I hear this all the time from associates: “I’m excited to work with you, but I think I’ll just have my friend submit my resume to [x firm].” This doesn’t serve you as a candidate, and it doesn’t serve your relationship with your recruiter. Let me explain why.
- Your recruiter gets the inside track. At Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA), we have long-term relationships with our clients. If one of my candidates has a less than perfect initial interview, I am able to smooth it over (if I believe the candidate would shine if given another shot). If one of my candidates doesn’t seem like a perfect fit on paper, but based on the insider information I have about the role, I know he or she would be a good fit, I am able to go to bat for that person with the credibility of the MLA brand behind me. I have saved many a candidate from a quick “no” with the combination of my relationship with clients and the advocacy skills I honed as a litigator. Your friend can’t do that.
- Your friend may be a very fun person to grab a beer with, but you have no way of knowing how he or she is perceived inside the firm. He or she may not be the superstar associate you imagine—and an introduction through this person could prejudice your application. It’s also very unlikely that your friend has a close relationship with the deciders.
- Your friend won’t push. Your friend has his or her own day-to-day relationships to worry about. He or she is unlikely to go out on a limb to get you in the door. The politics of internal introductions can be tricky as a result. HR expects recruiters to chase, follow up and be dogged. It’s one of our distinguishing characteristics in the hiring ecosystem. Your friend can’t afford to be as relentless as recruiters often have to be. Is your friend going to negotiate a signing bonus for you? No.
- Law firms are accustomed to working with recruiters. They budget for our fees, build relationships with us and like to run a streamlined process. It is our job to be on email around the clock to keep your processes running. I routinely email with HR people on the weekend and in the evenings. It’s a well-oiled machine—and if it didn’t work, MLA wouldn’t have been such a successful business for the last 35-plus years. Recruiters + law firms = symbiosis
- Our job isn’t just to introduce. I’d be bored to tears if my job was just to submit candidates to law firms and wait. It’s much more complicated and holistic than that. I am a career coach, a trusted advisor, a matchmaker, a coordinator and a true believer in your potential. I remain friends with and/or in close touch with most of the candidates I’ve placed over the years—I helped one of my former candidates-turned-friend pick out her wedding dress. Not only do I run the process on my end (trying to keep all of your interviews running at the same time, constantly scanning the market for you, advising you about how to keep your head down at your current firm if things have gotten hairy), but I’m also there for you after you are in your new seat. If you let a friend submit you to one firm and you end up with multiple offers, you put your recruiter into an incredibly tough position. If you receive three offers through me, I’m able to give you totally unbiased advice about what will suit you best—I don’t think I’ve ever steered anyone wrong. If you receive two through me and one on your own, I can’t help but weigh my own commercial interest into the equation. Your offers are not on the same footing, and you’ve taken your most knowledgeable advisor partially out of play.
- Protect your friendship. If you interview with his/her firm and then turn down an offer, or flame out of the process, it could damage your friend's standing. There's a reason recruiters exist - staying at arm's length is powerful, and it serves a purpose.
Find a recruiter you like, trust and respect. Work with that person on all of your applications. It will serve you in the end.
Special thanks to my colleagues Stephanie Biderman (New York), Christine Meade (Miami), Jennifer Henderson (Southern California), and Summer Eberhard (Bay Area and Seattle/Portland) for talking through this with me! They are all excellent resources in their markets.
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Kate Reder Sheikh is a Managing Director in our Associate Practice Group. She covers San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Her focus is on providing a concierge level of service to associates and clients alike. Leveraging her background as a litigator in San Francisco, Kate has unparalleled access to roles and firms in the Northern California market.