Career Audit

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Joe Ankus. Photo by Michael DeHoog

Three weeks after he began working as a re­cruiter, Joe Ankus of Fort Lauderdale was hired by a Florida bank to find a bilingual regulatory banking attorney from a top law firm and school. Sixteen years later, he still hasn’t filled that position.

Happily for employers and job candidates, most searches don’t take that long. Placing one attorney a month is a typical rate, Ankus says.

But for those hiring and those seeking to be hired, selecting the right recruiter is as tricky as finding a job or an employee. Research and interviews are essential. Personal networking pays off. And the right fit takes time.

“There are so many bad recruiters,” says Ankus, executive director of the National Asso­ciation of Legal Search Consultants. Employers and candidates should ask friends and business associates for recommendations, check references and search the Internet. They also should ask for the names of the recruiter’s clients.

Job candidates should meet the recruiter in person, says NALSC president Marina Sirras of New York City. “I have met people I would not present to my clients, even though the resumé looked great.”

And recruiters should meet employers. “A firm has a personality. You can only sense that and get to know that when you visit them,” says Sirras.

Employers need to ensure that a recruiter would be a good spokesperson, says Stacy Humphries, a prin­cipal with MS Legal Search in Hou­s­ton. “You want to make sure that the recruiter has credibility in the marketplace and will communicate well about what your firm is looking for.”


Candidates should insist on confidentiality. “A person should not let their resumé go anywhere without a recruiter identifying” where it’s going, says Annette Amato, president and owner of Amato Legal Search in Ellicott City, Md.

And recruiters should promise not to send a resumé without a candidate’s approval. “Nine times out of 10 the candidate is doing it in a confidential manner. They need to keep control over the process,” Amato says.

Candidates may not want their resumés to go to firms with partners who know partners at their current firms, she says. Also, job candidates who work with multiple recruiters need to be sure their resumés are not sent to the same employer twice, says Amato. “You want to avoid recruiters who are going to shoot your resumé around the law community,” Humphries adds.

If recruiters blanket the commu­nity with a resumé, a candidate may receive rejection letters from firms that don’t even have openings, Humphries says. Thus, when an opening does come up and the candidate sends a new resumé, the firm’s records may indicate that the candidate already was rejected—and the candidate is rejected again.

When job candidates meet with a recruiter, they should dress well, be prepared for tough questions, and have their resumés, references, writing samples and law school transcripts on hand in digital and print formats. Recruiters often check candidates’ academic records, even if job seekers have practiced for years.

Candidates should ask whether the recruiter will provide timely and full disclosure about job in­formation such as firm culture, money, hours and the specific type of work.

For their part, recruiters should provide interview feedback, resumé advice and help in identifying other opportunities. They also can help negotiate deals.

And good recruiters will tell candidates when they should forgo working with a headhunter. For instance, job seekers with weak credentials shouldn’t turn to a recruiter. “Ninety percent of my revenue comes from the top 10 percent of the class,” Ankus says.

Employers, on the other hand, should make sure that a recruiter who has just placed a new hire won’t turn around and raid their staff.

Employers also should check fees, exclusive rights and guarantees. Some recruiters charge employers a contingent fee, while others work on a retainer. For employers, a six-month, pro-rated guarantee is standard, says Amato.

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