Working with a Recruiter
Choosing to use a professional recruiter, or headhunter, in your job search is an individual decision. During an economic down cycle, attorneys may want to be more cautious when soliciting the help of a recruiter. When you are hired by an employer through a recruiter, you come with a fee for the employer – one which employers may be less willing to pay during difficult economic times. At the same time, in any market a good recruiter will be able to help you to identify opportunities more quickly, provide meaningful market intelligence, and navigate the job search process, including managing the timing of your search and negotiating the terms of an offer. Professional recruiters also maintain a vast network of contacts and will likely save both the employer and the candidate time in their job searching processes.
In most cases recruiters are asked by law firms and corporations to find candidates who closely match the required qualifications and experience for a position. Depending on the arrangement with a particular employer, the engagement may be non-exclusive or exclusive. In a non-exclusive engagement, the recruiter is one of several being used to locate talent for this position. In an exclusive engagement, the recruiter is the only one being used by the employer. In both cases it is the employer, not the candidate, who pays the fee.
As a general rule, most law firms look for second- to fifth-year associates coming from top law firms who have strong academic credentials and substantive experience in their practice areas. If you fall into this category, then a recruiter will very likely be able to help you with your search and present you with an array of opportunities, the number of which will depend on the strength of the market in your practice area at the time. Since most recruiters at established recruiting firms have relationships with most major law firms, there can be a benefit to working with only one recruiter: Namely, the recruiter can get know you and present opportunities that are the best match for your skill set and goals; manage the timing of all of your applications, which can be beneficial if you are interviewing with multiple firms; and keep track of your applications over time, adjusting strategy as your search progresses. Working with one recruiter also keeps your incentives aligned since the recruiter will be paid regardless of the role you take, and allows the recruiter to become a true partner in your search. If you choose to work with a recruiter on an exclusive basis, you should find someone you like and trust. You may also want to work with a recruiter who is considered an expert in your practice area and/or one who has deep relationships with and insights into the firms in which you are most interested.
There are times, however, when it may make sense to work with more than one recruiter. For example, if you are working with one recruiter, but another recruiter approaches you with an “exclusive” search that only that recruiter may have access to, you could consider submitting a resume through that recruiter for that specific opportunity. In addition, if your primary goal is to go in-house, you will likely need to use more than one recruiter, in addition to using your networks and applying to jobs on your own. This is because many companies either don’t work with outside recruiters or if they do, they work with only one or two recruiters on any particular search. As a result, no single recruiter would be able to represent you for multiple opportunities in the way that recruiter would be able to if you were conducting a employer search.
If you do work with more than one recruiter, make sure to keep detailed records of which recruiter you authorized to submit your materials to which employer, and on what date. These meticulous records will help to avoid your resume being submitted multiple times to the same employer. In general, once a recruiter sends your resume to an employer, your candidacy is linked to that recruiter for between six months and one year.
If you fall outside the category of a second- to fifth-year associate and are more senior or have a non-traditional background (or are wanting to re-tool into a different practice area), you could consider either using a single recruiter or more than one recruiter depending on your practice area and goals. In that case, however, you may have more success in your search if you employ other job search methods such as networking and applying to firms directly or having a close contact (ideally someone already working at the firm) pass along your resume to the relevant hiring person. This is because firms may not want to pay a fee for a less traditional, outside-the-box candidate, though they may be willing to consider you if introduced by other means.