If you ask the general public which professions they dislike the most, lawyers would come pretty high on the list. This isn’t new. Shakespeare was in on the act more than 400 years ago. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” says Dick the Butcher in Henry VI, part 2. That’s a bit harsh in my view. Surely that punishment should be reserved for bankers and estate agents?
Ask the same questions to a bunch of lawyers and their response is likely to be unanimous: recruitment agents. It seems there is a special place in the dark heart of most lawyers reserved for people who in theory should be helping them with their careers.
Why is that? Here are four reasons why newly qualified solicitors don’t like recruitment agents:
1. They waste your time by advertising non-existent jobs
This is an age-old tactic. Advertise a juicy sounding vacancy in order to build a database of candidates that they might be able to place at some future date. You spend ages honing your CV and gearing up for an initial interview with the agent, only to discover that the ‘job’ has already been filled. Don’t worry, you are told, even better opportunities will be along shortly. And now they have your CV on file, you’ll be ahead of the game.
2. They don’t keep you informed
Not all jobs are fictional. Sometimes the agent manages to secure an interview for you with a firm you would like to join. You think the interview went well and are already picturing yourself progressing well at your new home. You are excited, and anxiously waiting for ‘the call’. And waiting, and waiting, and waiting… You calls are met by voicemail, your messages unanswered. When you finally get through, you are told that unfortunately the job went to someone else. No explanation, no feedback.
3. They’re indiscreet
Worse than not getting a call at all is being called on your work number. You mumble into the handset trying to disguise who you are talking to, hoping that the partner you’re sharing an office with doesn’t cotton on.
Or, the agent touts your CV to all and sundry without your consent. They’ll even send it to firms that aren’t recruiting, in the vague hope that their scattergun approach will find a target. Any target. No thought is given to the incestuous nature of the legal world. Your boss’s best friend is Head of Department at that firm. How could they do that?!
4. They put you forward for a position that is totally unsuitable
This usually goes something like this. “I know this isn’t exactly what you are looking for but this firm is really going places and you are a great fit for them.” In other words, ignore the fact that you want to join a magic circle firm to do high value M&A work, why not attend an interview with a West End firm looking for a corporate/commercial lawyer?
Some agents are more subtle. They will tell you that the job is precisely what you are looking for. This is the type of work you want to do, it’s a great salary and there are real partnership prospects. These are lies. Of course, you only find this out as you sit across the desk from the interviewer and listen to them outline a different role entirely, at a lower salary.
You then have to fend off persistent calls from the agent trying to convince you that it would be a big mistake not to take this job. Sometimes it’s even tempting to accept it for no other reason than to stop the agent calling you!