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I don’t like recruiters because I have had bad experiences with them in the past. But I know they can help my career. What’s the best way to approach this relationship?
You are not the first person who hasn’t had a positive experience with a recruiter, and you certainly won’t be the last. But it will be important for your career to forge strong relationships with the best of this lot. Good recruiters are well connected and can wield a great deal of influence. And the best ones will guide you throughout your career. So including them as part of your network is just good business.
All recruiters are not created equal. So there exists a wide range of quality, knowledge, professionalism, values, integrity and service. Why such a disparity?
Because there are no barriers to entry in the legal recruiting business. You don’t have to be a lawyer, take a bar exam, maintain a license or have any pre-existing connection with the legal profession in order to hang out a shingle and call yourself a Legal Recruiter. Consequently, the industry can include a roguish element. But even separate from the roguish element, recruiters possess different styles, values, drivers and levels of engagement. So a lawyer’s experience with recruiters can be very uneven.
So what’s the best way to approach this relationship?
To start, you should wipe the slate clean regarding your past negative experiences and feelings. Today is a new day. And your new approach should be positive and optimistic. You should view this connection like you would any other in your network: An opportunity to create a professionally fulfilling and long lasting relationship.
Next, be clear about what you want in this partnership for a recruiter: Do you want a transactional approach or do you want a confidant and advisor? Aggressive or more laid back? How important is the firm brand, level and diversity of experience, depth of market knowledge, personality, the quality of the clients? Know what kind of recruiter is worthy of associating with You. Remember, you get to choose too.
Research. The invention of the Internet and Google has made it extremely easy to find out everything under the sun about people. So conduct your research on different recruiters before you pick up the phone. Also do your diligence with friends, colleagues, and your law school career services. There’s nothing better than a high quality referral from a source you trust.
Make your short list and begin your outreach. Meet or speak with several recruiters and get a sense of what they are like. Like candidates, recruiters have “tells” too. And how they act – especially when they cannot immediately assist you – will speak volumes about what to expect from them in the future. If they can’t help you now, are they willing to help in other ways? Take careful notice.
In your meeting, be positive, ask good questions and articulate your goals – both for your career and your recruiter. Ask for advice you are seeking and for honest feedback on how you can maximize your marketability as a candidate. After your meeting, send a thank you email (reference Lawyer Whisperer post on thank you notes) and take some time to process how you felt about your experience. If you felt like it wasn’t a fit, don’t force yourself to remain close. However, if you felt like you made a good connection, treat the relationship like you would with other valued members in your network.
Keep in touch, but not so much that you are viewed as annoying. And remember, there is a give and take aspect to this relationship too. It’s not all about “me”.
Having a relationship with a recruiter doesn’t have to be like taking castor oil. If you have the right approach and attitude…and choose wisely, this connection can be one of the sweetest of your professional career.
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