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Julie Brush, Solutus founding partner

The Background:

A hiring manager conducted a search to add a mid/senior level lawyer to her team. She received several resumes that were referred to her by current employees. One person’s background looked especially good so an interview was scheduled. Before that meeting, the candidate contacted three internal employees with whom he had a weak connection and asked them questions about the company and the role. Those employees alerted the hiring manager. The candidate also had three outside individuals email or call the hiring manager to recommend him for the position.

The Outcome: Interview cancelled.

This hiring manager was so put off by the aggressive actions of this candidate she cancelled the interview and rejected his candidacy. And nothing could be done to revive it. Game over. Not only that, this candidate’s reputation was now forever tainted in the eyes of the employer.

Unfortunately, this scenario is becoming ever more common in today’s legal market and is spiking the candidacies of many otherwise qualified lawyers. Competition for jobs is fierce and lawyers are using everything in their bag of tricks to secure advantages. It’s smart and necessary to think strategically, but sometimes the desire to win is so great that it clouds judgment and candidates resort to head scratching tactics to get ahead. And the consequences are almost always bad.

Being a “good candidate” requires skill, emotional intelligence, excellent judgment and above all, plain ol’ common sense. How you behave in the process can speak volumes to an employer about what type of colleague and professional you will be – good or bad. Being overly aggressive can (and usually does) send one or more of the following messages: (1) You are desperate (2) You are pushy (3) You are disrespectful (4) You have poor judgment (5) You are not trustworthy (6) You are a poor listener (7) You are unpredictable. In other words…a non-starter.

Contacting employees you don’t know well (or even know fairly well) in an organization to “pick their brains” about the company or the role is a poor decision for a multitude of reasons. For example, what if the search was confidential? The ramifications of breaching this confidentiality could have serious consequences for the hiring manager and the legal team. This is why it is absolutely imperative to think. before. you. act.

In addition, asking professionals with a credible connection with the hiring manager to put in a good word for you is ok … as long it’s not overkill. One person, fine. Two, maybe. But any more than that and you are wading in dangerous territory that can compromise your candidacy.

I understand these candidate actions are not based on maliciousness or ill intent, but rather a desire to compete as effectively as possible. Which is why it is even more important to understand the unspoken rules of the job application process. Being too aggressive can draw a foul and sabotage a candidacy. So if you’re a candidate in today’s market, I recommend that you keep a loose grip on wanting and needing to win so badly … And you’ll find that your judgment will be more sound—and your professional choices much wiser.

Julie Brush is the founder and author of The Lawyer Whisperer (www.thelawyerwhisperer.com), a career advice column for legal professionals, also found on LinkedIn. She is co-founder of Solutus Legal Search, a legal search/consulting boutique firm, serving as a strategic adviser to lawyers, law firms and corporations.

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