Your assistance is needed. I’m a good lawyer but I am struggling to find the role I want. I have a great background, graduating from a top 5 law school before joining one of the best firms out there. My deal list is more extensive than most of my peers and I know my bilingual language skills are top notch. Frankly, I know I am a better attorney than 90% of the associates at my firm including those that have many more years experience than me. And, I work harder than anyone else – especially Partners.
However, I’ve recently started dipping my toe in the in-house job market, and I have struck out everywhere thus far. I’m getting initial interview invites but nothing moves forward, and I don’t know why. Surely there’s not many (if any) others out there with a stronger background than me? I would think companies would be falling over themselves to hire a lawyer with my calibre.
Dear Mr Player,
I suspect yours is an easy fix. Have you ever heard of something called humility? Or good graces? Or even personality?
At your level, despite your awesomeness, as a lawyer your skills are mostly a commodity. Maybe no one can get that extra 2-3% out of a document like you but, most likely, no one cares about that extra 2-3% either. But people do care about with whom they work.
Funny as it may seem to you, employers – especially companies hiring in-house counsel – will often put as much emphasis on ‘fit’, i.e. personality, as experience. In-house headcounts are typically difficult to obtain, so when CEOs, General Counsels, or HR Heads are trying to choose whom to hire from a group of candidates, personality can play a major factor – nay, a deciding factor.
This is not to say that a lawyer should change his/her personality or ‘act’ his/her way through an interview, however you have to approach each interview like it’s a test of you as a person. What makes you an interesting person? You can’t just waltz in and just expect your resume to get you the job.
It sounds like you have a stellar professional background however there are a lot of good, experienced lawyers out there, and you have to do everything you can – this includes dropping your guard and embracing something honest in your exchange, asking questions, treating interviewers with respect, and demonstrating that you can be humble and that you want the job – if you want to be taken seriously. Employers want applicants to want them also.
So, be yourself, and be nice. Charm the interviewer, but mean it, don’t try to fake it.
You’re not going to get every job you go for because: (a) that’s not realistic; and (b) you’re not going to fit to every company’s culture. However give yourself the best shot you can by going into each interview with the goal of showing the interviewers who you are as a person, and in the best light possible.
P.S. Finally, hiring managers also ask recruiters about candidates; about their personalities and sometimes hobbies/interest. So be nice to your recruiter too – just in case.