Question & Answer
August 07, 2012
I want to leave the law firm world to become a recruiter; I think it would be a better use of my interpersonal skills. I'm also thinking of going back to graduate school at night. What should I give as reasons for changing jobs when being interviewed?
Before you give up your day job, I am pleading with you to be absolutely certain that this is really what you want to do.
When you tell us that you think being a recruiter would be a better use of your interpersonal skills, what exactly do you mean? Are you trying to say that you are a people person? Oh dear, that is just the kiss of death in my business. When I am interviewing someone to be a recruiter and s/he tells me the reason s/he is interested in becoming a recruiter is because s/he really likes people, I know that this is not the right opportunity for him/her. That is not what this job is all about.
Wikipedia defines interpersonal skills as, "sometimes also referred to as people skills or communication skills.
Interpersonal skills involve using skills such as active listening, tone of voice, delegation, and leadership. It is how well you communicate with someone and how well you behave or carry yourself.
The term 'interpersonal skills' is used often in business contexts to refer to the measure of a person's ability to operate within business organizations through social communication and interactions.
Interpersonal skills are how people relate to one another."
These types of skills are certainly part of the day-to-day communications of a recruiting firm just as they are part of any business-type environment including that of a law firm or legal department of a corporation. However, are these the most important skill sets that one needs to be a successful recruiter?
First, you need to know that legal recruiters work the same hours as attorneys, if not longer. Did you ever notice that as you are toiling away at night in your office after your assistant has left for the day that the calls from the recruiters seem to step up? And haven't you paid attention to the fact that when you are deep into the interviewing process that your recruiter might be calling you at 11 pm at night or anytime during the weekend? As I tell new recruiters, we are available to our clients and our candidates 24/7, just as attorneys are available to their clients.
Secondly, how do you feel about sitting at your desk all day doing research and making phone calls? This is what the life of a first year recruiter is all about. Have you given this much thought? That first year is really tough. Let me mention this again because right now you are sitting in a lovely office at your law firm where you have achieved some level of seniority, speaking with your clients and working on various assignments. Now you are thinking about starting all over again and sitting at a desk with a telephone and a computer and a list of associates to call who are not interested at all in speaking with you.
I am making this sound a lot worse than perhaps it really is but no one should walk into the legal recruiting business not knowing what that first year is all about. I often wonder if I had to start all over again if I could do that first year all over again.
There is, of course, a sales quality to the legal recruiting business. No matter what, you are representing your client because they are the entity that is paying your fee. Your job is to find qualified candidates to fill your clients' opportunities. At the same time, you cannot push your candidates into positions that are not appropriate for them. You are required to be honest, ethical, fair, kind, tough, deliberate, reassuring, direct, information rich and understanding. All rolled into one.
You asked what reasons you should give when asked why you are changing jobs . . . the people interviewing you at the search firms are not going to be as concerned about why you are leaving the law firm environment as much as why you are thinking about becoming a legal recruiter. Your homework before going on the interview will be to learn as much as you can about the headhunting world and be able to discuss why this profession has attracted you and why you think you are the right person for it.
Here's my concern at the same time you are thinking about becoming a legal recruiter you also want to start graduate school. This is going to throw a red flag up with the search firms. Graduate school requires a great deal of time and focus. How much of your time and energy will it require? Will it take away from what you need to give as a legal recruiter? You didn't tell us what degree you were planning to study for in graduate school. Does this mean that your idea of becoming a legal recruiter is just a temporary stopover until you finish graduate school? Be prepared to answer any and all of these questions in an interview.
I suggest that you do some more research on becoming a legal recruiter. Perhaps the best way would be to call some of the recruiters that have contacted you over the years and ask if you might come over to their offices for an informational meeting. I'm sure they will be delighted to meet with you and tell you all about their firms and opportunities about becoming a legal recruiter. Best wishes!
Ann M. Israel