I’ve been growing my law firm now for 20 years and over that period I’ve seen an awful lot of lawyer CVs. So what’s the very first thing I look at when I get a new CV. Is it how good a degree they got? How long they have been qualified? Could it be any prizes or awards they have won?
No – it’s much simpler than that. The very first thing I look at is their job history, and in particular how many jobs they’ve had. What I’m looking for in the kind of candidate I’d like to employ is someone who can hold down a job – who doesn’t flit from one job to another and is someone who an employer wants to hang onto. And what’s the very opposite of that? A job hopper.
The job hopper seems to go through jobs at an incredible rate. Trust me, having seen hundreds and hundreds of CVs in the last 20 years, I never cease to be amazed at how a minority of candidates are clear job hoppers - and they still appear to get taken on by law firms, time and again. The worst individual case I’ve seen is 13 jobs in 15 years. That means they’re moving on every 12 months or so – year in year out.
Surely that sends out massive warning signs to any half sensible law firm partner . That this is the kind of candidate who, for whatever reason, your firm is simply not going to hang onto - and in another year or so you’ll have to go through the whole process of recruitment again with all the cost that involves (don’t forget that the law firms, the recruitment fee is only part of the cost – more significant is the time they need to spend bedding in any new employee, building up a caseload, or getting to know their existing cases, and getting to grips with all the internal systems of the new law firm).
In my experience, even the softest law firms who put up with poor performance tend to catch on to really poor candidates eventually.
In reality, although there are law firms out there daft enough to take a chance on these kind of dreadful looking candidates, job hoppers will find it increasingly difficult to get a decent job – as their career progresses and the job history worsens.
It probably worth pointing out that this stage that research continues to show that generation Y tend to stay in one job for a shorter period of time than their baby boomer colleagues. The research consistently shows that generation Y have a very good idea of what they want from their law firm employers – and they don’t get it they’ll simply move on. So if you are one of those generation Y lawyers, it’s even more important that you don’t get labelled a job hopper.
So how do you avoid looking like a job hopper?
• Take care to join the right firm. Don’t just rush into join any old law firm who makes an offer – think about it carefully. Are they the kind of firm that’s likely to be around in say 5 years time? Do you feel comfortable with their culture?
• Think twice before resigning. If you do end up joining the wrong firm, think about what it will look like in your CV. Whilst the odd example of a brief stay or to with a firm for a few months might look okay when balanced against the rest of the stable CV, think, from a future employer’s point of view, what you must look like if you jumped ship at an early stage too often
• Think about the future. It’s certainly true now, for example, that virtually any conveyancing candidate, however weak they might look on paper, has a pretty good chance of employment. But the legal world is changing fast. Spool on 20 years, and you will probably find less senior lawyers being required, with more use of technology and less generously paid junior assistants and paralegals. That means you are going to find yourself increasingly fighting for jobs at a time when law schools keep spewing out far too many law grads. Make sure your CV doesn’t let you down.
• “Tune into the world of the receiver” - that’s a phrase I picked up from the MBA my wife did some 20 years ago. And it stuck with me and formed a basic part of my business ethos. What’s it mean? It’s pretty simple really. Try to put yourself in their shoes - which when it comes to recruitment is those lawyers interviewing you, probably the most senior partners, or perhaps departmental heads in larger firms. What does your CV look like to them? Does it say that you’re a solid individual who sticks with jobs, or someone who flits around, can’t make up their mind or worse still gets dumped by law firms on a regular basis?
• But what happens if, for whatever reason, you can’t help your CV looking like a job hopper – but the truth is that there are very good reasons why you had to move around. There’s a very simple answer here – and if you take away one thing from this article, this is it. If you have a perfectly good explanations as to why you have moved law firm regularly – tell the law firm – and preferably put it in your CV. Remarkably, I’ve only ever seen this once on a candidate’s CV, and it made the difference between the CV going straight into the bin and getting an interview. For example, one candidate who I saw who was borderline, turned out to have a perfectly good explanation of why they’d been such regular moves – her husband was in the army and she had to follow him when he got posted a couple of years.
AUTHOR - Tim Bishop, Senior Partner of Hampshire and Wiltshire solicitors, Bonallack and Bishop, who also runs a number of specialist law firm websites, including http://www.leaseextensionuk.co.uk and http://www.how-to-claim-compensation.co.uk.