Biglaw, Headhunters / Recruiters, Job Searches

Recruitment Staff Pet Peeves

Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who offers an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

The other day I had lunch with five colleagues, each of whom acts as the head of recruitment for a large New York law firm. Despite our best efforts, the discussion repeatedly returned to work and the immense pressure that we all have been feeling in the wake of the “economic adjustment.” Our jobs used to be (relatively) fun in the late 1990s. We fondly recalled the days when one of the greatest pressures that we faced was finding, at the last minute, extra Yankees tickets for an oversubscribed summer associate outing. Well, our roles have changed. Today our primary task is to find for our employers, time and time again, flawless candidates who have made no missteps in their careers.

During the discussion, I kept steering the conversation back to the topic that I address today. I wanted to share with readers the major pet peeves of recruitment staff members in the hope that you can benefit from such disclosures. In no particular order and with no malice:

1. We do not appreciate when a candidate “wallpapers” the office with his or her résumé by sending it via email to numerous parties at the firm. Please appreciate that all of those emails will make their way back to the recruitment team. One email to the recruitment team will have the same impact. No partner, including the hiring partner, will make a hiring decision in isolation; he or she will follow protocol and send the email to the recruitment staff for proper handling. It is likely that the attorney who forwards your email to us did not even look at it (since it is our job to review it).

2. We do not appreciate it when you send a follow-up email to inquire as to whether we have received your initial email. If we have not yet had time to deal with your first email, the second email is just annoying. Please trust that we will do our jobs and respond to you if you are of interest to the firm. If you are not of interest, the second email has no impact.

On that note, please appreciate that, despite our best efforts, not all candidates will receive a reply from the firm. In the era of email, when candidates can apply to 200 firms in an hour, please recall that someone is on the other end of that deluge. If you are of interest to the firm, you will be contacted. We promise. If 30 days have passed and you have not heard anything from us, please assume that we are not interested. While this may sound cold, this is a reality in view of the volume of submissions that we receive.

3. We do not want you to send us requests to become Facebook friends or LinkedIn buddies. Please recall that we do not know you / we are not looking to build a professional network of lawyers (our professional network is other in-house recruiters).

4. For decades, there have been stories floating around firms about the candidate who was rude to the receptionist and, as a result, he or she did not get an offer. This story is true. If you are so socially impaired that you cannot be gracious to an employee of the firm where you hope to work, we take this very seriously. This is a major red flag, and we heed this warning sign. Please do not be a jerk to any of our staff members.

5. Please do not call the recruitment team. Ever. Please use email and, if appropriate, a member of the recruitment team will respond. We have no idea who is on the other end of the phone and, as such, it is very hard to reply to your request without first having your materials in hand.

6. There is no need to send thank you notes to anyone with whom you interviewed. You are just generating more paperwork and, once you become an overworked attorney, you will understand why no one needs another piece of correspondence to deal with. No one has ever failed to get an offer because he or she failed to send a thank you note. Please sell yourself in the interview and then leave it at that.

7. We would appreciate it if you would always do the following — submit a brief cover note, résumé, and transcript ONLY (with each attachment labeled clearly as such). Please do not submit lengthy writing samples or long letters of recommendation. If you fail to submit a transcript, you are creating more work for the team as we may need to take the time to request it. Also, if you fail to send a transcript, there is often the assumption that you failed to send it because it is a hindrance to your application. Just send it upfront to avoid any issues. As for writing samples and recommendation letters, you will be asked later in the process to send these materials if these documents are indeed needed.

8. A note to professional recruiters — your professional credibility hinges on whether or not you do your homework before you submit a candidate to the firm. We know which headhunting firms send us candidates without consideration of our true needs, and we know the firms that take the time to get to know each individual firm and the type of résumés to which its recruitment staff will respond favorably (and these are the headhunters who survive in the business long term). The recruitment staff is your client; if you do not make the staff happy, your candidates will never receive consideration from anyone else in the firm. One of my colleagues implored that you stop with the “hounding phone calls and emails” about the one candidate who you submitted. If the candidate is of interest, we will let you know.

9. A note to associates currently employed at Biglaw firms — we are not career counselors and, as such, our office is not the place to come hang out when you are questioning your career choices. Many unhappy attorneys contemplate making the switch to in-house recruitment. If you would like information about the work that we do, just ask. We are all busy.

If I missed any recruitment staff pet peeves, please email them to me so I can pass them along to the readers.

This Week’s Email Response

I received an email this week from a junior attorney who wanted advice on how members of the “lost generation” (which, according to this attorney, consists of those attorneys with strong credentials who graduated during the recent economic downturn) could transition to Biglaw after not successfully landing Biglaw jobs during these lean hiring years. This attorney noted that he did a state clerkship and now practices at a small, well-respected firm. In his current job, he is able to appear in court a few times a month, and he has significant responsibility for a third-year associate (taking depositions, direct client contact, etc.).

This letter interested me for one specific reason — this attorney already has the type of job that many second- and third-year Biglaw associates are currently seeking. This attorney is using his law degree on a daily basis, and his judgment is being respected by his current employer. So, why, young attorney, do you want to give this up to come to a law firm where third-years are overworked but, at the same time, get very little substantive work experience?

As I will discuss in a future column, what is the point of spending two years at a Biglaw firm if your intention is not to make a career in Biglaw?


Anonymous Recruitment Director is the head of recruitment for a leading international firm and has 20 years of law firm recruitment experience. Anonymous NYC Recruitment Director can be reached at NYCRecruitmentDirector@gmail.com (please note that job applications sent to this email address will be deleted!).

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