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Quick Tips to Communicating “Fit” from a Legal Recruiter

Many times, candidates share with me the types of firms they want to lateral to. After a little bit of digging, I often find out that the candidate has actually wanted to work at that target firm for a while now—and that it has actually been their “dream job” ever since they learned about it in law school. Once They share this, they suddenly start sharing an impressive amount of knowledge they have about the firm—the culture, its practice groups, and even their internal hiring and promotion trends. With all this knowledge and information, how is it that the candidate has not found a way in themselves?

Many attorneys have been trained in advocacy and do a great job advocating for their clients using facts and legal reasoning. Advocating for themselves for a particular role, however, is a different task: they have to effectively and properly communicate the different dimensions of why and how they “fit” with their target employer.

Here’s some quick advice about how to make sure you are conveying that you are the right fit:

Don’t just share your interests—give them something to talk about.

At the bottom of every resume or when making small take, there’s always room to share something interesting about yourself. It’s always good to try to use this as an opportunity to establish positive rapport. This happens naturally if what you are interested in is the same thing your listener is interested in—but you can take this up another level if you share something worth talking about. This helps you stand out, strikes an emotional chord, and gives room to a memorable conversation. Pick things you enjoy talking about. If you like movies…what are the specific types of movies (e.g., “I love any film by…”)? If you enjoy “games” share which particular games you enjoy playing that you can explain (e.g., Settlers of Catan…because…).

In conversations, we build a much more memorable bond when we learn something new. Unique interests are a great way to bond with someone considering your candidacy, so give them something to connect with you about.

“Look” the part.

Whenever you are presenting yourself to a potential employer—whether on paper through your resume, online via a profile, or in person during an interview—remember that you are presenting a message (whether you are intentionally communicating it or not). The main message you want to get across, of course, is that you are the right person for the job and that if you are hired, you will lift right in. Three quick tips for you to “look” the part when you present yourself: ask for feedback, from the source; mirror their look; properly brand your “advertisement.”

First, ask for feedback from the source. The best resource will be an employee of the firm you are looking to join, or someone in the position you are seeking (e.g., another lateral associate). Ask them to give you feedback about their experiences, your qualifications, and whether you pare presenting yourself in the best light to be hired. A solid legal recruiter with the right relationships, of course, can do this for you.

Second, mirror their “look.” I always advise candidates to look up their target firm websites, and look at the profile photographs of their attorneys (on the firm website as well as on LinkedIn). You learn a lot about the professional expectations, and get a sense of the personality, culture, and expectations from a visual picture. This is the best clue to help answer whether wearing a certain color or piece of accessory is a good call.

Third, properly “brand” your “advertisement.” When getting feedback from a primary source or looking up the target employer online, pay attention to the buzzwords and language. Professional marketers and advertisers generally employ the “rule of seven” where they look for seven derivatives of a certain word that appears often—and that generally turns out to be the most important part of the organization’s message. Does your research lead you to finding words like “collegiality,” “teamwork,” “practice group,” “firm-wide,” etc? If so, you know that it will be important for you to brand yourself as a team player. On the flip side of this advice, pay attention to what appears on your materials and how you talk about your candidacy—what is the message you are sending across, and is that the best message to land you the job?

Explain your impact.

Your explanations should be as concrete as you can. To the extent you can share numbers, do so (e.g., how much was that last deal or settlement?). Remember that reasoning can be broken down into ethos, pathos, and logos—sort of like passion, sympathy, and logic (you need all three for effective persuasion). When you explain your impact in a concrete manner, you are providing evidence to underscore the value of your accomplishments and persuading with facts.

Not all things in legal practice lend themselves to something quantitative. In those instances, consider providing “social proof.” If you were selected to serve on a  committee, how many people does that committee serve? If you achieved a particular distinction, out of how many people did you receive that distinction? Emphasize how coveted your accomplishments are.

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