Searching for a law job can be one of the most difficult, nerve-wracking things in your career. You have to go meet with strangers, have them ask you a ton of questions, and hopefully get an offer (let alone negotiate it). On top that, you are competing with hundreds or thousands of other applicants, and you are all being put through a computer system that will pick just a few. So, every application that you submit, interview you attend, you must maximize your chances of getting that law job.
The following are 10 ways that can help you with maximizing your time and be effective in your legal job search and interviews.
#1: Keep Track Your Conversations With Firms and Employers
You are going to have lots of conversations with potential employers through e-mail or phone. Having a way to keep notes on those calls/emails and having reminders and dates for following up is critical to managing the overall process.
Using a Customer Relationship Management tool will help track your interaction with prospective employers. There are several tools out there that can help you manage that process. Two, Jibber Jobber & JobHero, are geared specifically for people searching for a job (Another tool that is also helpful is insight.ly).
JobHero: JobHero is an awesome tool that can be used to track your applications. You can create job applications, upload your resume, etc. and assign them to your application and track contacts and application status.
JobHero also has has a Google Chrome extension that tags jobs back to your account, and track them (interviews, accepted/rejected, etc.) and you can apply to jobs posted on Indeed and Career builder directly from their website.
Jibber Jobber: Jibber Jobber is different from Job Hero (it is free, but has paid components like videos) it lets you gather jobs from around the internet and keep track of the jobs you applied for. You can house all the contact information, notes of your meetings, dates you applied for jobs, etc. One of the great features it also has is the ability to track news on specific companies you are targeting for a job.
#2: Create Folders to Organize Your Applications
You will be submitting hundreds of applications (and hopefully customizing many of them) and it is important to have a well-organized area to store and track all your application materials. Imagine getting a call back for a job and not remembering applying for it, or what you submitted. Worse yet, imagine walking into an interview and providing copies of the wrong resume! Create a folder (preferably on Google drive, or Dropbox and create a folder with the name of each company you applied to. Below is a way to organize your application materials.
How to Organize your Folders:
Main Folder: Type of company: <Judicial/Corporation/Law Firm/Organization>
Sub Folder: Company: <Name of Company>
Sub Folder #2: Application #: <# & Date Applied>
What to Put in Your Folders:
Thank you Letter
Copy of the Job Posting
Having your materials organized will put everything available at your fingertips should you get a copy back. Additionally, putting a copy of the job description and requirements in the same folder will allow you to better prepare for the interview, because you know what the company is looking for.
#3: Research the Company You Are Applying to
One of the best ways to impress a prospective employer is to know all about the companywhen you walk into the interview. However, while conducting your job search (and especially if you are applying directly to law firms, and not a specific job postings), you can start the process early, and potentially identify whether you will be successful in applying there, and whether you would be a good match. Here’s some of the things you are looking for:
Is there anything specific you can find out about their hiring policies (Some law firms have a policy not to hire first year associates)?
What is the financial health of the company or law firm you are looking at?
How does the community perceive the company you are looking at?
There are a few resources that are great for checking out the above.
Chambers & Associate Law Firm Profiles: Chambers (which also has a partners site) assists law students with seeing what associate life is like at individual firms. It provides a wealth of information, including whether they hire 1Ls, weekly rates for those students, how many are provided offers, and associate class size and pay. Sample: Morgan Lewis
Abovethelaw Law Firm Directory: With over 140 law firms listed, Abovethelaw contains survey results on existing associates and whether if they had to do it all over again, they would continue to work at the firm. They also include industry perception rankings. Sample Adams and Reese
American Lawyer AMlaw Profiles: American Lawyer is one of the premier legal publications and each year, they publish rankings on the top 200 law firms in the nation. While much of the content requires a subscription, they offer profiles of each of these firms for free: Sample: Akin Gump
#4: Read Each Job Posting for Key Words
Reading each job posting is crucial. You are searching for ways that you can enhance your resume and cover letter. Many law firms and companies have employed software to be able to screen out unwanted applicants in order to deal with the rising number of resumes (read more on Lifehacker). You are looking to identify:
Do you have the indicated skills on the resume
What words appear important to the firm in the job posting
How can you be responsive to those skills (see #5)
Remember when you were taking the bar exam and you were required to read through the hypothetical and answer the question. It was not so much about regurgitating that you knew the law, it was more about showing you could make the law fit your situation by applying it. This is the same principle.
#5: Customize Your Resume to Each Job Application
Similar to the above, you want your resume to be responsive to each job that you apply for. This will improve your chances to not just pass the software screening phase, but it also shows to your prospective employer that you are matching their job requirements (someone’s eventually going to read your resume).
Find specific key words in the job posting, e.g.
Check your resume for jobs you did that you can incorporate those key words
Check your resume for readability
#6: Know What You Will Say About Each Job on Your Resume At the Interview
It is almost a guarantee, that during the interview process someone will ask you to walk them through each job/position that you have had (See 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions). Again, you can customize your response based upon the interview to help your answer connect with your prospective employer.
For example, let’s say that you worked for the Public Defender’s office during law school, but you are being interviewed for a position involving drafting and consulting clients on contracts. Ask yourself these questions:
Was there a time when I helped a client with a major decision (similar to helping a client take a plea bargain)?
Was there a specific skill around drafting that I developed, such as discerning the impact of a specific phrase?
#7: Use Your School’s Career Center As Much As Possible
Law schools have a vested interest in you getting a job (ideally high paying) as quickly as possible, especially within the first 10-months of graduation. The reason is that each year, any ABA accredited law school is required to report to the ABA how many students had jobs at the 10-month mark (and also the type, business, requiring a law degree, etc.).
Meet with them regularly, and have them help prep you with the basic version of your resume and cover letter (you can customize it later). Also, see if they have any specific networking events, or whether any alumni are needing a quick hand. Lastly, have them help you practice your interview skills.
#8: Prepare A List of Interview Questions to Ask Potential Employers
Remember, an interview is not just for an employer to find out more about you, but also for you to find out whether this is a place for you to be successful. You can use websites to get ideas on some questions to ask (U.S. News), but remember. The last thing you want to hear from a prospective employer is “That information is available on our website.” Focus on asking more insightful questions that demonstrate your desire to know how you would integrate into the team. For example:
How do they approach client projects
What are they doing to be innovative in the industry
What are the group’s long-term plans
What type of development do they have for employees
The goal here is to show them that you are a serious candidate, and you are looking more to the long term.
#9: Relax Going Into the Interview
Once you’ve got that job interview, you got that callback, and you are prepped and ready to go, try and relax (its tough), but here’s what you want to think about:
They’ve selected you over hundreds of other people because they see potential
You’re only competing with a few at this point
They are wanting to see how well of a fit you will be for their company
You want to know whether this is the right place for you
There are a variety of tips that you can use to help you relax pre-interview (workout, yoga, etc.), but remember, the more relaxed and you are, the better you’ll perform.
#10: Be Strategic in Following Up After the Interview
Make sure to ask what the time frame is on the Firm making a hiring decision. There’s a few reasons for this. You want to be strategic in the way that you re-approach them, and think about the messaging you are sending (are you following up for the sake of following up?). The goal is to maximize the chances the law firm will call you back for another interview:
Are you being interviewed by other firms?
Are these interviews 2nd-round interviews (will your skills be taken off the market soon?)
Do you have any firm offers?
Ideally, at the end of the day, you will have multiple offers you are entertaining to provide you leverage when finalizing your job.
If you’ve gotten this far, and are looking for further reading. A couple of good books are:
Alright, you now have 10 ways that you can maximize your job hunt. Don’t just stop with reading this post. Sign up below and receive a free 3-part e-mail series on maximizing your job chance. It goes into much more depth on some of the items above and includes actionable checklists to get the most out of your job search.