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Lawyers - How to make your application stand out

Posted by: Marlous Donders 03/05/16
In today’s job market, where there are still more candidates than vacancies, one job advert can easily get numerous responses. If you apply to an advert posted online, you know you are not the only one.

Ok, you're looking for legal jobs...  So how do you make your application stand out? 

I have been working in (legal) recruitment for several years and have seen hundreds of applications. Unfortunately, I do not have the magic solution that will always make your application successful, but the following tips will help your CV reach the top of the pile:

1. Pick up the phone

If you want to stand out and get noticed, call the recruiter working on that particular vacancy. It’s the fastest way to express your interest and to find out if your background makes you a potential candidate. Also, by calling first and sending your CV afterwards (which any recruiter will ask you to do) you are already on the radar and will more likely get a personal response.

2. Don’t apply when your background/experience is not suitable
Requirements are mentioned in a job advert for a reason, and are what the company is looking for in a succesful candidate. Sometimes, there is room for interpretation (e.g. ‘affinity with the industry sector’) but more often than not, the requirements are very strict (e.g. when fluency in a certain language or qualification in a specific jurisdiction is required). When a candidate applies for a position for which they clearly do not possess the requirements, it comes across as if the advert is not being read properly and no effort is made. Choose your battles carefully and focus on those opportunities where the job requirements match your profile and and there is a clear route to success.

3. Tailor your cover/introduction letter
If you send a cover letter or short introduction together with your CV, make sure to specify the vacancy you’re applying for. Often, recruiters receive very general cover letters with no mention of the specific position or company and it is difficult to understand why a candidate is interested in the role and if he/she will be a suitable candidate. The motivation (‘why us?’) is the most important question for any company; make sure this shines through in your application.

4. Be creative
We are all hard working team players, who can learn quickly and want to develop careers in an international environment. There is nothing wrong with that, but does it make you unique? Does it make you stand out?
Be personal and creative, what are your key skills and strengths for this position and why should a company hire you? In other words, what is your value proposition to them?

5. Don’t over apply
One of the most frustrating aspects for jobseekers is that you often never receive a response to your application. You took the effort to send your CV and (hopefully) a tailored cover letter and you hear nothing in return. Days pass. Applying over and over again in the hope of getting a response might seem the solution, but if you are convinced you are a good match for the position advertised, it may work better to call or email the recruiter in charge directly. Try to take matters into your own hands.

6.In conclusion
Finding jobs in law is a time consuming and sometimes discouraging task and recruiters are often seen as obstacles; the gatekeepers that prevent you from getting the job. But at the end of the day, we are all in this together: candidates want to find a suitable position and recruiters want to find the suitable candidate for the position they’re managing, whilst trying to keep the clients’ requirements in mind and manage the daily volume of applications. 

Finding the perfect match requires effort on both sides. Personal is the key word here. Make direct contact.

For a confidential discussion about your next career move, or for help advertising a new role, please contact Marlous Donders. Marlous is Senior Researcher with Laurence Simons, focused on in-houselegal & compliance positions  in Europe.

Tagged In: Careers, Legal careers
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