Looking for a job can feel like a full-time position in and of itself. The legal job market is improving but it can still feel like your resume is getting lost in a sea of applicants. Involving a recruiter in your job search can save you time and energy. It can also provide a way of keeping your resume towards the top of the stack of submissions that sought-after firms and companies will inevitably generate. Every job starts with a description, however in addition to qualifications and skills, employers are also looking for traits that are difficult to quantify. Search Directors are in a unique position to understand exactly what employers, their clients, are looking for. They make their living by finding, screening and presenting candidates that meet those expectations. In order to do that effectively, a recruiter needs to ask every candidate she works with many questions, some of which seem personal or hard to answer. Providing honest and specific answers to these questions can feel overwhelming. Doing so will result in being presented with the kinds of opportunities you want and, can lead to a permanent placement.
What you are making now and the compensation you are looking for can be hard to open up about. Most people do not discuss this information, even with those closest to them, so it can feel difficult to answer, especially when asked by a search director during an initial screening. Here’s how to tackle this head-on:
- Be as specific as you can.
Don’t be vague or non-committal. Not committing to a specific number or range may feel “safe” but a lack of specificity actually hobbles your search. A recruiter needs to understand where you are at currently and what kind of compensation you are seeking in order to present you with opportunities that make sense for your career objectives. It is completely acceptable to answer this question with a range but there is almost always a bottom dollar and your recruiter needs to know what that is.
- Do your research
Look at the positions and titles you are interested in and get a feel for what the market will support. Examine the skills and qualifications you bring to the table and adjust that figure accordingly. Know what you are hoping for and what you will take.
- Examine your variables.
Search directors understand that your number has some play in it. There are convenience factors and experience-building variables that may affect your bottom line. You may be willing to trade a lower salary for working at a firm closer to home where parking is provided. Or, you may consider a lower base salary with a more aggressive bonus structure if you have talent as a rain-maker. Knowing what variables are important to you and what you would be willing to trade monetarily for them will help you be prepared to address the question of compensation.
Whether you are actively or passively looking for opportunities, the specifics of why you are looking to make a change are important. Follow these rules of thumb when discussing your motivation with a search director:
• Be forthright.
If you are looking because you have concerns about the stability of your current firm or because the leadership of your organization has changed and the environment is no longer a good fit, then say that. Being as open as you can will help your search director put the right opportunities in front of you. An open discussion about what is troubling you can help her understand what firm or corporate cultures might not be a good fit for you and what you are looking for in an ideal workplace.
• Embrace the awkward.
Sometimes candidates gloss over trouble spots thinking that any discussion about a negative or difficult situation places them in a bad light. This is seldom the case. When your recruiter knows the good, bad and the awkward, she is able to weave that into your story if necessary. She can also help you find ways to discuss it in interview scenarios that demonstrate your skills and resilience.
• Define your dream.
Every candidate has a dream about where she wants to be. For some it is a specific employer, for others a salary or a title. Share your dream with your search director. Whether your dream job is one step away or several, this information can help your recruiter see the path you are on and what makes sense as a next step.
• Be aware of the horizon.
Whatever the reason you might be looking, if there is a timeline you have in mind, make sure you are upfront about it with your recruiter. It can feel less than comfortable to disclose that your severance is running out, or that your contract will be ending in three months. However, this is exactly the kind of timeline information your recruiter needs to understand where you are and the speed at which you want to move. Sharing this is not a guarantee that your recruiter will be able to make something happen in that timeframe, but the more information a search director has, the better prepared she is to assist you and the less time is wasted presenting you with options that will not meet your needs.
Recruiters ask the following questions to get a feel for the scope of your employment search. Here’s why:
• Where else are you applying?
This may not seem relevant but your answer provides lots of helpful information. It gives your recruiter a good feeling for the kinds of employers you are interested in as well as the titles you are seeking. Are you seeking a partnership? Will you bring a book of business? Recruiters are very familiar with the employers in their territory and are often aware of other opportunities in the area that might be very similar to those you are already considering.
• Have you had interviews?
Specific answers to this question also help a search director understand how active you are in your job search and the length of time you have been at it. All of these pieces of information help to flesh out where your job search needs to go from this point forward and helps her develop a more effective marketing plan for you.
• Who are the non-contenders?
Where you won’t go provides almost as much, if not more, information to your recruiter as where you would like to go. Knowing the kinds of places you do not want to work and why you would like to avoid them gives your recruiter a valuable insight into how you work and what kinds of things you want to stay away from in employment environments. A third-party recruiter is neutral on positions and organizations so you are able to be transparent about your concerns.
Sharing information with your search director not only takes your resume from black and white to full-color, it allows her to present you as a candidate to employers in three dimensions. This contrasts starkly with every other two dimensional resume in the stack in front of them. Whether you are just starting to look around or you have been actively looking in the legal market for some time, search directors at Tower Legal Solutions are ready to help you examine what you are looking for, where you would like to be and how to get you there.
BY: JESSICA BERNS
ABOUT TOWER AND THE AUTHOR TOWER LEGAL SOLUTIONS AND TOWER CONSULTING SERVICES HAVE SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE THAT HAS PROVEN TO HELP LAW FIRMS AND CORPORATIONS IDENTIFY AND HIRE HIGHLY SKILLED CANDIDATES. TOWER HAS A NATIONAL PRESENCE WITH OFFICES IN NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, D.C., CHARLOTTE, DALLAS, MINNEAPOLIS AND LOS ANGELES. JESSIE HAS A JURIS DOCTORATE FROM HAMLINE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW AND IS EXPERIENCED IN BOTH MANAGEMENT AND STAFFING SERVICES. SHE CURRENTLY WORKS IN THE MINNEAPOLIS OFFICE OF TOWER.