- On April 9, 2023
Job descriptions are usually very long. Does anyone actually meet all the requirements? Rarely. But obviously people are getting hired. Hiring managers usually have some essential skills they are set on and are flexible with the rest when they realize they can’t get everything they want at the salary they are willing to pay. (Yes, this is just like buying a house. You have a budget, and you have to trade off what’s required versus what’s a nice to have.)
What is the hiring manager thinking? Some insight after 15+ years of legal recruiting:
- Hiring managers want as little ramp-up time as possible for their new hire. They often don’t have the luxury to train someone because Legal in-house is a service function, so there has to be a strong business demand to hire another lawyer before headcount is approved. As a result, a pile of work is likely waiting for the new hire, and that person has to contribute immediately.
- Desirable candidates show they can immediately do the work if they have been doing it already! That’s why hiring managers like people who have done the same/similar work for a peer company, and that’s why saying “I am a quick learner” often is not enough.
- Figure out what the top 3 things the hiring manager wants. Ideally you can ask someone at the company. You can also research the key issues the company is facing and the role is facing to get an idea. Also, look on LinkedIn at bios of people in Legal (or functions Legal supports) to see how they describe what they do. Then line up your profile/resume to what the hiring manager is looking for. The most common requirements that cut across all in-house jobs are counseling cross-functional teams and having good judgment. (To show this nebulous concept on a resume, list achievements/results and awards received due to X.)
- Figure out what background the hiring manager favors. LinkedIn and Google can help you with this task. If your background differs from the typical lawyer at the target company, e.g., folks there generally trained in big law but you didn’t, then show you have similar experience, e.g., you trained at a spin-off from big law, or your first manager came from big law and trained you, or you were part of a training program. If you see everyone has prior in-house experience and you don’t, show you have done something similar, e.g., you did a secondment while at a firm (or if you haven’t, try to get one now), or explain you are de facto in-house counsel to clients.