Not all recruiters are created equal, and not all recruiters are going to provide you with the white glove service that you deserve. But how can you tell if you have found Mr./Ms. Right or Wrong? As you chat with the recruiters whose calls you choose to answer, watch for these red flags:
Red Flag #1: During the initial conversation, the recruiter is focused on himself, not you.
What Should Happen: While there should be a little bit of getting to know each other during an initial call, a good recruiter will ask questions to learn about you, why you’re looking, what you're looking for in your next move, etc.
What You Should Do: If they spend the majority of the conversation talking about themselves and why you should work with them, immediately end your conversation because it is clear that they are not interested in gathering the information necessary to represent you appropriately.
Red Flag #2: The recruiter claims to be an expert in every market across the nation.
What Should Happen: All recruiters will claim they are “knowledgeable” about the market you are targeting, but it is impossible for a recruiter to truly be an expert in every market across the nation, especially when it comes to relationships with local firms and understanding local market trends. Ideally, you want to work with someone who focuses on a couple of legal markets. For example, if you are interested in New York, it is highly doubtful that a West Coast recruiter has the relationships and understanding to provide you with the most success.
What You Should Do: Be direct and ask about what markets they work and/or specialize in. While there are exceptions, by asking the questions, you should be able to determine whether or not this person has the relationships and knowledge to truly be your best advocate.
Red Flag #3: The recruiter wants to send your resume to every firm.
What Should Happen: A good recruiter should offer a thoughtful list of firms to approach and an explanation as to why those firms make the most sense based on the conversations you have had with them. Someone who wants to push your resume out to as many firms as possible is not someone who has your best interest at heart.
What You Should Do: Ask them why. Find out the logic behind where they are recommending you submit your resume. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer, move on to a better recruiter who will strategically target firms that align with your experience and career goals.
Red Flag #4: The recruiter pushes you to apply to positions that do NOT match your background.
What Should Happen: As law firms are generally not open to retooling associates, recruiters who want you to apply to opportunities that don’t match your background either don’t know what they are doing or have insider knowledge that they are open to retooling someone. Ask questions to identify which one it is.
What You Should Do: The best way to approach opportunities that are not spot on is to ask your recruiter to send out a blind profile to first gauge a firm’s willingness to consider someone with your background.
Red Flag #5: The recruiter doesn't have access to information beyond the posted job description.
What Should Happen: A good recruiter will have access to the recruiting team at the firm and can offer you additional insight about an opportunity. It should be noted that in a tight, fast moving market having information about every need as soon as it pops up is not always possible. The question comes down to, does this person have the relationships to truly be an effective advocate for you.
What You Should Do: Be direct and ask for details about the opportunities you are interested in. A good recruiter should already know or be able to pick up the phone to get you the information you are looking for.
Red Flag #6: The recruiter is not honest with you.
What Should Happen: Candid honesty is extremely important in the job search process, and this should start in your first conversation. Whether it is acknowledging that the recruiter can’t assist you or setting reasonable expectations about your marketability, timeline, communication preferences, etc., you want to work with someone who will give you feedback when they have it, will coach you on potential problem areas and will tell you when they don’t know something. There are times when a recruiter can’t help as they are limited by the clients and opportunities they work on. If this is the case, they should let you know but will still offer advice that will arm you to be successful on your own.
What You Should Do: Don’t work with a recruiter who isn’t honest with you. Period.
Red Flag #7: The recruiter claims that they have an “exclusive” opportunity.
What Should Happen: While there are exceptions, the majority of law firm needs are NOT exclusive. Recruiters claiming to have an exclusive need either have extremely good relationships with their clients or they are trying to sell you.
What You Should Do: If you get a call from a recruiter with a job you are interested in that a recruiter is claiming to be “exclusive,” ask questions and do your due diligence. If the need is posted on the law firm’s website, it is NOT exclusive. If you figure this out and you still want to apply, reach out to a recruiter that you trust or have built a relationship with to submit your materials for you.
Red Flag #8: The recruiter has gone radio silent.
What Should Happen: Now radio silence is not a clear indication that you are working with a bad recruiter. It may be that there is nothing that the recruiter has for you right at this moment, but it could also be that they are disorganized and have forgotten about you.
What You Should Do: Reach out and have a candid conversation if you are concerned.
Talking to and helping law firm associates make the best moves for their careers is what I do every day. I take a great deal of pride in providing guidance to associates as they continue to move forward in their careers. That’s why it breaks my heart when I talk to someone who has been led astray or, even worse, shut out of perfectly viable job opportunities by working with a bad recruiter.
Having the right recruiter in your corner is crucial to the success of your job search. Your career is your livelihood and should be treated with the utmost care. If you are experiencing any of these RED FLAGS, it’s time to reconsider who you are working with. It’s OK to end a relationship at any time if you don’t feel like it is a good fit. Would you keep going back to a hairstylist that gives you a bad haircut? Follow your gut and work with someone you have a connection with, can trust and are confident in. Do this and your chances of a positive experience—and outcome—are greater.
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Summer Eberhard is a Director in the Associate Practice Group, where she focuses on the Northern California, Seattle and Portland markets. She represents associate candidates in the marketplace and works closely with them to help them achieve their long-term career goals. She is recognized for her professionalism and respect for the confidentiality of both candidates and clients.