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How to Pick a Recruiter

The Careerist

September 4, 2013

This is the second installment by guest blogger Christopher Manning, a partner recruiter at Garrison & Sisson.

Questioning © DDRockstar - Fotolia.com(1)A recruiter calls. You talk. And you feel there's good rapport. Now what?

In my last post, I wrote about the reasons you might take a recruiter's cold call. The issue now is how to vet that person who might be playing a key role in directing your career.

With a few questions, you can determine the legitimacy of the call, the position purported to be available, and the qualifications of the recruiter.

Questions you should ask the recruiter:

1. How did you hear about the job you are calling me for?

2. Has your recruiting firm been engaged on an exclusive or retained basis for this search?

3. Can you explain how this search relates to what's going on in the marketplace for this type of practice?

4. What precipitated this need?  Is it a replacement search? If so, what happened?

5. How long has your firm been recruiting for this client?

6. Do you have a particular practice focus? Do you specialize in partner searches or associate searches?

Warning signs of an unskilled recruiter:

An unskilled recruiter not only wastes your time but could potentially undermine your reputation with firms that you might want to join. Remember, your recruiter is a reflection of you. Here are some red flags:

1. The recruiter tells you he/she was specifically asked to call you but after some investigation, you realize that is not true.

2. It is apparent the recruiter has never personally spoken with anyone associated with the employer.

3. The recruiter is unwilling or unable to assist you with generating/editing your materials, such as your resume, business plan, and other background information.

4. The recruiter focuses on speaking “at you” rather than listening to you.

5. The recruiter does not acknowledge your concerns but instead hastily attempts to overcome each of your objections.

6. The recruiter does not understand the nuances of your practice area.

7. Your firm biography is detailed, but the recruiter knows little to nothing about your background.

8. The recruiter mass emails generic information to “fish for candidates” and fails to provide substantive details about a position.

9. The recruiter is not able to provide you with essential information such as billing rates, billable hour expectations, ranges of compensation, etc.

10. Your gut tells you the recruiter is not playing straight with you and does not have your best interests in mind.

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.



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Andrea: I agree that offering multiple specialties is not a detriment by any means. However, we can probably agree that, as I recommended, gathering information on any specialties a recruiter possesses is always good information for a candidate to garner. Thanks for your comment.

I just happened upon a particularly inept recruiter. After a rah-rah meeting, an hour's worth of forms and many promises, I never heard back from him and he didn't respond to my emails. I emailed him one last time to tell him we would no longer be working together. He responded to this email---he apologized and asked for another chance; I passed. I then wrote to the agency and asked to work with a more professional recruiter. The company did not respond to my email. This is a well-known employment agency. So I wasted my time and energy as well as my hope that he would be different. So I agree you need to be careful when choosing recruiters and interview them before they interview you.

Some of this is spot on and some of it is unfair. Recruiters in this market place have to adjust to what people who pay them want-- there is nothing wrong with being a "generalist" if you are a good one-- as opposed to specializing in associates or partners. Yes, one year you may be pursuing only partners and the next only associates. Am I supposed to lose my livelihood when the market changes if I am limited to one or another? The canon of ethics say attorneys can offer their services in another practice area, provided that they devote the time to become competent in that new area. Why not us, too?

I also think, life of the candidate as opposed to life of the position which I am looking to fill. Why wouldn't I want to keep in touch with a candidate as they grow more senior--whether they become, themselves employers, find that their practice mix or other circumstances necessitate that they move again, or refer others to me? I always tell people that I only want them to take a position if they think it is in their best interest and I offer reasons that I think it might be. If you take the wrong job, you will leave it soon. That does neither of us any good.

As much as I would like to think that I am special, I am sure that I am not the only recruiter out there interested in building long term relationship with candidates as well as employers..

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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