In discussions with various law firm partners and HR managers/officers, most appear to be looking to recruit staff who:
- Can immediately contribute to the firm’s activities
- Have a definite interest in the job they have applied for
- Show a keen desire to learn about the firm and contribute positively to its working environment
- Will stay for the duration of a fixed term contract, stay for a reasonable period or are looking for a permanent position
What then, are recruiters wary of when assessing an applicant? Here are five “red flags” Olsen Recruitment watches for:
1. Does it appear you’ve applied for a job that raises questions about your ‘fit’ or suitability? Here are some examples of apparent mis-matches between what the employer wants and what the candidate has applied for:
- The personal profile/CV which appears to show a history not at all related to the position you have applied for
- The law/LPC graduate who applies for a permanent legal receptionist role
- The legal secretary applying for another legal secretarial job, but who is self-funding training to become a legal executive
2. Have you had three or more different (permanent, rather than temporary/fixed term) jobs within a short period (e.g. two years), because of the negative connotations job-hopping demonstrates? Typical indications are:
- You don’t appear to have settled anywhere – and therefore you may be a risk, particularly for roles requiring long-term investment or where significant training is going to be given to you
- Your work may not have been successful or well-received
- You may not have fitted in with the team/the firm
- You may have rushed into applying for the position because you just wanted ‘a job’ quickly
If your CV indicates any of the above, it is worth-while being prepared to address the reasons in any interview you may attend. This is particularly true if you are applying for a position where long-term investment is required.
3. Are there any gap(s) in your CV or vague dates of employment (e.g. years only instead of months and years on your CV)? Gaps in employment on your CV should be clearly explained. Gaps are red flags because they can indicate issues with employment.
4. Are you applying for a position in a location where you do not appear to have any contacts? For example:
- A Lewisham-based paralegal, applying for a job in King’s Lynn; or
- A legal secretary based in Bristol applying for a legal secretarial job in Norwich
This is a ‘red-flag’ because moving to a new location where your CV does not appear to evidence any ties to that particular area, especially for junior positions, could imply that you may not be likely to stay for any period of time (assuming you successfully get through an interview and accept a position). Moving for ‘a change of scenery’ is not generally considered a good reason to move and the worst case scenario is viewed as though you are someone who is not settled in any way. If it is for a training contract, then the partners will want to understand (given the time, effort and cost invested in you) if you’re likely to stay in the area when you qualify.
5. Are you applying for a position where you have to endure a long commute, whereas previously you did not have to? In this instance, interviewers or the partners will want to understand your motivations for doing so, and whether you are likely to be a good long-term prospect. For example, if you’re a secretary based in Cambridge, and you apply for a position in Norwich, the partners will want to understand why you want to put yourself through a long commute for very little or no gain.
In conclusion, the five red flags mentioned above do raise concerns but do not necessarily “close the door” for any applicant. If there are reasonable, valid explanations, then these should be given openly to both Olsen Recruitment and at any related interview or discussion.