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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

September 1, 2017

The Key Traits of a Good Candidate.

Julie Q. Brush

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with thousands of lawyers seeking to make career moves. I’ve carefully studied their actions in the process and have witnessed a plethora of behaviors that run the gamut from very effective to outright career killing. I have also worked closely with clients who have provided valuable feedback on candidates they’ve liked and those they haven’t. After taking inventory, a clear picture emerges: Good candidates get more opportunities. Good candidates get more breaks. Good candidates get more promotions. Good candidates get more interviews. Good candidates get more offers. And here’s the best news of all: Being a good candidate is something a lawyer has complete control over.

In the career management process…like everything else in life, there are things you can control and things you cannot control. With the things you cannot control, you need to let them go and manage your expectations accordingly. But with the things you can control, you need to control them as perfectly as possible. I cannot stress this enough. If you put the effort into educating yourself, crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s and executing to achieve your personal and professional goals, you will never have any regrets. That’s not to say that everything will go your way. It won’t. But you will have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done everything in your power to maximize your opportunities and control your destiny.

So what defines a “good candidate”?

In this definition, I’m not talking about how a lawyer’s credentials define him/her, but rather other qualities and actions s/he demonstrates in the job application process. Below are the key qualities a good candidate possesses:

  • No sense of entitlement
  • No sense of entitlement
  • No sense of entitlement
  • Honest and transparent about level of interest, other opportunities, current compensation; and compensation expectations
  • Forthcoming regarding information about their background
  • A positive, enthusiastic and friendly disposition
  • Appreciative, gracious and humble
  • Good listener
  • Responsive to email and/or phone communications from the employer/recruiter
  • Uses good judgment regarding referrals, recommendations and leveraging his/her network when applying for job opportunities
  • Not rigid, but flexible about the process
  • Accommodating – particularly with regard to interview scheduling
  • Treats everyone with respect. That includes secretaries, HR, junior lawyers, front desk attendants.
  • On time for interviews or scheduled calls
  • Well prepared for interviews
  • Cares about personal presentation when interviewing (i.e. well groomed)
  • Sends follow up thank you notes
  • Uses good judgment regarding follow up calls and emails to the employer/recruiter about status of candidacy
  • Does not “shop” offers
  • Not a sore loser if not extended an offer

If you are currently seeking a new position or will be at some point in the future, use this list as a guideline to maximize the quality of your candidacy. If you hold yourself accountable to embody each one, you will have a more enjoyable experience and will see greater overall results for your career and personal happiness.

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