talk and they remember. A good impression with a recruiter goes a long way in not only securing your next job, but the one after as well… Many hiring managers depend on the opinion of recruiters when asking them to vet for candidates and being transparent around timelines, priorities and processes with recruiters can go a long way in them helping you get on the right side of your future manager. After all, a recruiter is a hiring manager as well.
5) Make Sure to Follow-Up
And if you are still not getting responses… consider this: When I made my training contract application to the firm that eventually offered me a position, I was in two minds about following up with an email gently nudging them. After three weeks, I was convinced I had nothing to lose and did so, receiving a very kind two-line response that applications were still being considered. I was invited to the assessment centre a week later. Hiring managers are busy people. Applications can easily get buried in overstuffed inboxes. Even as a recruiter, someone taking the time to pen me an email goes a long way in my book (and I’m grateful that they remind me to respond to them).
At the end of the day, we always remind people at interview stage: Given the choice, any hiring manager will hire the person who wants the job more. Show them that you are that person. Regardless of whether my gentle nudge was the decision-making factor in my last application, I know it couldn’t have hurt and once I’d gotten through the door, I did not hide my enthusiasm for the job. There was no doubt that I would convey an immediate acceptance if offered. And when you get to the pointy end of the stick, this is a good message to make evident. There is no point in playing hard to get in this market! Given the choice between two good candidates, a hiring manager will not feel ashamed offering the one that they know will accept.
If you have any questions on the above, are keen to share your own experiences or want to explore in-house opportunities on the market – please do reach out to me via LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org!