Think recruiters can help you? Think again!

This is the toughest job market in 75 years, yet (allegedly) intelligent attorneys are being just plain stupid when it comes to their job search strategies.

If they want to remain ignorant fools, that’s their business – they can stay miserable in their jobs or watch themselves sink slowly into insolvency because they can’t find other work. Hopefully you are not like these poor schnooks — if you are smart enough to be reading this, then perhaps you really do want to make a positive change in your career.

I am a legal recruiter and job search coach who has talked with about 1,000 lawyers a year for the last 20+ years. Most of these attorneys are clueless about what recruiters can do for them. They don’t have faintest idea about what constitutes a “recruitable” candidate.

What I am about to tell you does not apply to executive recruiters, but most certainly does apply to legal recruiters. Go to Lawjobs.com or any other job site for lawyers, spend five minutes reading the postings, and you will see that what I am telling you is true.

In my practice, we started as career counselors, and eventually added recruiting to our services. As with any legal recruiters, we get 20-30% of a candidate’s first year salary as our fee. If you are in the $125,000 range and we place you, we will receive from $25,000 to $37,500. If we were to work with you on career testing and assessment to identify your career options, we would receive from $1,300 to $2,900 for the testing and evaluation, depending upon how many hours were involved in your testing program.

I am not stupid. Don’t you think I would rather make $25,000 for putting in the 20 to 30 hours so hours it would take me to find, screen and submit a candidate, than to make less than $3,000 for spending 12-14 hours on a career counseling case? Hello?

However, most of the people who call us are not recruitable candidates. We are able to help the few who are, and they make it economically possible for us to continue as counselors for those who are not. Truth be known, we actually prefer the counseling side so we are happy with this arrangement.

Here are the realities of the legal recruiting profession.

1. Legal recruiters are used by firms and companies to find candidates who exactly matchthe specifications of an open job, and who have the requisite practice area skills and experience. Recruiters will not submit, for example, a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney for a commercial litigation position.

2. The prime market for legal recruiters is young lawyers with from 1 to 6 years of experience. Once you have crossed the 7th or 8th year mark, you are no longer considered “recruitable.”

3. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if you are beyond your 7th or 8th year, you can be recruitable IF you have a verifiable book of portable business. Depending upon where you live, this typically means $175,000 to $1 million.

4. The term “top academics” will appear in many recruiter ads. This means 1) top 10% or 15% of your law school class and  2) Top 10, 15 or 20 law school. If you were in the very top of your class – I mean, first, second or third — at a lesser ranked law school, you may also be considered.

5. Age matters in legal recruiting. Discrimination is, in fact, legal. A recruiter friend of mine who wanted my help in finding a candidate told me they wanted someone from the class of 2006, 2007 or 2009. “What about 2008”, I asked. “Oh no, no 2008s. They don’t have any slots for an ’08,” I was told.

6. Recruiters do not handle many in-house jobs. Two recent studies have shown that only 5% of in-house positions are filled by recruiters. Companies do not want to spend money on recruiters unless they have to. Nearly all law firm lawyers would prefer to go in-house. There is an oversupply of willing candidates that a company can attract without spending tens of thousands of dollars on recruiting fees.

7. When recruiters do get in–house assignments, it is almost always for an attorney with very specific skill sets in a particular discipline: SEC ’34 and ’36 Act, ERISA, pharmaceutical patents, FCC regulations and so on. They seldom use recruiters to find generalists.

8. Most often when a legal recruiter does get an in-house assignment, the hiring company wants a candidate with prior in-house experience. I think this is stupid, quite frankly, but it is what it is. As a career counselor, I once helped a law firm attorney land a position as a corporate general counsel. He then hired me as a recruiter to help staff his legal department. Like so many others, he only wanted attorneys with in-house experience. “But Bill,” I said, “you didn’t have any in-house experience when they hired you.” “Yes,” he replied, “but that was different.”  OK, sure.

9. Recruiters are salespeople who are only interested in getting a fee. They do not care about your best interests, they care about their bank accounts. There is nothing wrong with this! They are paid to find people to fill positions. If you match one of their open positions, recruiters will try to get you to accept a job that you don’t really want so they can earn a commission. You are just a fee to them.

10. If you are at a career crossroads and are not sure what you want to do next professionally, recruiters cannot help you. Recruiters are not career counselors. They are not schooled in career assessment. They are not marketing professionals or trained resume writers. Most legal recruiters – in fact, every legal recruiter I have ever met – are former attorneys. They are deal-makers who try to find candidates who match an employer’s job specification.

Like many lawyers, you probably want to see “what else is out there” for you that is not another law firm job, that  frees you from the nastiness of litigation and billable hours requirements, and that provides a more collegial atmosphere, better quality of life, and a consistent income. If you expect to achieve this through a legal recruiter, then good luck! I wish you all possible success. Stranger things have happened and you might get lucky – but probably not.

As an attorney, you are smart enough not to take on cases outside of your area of legal expertise; you refer the case to other lawyers who are more qualified in that area than you. Don’t expect legal recruiters  to give you good counsel and assistance on issues that are not within their practice areas and which are outside their expertise.

How to prepare for an interview

According to Job Seekers Weekly, before the recession it used to take an average of three interviews to get one offer. Now it takes 17 interviews. Shorten your search by preparing diligently for an interview. Research the company, the decision-makers and the job requirements. Prepare your “success stories” to show how your background and skills can meet the needs of the employer. Anticipate the questions that they are likely to ask and be especially ready to handle the questions that you don’t want them to ask. The winner isn’t the person who is most qualified for the job – the winner is the person who best shows the value that they can bring to their employer.

Alternate Careers Lawyers Should Consider

With the economy being what it is these days, more and more lawyers and law firms are feeling the pinch. Business in many segments has simply dried up. This may mean seeking a new position or career somewhere else, or it may mean you’ll need to pick up some additional income. Here are three of the easier ways to accomplish this:

1. Freelance legal work. If you’ve just been laid off from your big firm, or if you have a lot of extra time on your hands, and you do not want to make an actual career change, try doing freelance legal work. You can get in touch with the contract legal staffing or legal temp agencies and get on the list for document review or other short term assignments. You can also contact law firms that do not provide services in your practice area and work out a split for business that they can refer to you. You can also approach law firms to take on some of their over flow work.

2. Freelance writing. There are all kinds of journals, papers and magazines that could use a fresh legal perspective – your legal knowledge could earn you money, without having to do any actual legal work. Write up some query letters and send them off to as many editors as you can find. Publications like Writers Digest and Editor & Publisher will have names of companies. You can also do a Google search for publications. Lawyers doing freelance writing work can command a high per-word fee.

3. Consulting work. This is one of the easiest moves for a lawyer to make. There are lots of businesses, both large and small, that are in need of legal consultants. This work can often be rewarding, and is a fantastic way to break up the monotony of day-to-day legal work. As an added bonus, contracted consultants usually are able to charge significantly more per hour than their salaried counterparts. The hardest part of making this kind of career change is finding the actual consulting gigs, so having above average networking skills are important.

3 Ways to Excel at Marketing Yourself in Today’s Economy

The key to landing your dream job (or dream career change) is to put yourself in front of potential employers – they can’t hire you if they don’t know you are out there. Learning effective ways to market yourself can have a huge impact on the number of resume requests and interviews you get. How do you start marketing yourself in a way that will make the employers come to you? Here are three techniques:

  1. Identify what you’re good at and what you can offer an employer. Hiring managers aren’t just interested in filling open positions; they are interested in gaining assets for the company. How could you be an asset? What kind of information about you does an employer need to see to know that you will be a valuable addition to the team? You need to address your accomplishments in all of your marketing materials. You also need to make it very clear about how an employer can benefit through bringing you on board.
  2. Rework your resume and cover letter. Depending on the industry, sometimes it is better to stand out and be different. People looking to make a career change to a  creative industry, like publishing or entertainment, could benefit from sending out distinctively formatted resumes and cover letters as representative of their creative talents. Often times, marketing yourself effectively means taking chances and standing out from the crowd.

Utilize new technology. The job market is a crowded place right now, saturated with many highly qualified people. Some have recently been laid off from a corporation or law firm, others are recent law school grads and there are also those who are looking to make a career change. To make sure you see (and are considered for) every available job, spread yourself out over the Internet. Use LinkedIn, Facebook and Craigslist. Post your resume on every job board and social media site you can identify – you never know where your next opportunity will come from. The posting process will take many hours, but if you land a six figure job, it will have been time well spent. You should also eblast your resume to as many executive recruiters that you can find; remember, too, that recruiters typically work nationally, not locally. In addition, you should  do cold mailings to companies of interest in your targeted location or industry — just because they are not advertising open positions doesn’t mean there aren’t openings. Keep in mind that research shows only about 7% of available jobs are advertised on the web. To find that 7%, you should  set up a “job agent” to scan the Internet for appropriate opportunities. Career Strategies can perform many of these services for you through our Contacts and Connections program.

The Top 4 Job Hunting and Career Planning Tips During a Recession

Is the recession really putting a damper on your career planning process? It’s hard to move up the ladder and land your dream job when you’re not even getting interview requests. It’s important to not lose hope, however. From hiring a professional resume writer to changing your career planning agenda, there are several things you can do to boost your chances of getting hired. Here are the top four tips and tricks to help you score the job you’ve always dreamed of:

  1. Brush up on your skills. Anyone who is serious about career planning knows that you’ve got to keep your skills relevant. Often times, this translates to taking a class on the latest computer programs or educating yourself about the latest things going on in your industry. If you know what you’re doing, you’re more likely to get hired!
  2. Hire a professional resume writer. Sure, a professional resume writer may cost some money up front. But it’ll pay for itself within the first week of you landing a new job, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes along with knowing your resume is 100 percent error-free.
  3. Focus on social networking. Millions of organizations and people have Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages these days…including companies that are currently hiring. New media is a great way to find out about new jobs as they’re posted – getting in early may be what gets you the job. For more information check out our prior post on using the internet for a career change!
  4. Try part-time work. To prevent gaps in your resume (which is a major career planning no-no), try freelance, part-time or volunteer work. Keeping yourself busy isn’t just a great way to fend off boredom, it can also make the difference between getting hired and getting passed over for (another) job.

Why Hire A Professional Resume Writer?

The economy is unstable, unemployment rates remain shockingly high and it doesn’t look like anything is going to change dramatically any time soon. While there are jobs out there (our clients are getting interviews and we have already completed three cases in the first six weeks of the year), with the market being what it is, how is the average job hunter supposed to find a new position

When you have done all the career planning you can possibly think of, it may be time to hire a professional resume writer.

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a resume writing professional is that you know your resume will be flawless and compelling. One of the biggest complaints that recruiters and human resource professionals have with job applicants is one of the easiest to correct: cover letters and resumes with glaring errors.

Let me give you an example of a letter we received from a candidate just the other day:

“I saw your “ad” on Monster.Com and am interested in your services.  My interests, skills, knowledge and abilities far exceed the law and would welcome the opportunity to discuss alternatices.  Resume attached.”

Beside the obvious typo (I have never discussed “alternatices” with anyone before), and the two less obvious grammatical errors, there is an error in judgment and presentation that would be sure to turn off a potential employer.

By hiring a professional resume writer, you are doing more than just career planning: you are taking an active role in your job search, and eliminating the possibility that a grammatical or strategic error on your resume could be holding you back. Yes, it will cost more money than if you were to sit down at your kitchen table and write it yourself, but you will end up with a presentation-quality resume that is not only completely error free, but which presents your credentials and talents in the best light possible.

You can work with your resume writer to customize resumes and cover letters for each individual job to which you apply. Tailoring your paperwork to match the specific criteria of each job that you are applying for will go a long way toward getting you noticed by the hiring managers.

When you work with a professional to highlight only your relevant work history, it will look like you spent your entire life concentrating on building your skills in that particular discipline or practice area. Although a professional resume writer will cost money up front, it is a small investment that can help you secure a six-figure job more quickly, and it will pay for itself many times over.

The Top 4 Career Change Cover Letter Tips

If you’re looking to make a big change in your career – changing industries, applying for different types of positions than you’ve previously held, etc., you need to adjust more than your resume. An impressive career change cover letter can make the difference between getting called in for an interview or getting lumped in with the “do not call” list. To help you along your way, here are four tips for writing a career change cover letter that will wow your future employers:

  1. Make sure it’s formatted correctly. The way you format your career change resume is as important as the content itself. Not sure how to arrange what it is that you want to say? Do a little research, there are tons of samples online that you can use as a starting point.
  2. Cover your bases. Have employment gaps in your resume? Did you hold a former job for a short period of time? Your career change cover letter is the perfect place to address these kinds of issues. Explain anything that might raise red flags, don’t just hope the person in charge of hiring won’t notice (the job market is so crowded right now, everything gets noticed).
  3. Write a fresh cover letter for each job you apply for. Don’t just send out the same career change cover letter for every job you apply for – make it unique to the position. Include a bit about how much you’d love the opportunity to work for the company. Sure, it’ll take a little more time and effort, but it will most likely pay off in the end.
  4. Edit, edit, edit! Before sending out your career change resume, give it another once over and make sure there aren’t any errors in your spelling or grammar. Not sure? Hire a professional cover letter writer to edit it for you!

How to Write A Great Career Change Resume

Are you on the market for a new job? Looking to switch industries? The most important step in the career planning process is to have a great resume – you won’t get the job if your resume isn’t good enough to get you in the door. Below are five tips that will help you create a dynamic resume:

  1. Emphasize specific accomplishments. With today’s competitive job market, it is not enough to say that you managed 50 people. In addition to listing your title and duties at each job, include your accomplishments. Did you win any awards? Did you land any big clients? What did you do to make your department or organization better? What problems did you help your clients solve? You have many skills … how did you apply those skills to produce results? Be specific!
  2. Utilize an executive profile section. Make your resume stand out by telling the reader, at a glance, about your background and skills. Use this information, often as bullet points, at the top of the resume. Show the talents you have that relate to the needs of the targeted company. Don’t brag … just be factual about your experience and your strongest attributes. Get the reader interested in learning more about you.
  3. Remember, it’s all relative. If you are applying for a writing position, don’t emphasize your courtroom skills. Focus on your accurate, persuasive writing abilities, your ability to produce work under pressure and the range of your writing: motions, briefs, appeals, opinion letters and so on. Keep the experience and accomplishments you list on your resume relative to the job for which you are applying … otherwise, it won’t seem like you are focused.
  4. Formatting is important. The way you design your resume is critical. An effective resume is not just about substance, it is also about form. You want it to be eye catching, as well as easy to read. Leave plenty of white space in the margins. Use headings. Use bullets, but sparingly – too many bullets defeat their  purpose. Also, try to stay away from the standard templates that come with MSWord – everyone uses these templates so all of the resumes tend to look the same. Get your own identity!
  5. Edit, edit, edit! Does your resume have any typos? Are you sure? Don’t trust your “spell-checker” program: “then” and “than” are both spelled correctly, but may be used incorrectly in one of your sentences. Have a friend look your resume  over with a fresh set of eyes, because there may be something that you are missing. Having just one typo on your resume will almost certainly eliminate you as a candidate for a job.

Career planning and job search takes a bit of work; don’t be afraid to tinker with your resume before sending it out.

Five Common Interview Questions You Should Have Answers Ready For

Since today’s job market is more competitive than ever, you need to be prepared to wow an interviewer as soon as you walk in the door. Differentiating yourself from your competition is crucial, whether you are applying for corporate attorney jobs or fast food fryer positions. A key step to preparing for an interview is having appropriate responses ready for common interview questions. Below are five common interview questions that almost every interviewer asks, as well as suggestions for appropriate responses:

  1. Tell me about yourself. This is more of a statement than a question, but it is a standard request for which you should have a prepared answer. Focus your answer on the aspects of your career that are on point with the job for which you are interviewing. Do not recite your job history … hit them with your best shot!  Don’t ramble, and keep it fairly short.
  2. What is your greatest weakness? This is probably one of the most common interview questions that interviewers ask – and it is kind of a trick. Don’t think  you can fool the interviewer by disguising a positive as a negative, e.g. “I spend a lot of time paying attention to details, but I just like to make sure all of the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted.” This will be taken as self-serving BS. Instead, cite a real negative but one that you are working to overcome. Example: “I used to be afraid of public speaking but I went to a Toastmasters course and now I am much more comfortable with it.”
  3. Why do you want to work for this company? This is a popular one with corporate attorney jobs – you need to know what about the company is different than its competitors, and the only way to do that is to do some homework. Find something unique about the company’s corporate culture or business model, and make sure it is nothing obvious that lots of interviewees will also cite. Again, you want to stand out from the competition, not blend into it.
  4. Why did you leave your current position? Whatever you do, do not hint that it had something to do with not getting along with your bosses or co-workers. Try to frame it in a positive way, if you can. Don’t talk poorly of your previous employer, no matter how badly you hated your job.
  5. Do you have any questions for me? This is probably the most important out of the common interview questions you’ll be asked. We recommend that you actually ask questions at the beginning stages of the job interview … things like the mission for the position, the immediate challenges and so on. Show that you know a great deal about the company and its competitive environment by the nature of the questions that you ask. Do not ask questions about compensation or benefits … this will come later when you are discussing an offer. The time you invested in researching the company and developing good questions could be what lands you the job.

5 Tips for Using the Internet for Making a Mid Life Career Change

The Internet can be an invaluable asset to somebody looking to make a mid life career change – if you know how to use it to your advantage. Whether you’re looking for attorney jobs or nonprofit jobs, almost anyone can utilize the web to find the job of their dreams. To help you get started, here are five tips for using the Internet for job placement:

  1. Google yourself. These days, almost every employer uses Google before making a final hiring decision. What does Google say about you? You want search engines to find nothing but positive things about you – not a newspaper article about an old DUI or bankruptcy. This is especially important for people looking for high profile positions, like attorney jobs.
  2. Update your resume. Before you can get started on the path to a mid life career change, you need to have a career change resume. Update yours to include information specific to the type of job you want. For example, if you want to work for a nonprofit, highlight any volunteer work you’ve done for past organizations.
  3. Post your resume online. The more websites you maintain a presence on, the more people will come across your resume. Try Monster, CareerBuilder, Yahoo! Hot Jobs, anything and everything. Go beyond just posting your new career change resume on these websites — use them to actively search out the type of job that you’re looking for. You’ve got nothing to lose by putting yourself out there, and everything to gain.
  4. Network your way to the job you want. Websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter aren’t just for kids. Your future employer is probably on these sites, too – and you could be missing out on opportunities by not having a presence there. Have a specific company that you want to work for? Follow them on Twitter, and you’ll be the first to know when they’re hiring.
  5. Don’t give up if you get frustrated. Getting the hang of using the Internet for job placement can be challenging if you’ve never done it before. Don’t give up! Eventually, you’ll become an Internet job hunting expert…but it takes time. Sooner or later, your dream employer will find you!

If you do not have the time to become an internet job search marketing expert, or if you simply want to off-load that function, Career Strategies can do the work for you! We can even apply to posted positions on your behalf. For more information, please contact Bruce Blackwell at 914-683-5330 ext. 15.