Last week, I wrote an article about how law firms sometimes treat job candidates poorly throughout the hiring process. The article generated some positive feedback, and I received a number of emails from readers about how parts of the hiring process are tough and even annoying for job candidates. Fortunately for me, it has been a while since I sought a law firm job, and now I run my own law firm. However, I definitely remember some annoying parts of the law firm hiring process that are somewhat unnecessary and can be eliminated in order to relieve the stress experienced by job candidates.
Probably one of the most annoying parts of the hiring process is thank-you emails. As many people within the legal industry already know, job candidates are usually expected to write thank-you emails to the people with whom they interviewed. These emails are not only supposed to convey gratitude to the interviewer but also relate continued interest in the firm to which the candidate has interviewed.
When I was a job candidate, I experienced a lot of stress around thank-you emails. I read each of my thank-you emails probably ten times before sending them in order to make sure that I did not make mistakes and that everything sounded okay. In addition, some of the recruiters with whom I worked even asked to review my thank-you emails before I sent them out to ensure that they were satisfactory. This demonstrates how important thank-you emails can be, and the substantial impact they may have on the hiring process. During my interviews, I made sure to jot down notes about the people with whom I was interviewing to make sure that I had plenty of material to write about in my thank-you emails.
However, what benefits can really be derived from thank-you emails? Of course, it makes sense that people should covey continued interest in a position in order to stay on top of the heap of job candidates looking for a role. However, thank-you emails do not really convey too much information about job candidates and are usually treated as an annoying task that needs to be checked off when applying for a job.
When I interviewed candidates for jobs, I usually never even read the thank-you emails I received. I would usually just see the email flash up on my Outlook, and kind of feel bad that the job candidate had to comport with the convention that she or he had to send a thank-you email. If individuals involved in the hiring process want to make things easier for job candidates, they should tell people during interviews that no thank-you emails are necessary. This would eliminate one source of stress for many job candidates and ensure that reviewers focus on the attributes of a job candidate that have a bigger impact on whether that person is a good fit for an open position.
Cover letters are another annoying part of the law firm hiring process. Don’t get me wrong, cover letters can sometimes be helpful for law firms and job candidates. In certain instances, job candidates might need to explain why they are interested in a given position because of a nontraditional background. However, when a job candidate is applying to an ordinary job for ordinary reasons (i.e. to do legal work at an average firm and earn a paycheck) it is oftentimes annoying and time-consuming to draft a cover letter.
Usually, the function of a cover letter is supplanted by an email, and writing an email is generally easier than drafting a document in Word that is separate from other application materials. However, when I was searching for jobs earlier in my career, some firms explicitly required a separate cover letter and noted that applications would not be considered if a cover letter wasn’t included. Perhaps such a requirement was established merely to weed out candidates who were applying to jobs en masse or at random. However, firms should not make cover letters mandatory, because the vast majority of positions do not require the additional explanation that is typically conveyed in a cover letter.
Asking Questions During Interviews
The first time I was interviewed for a firm job, the interviewer asked me if I had any questions for her, and I said I didn’t. The interviewer seemed surprised by my response, and I was not hired for the job. I later found out that you are supposed to ask questions at job interviews, purportedly to show that you’ve done your research and are interested about a job. Also, people generally like talking about themselves and their firms. As a result, in every subsequent interview, I did cursory research about firms with which I was interviewing and had questions in the can to ask.
However, when people apply to ordinary jobs for ordinary reasons, there may be situations when a job candidate does not have questions. And there shouldn’t be an artificial expectation that job candidates should ask questions, since this just imposes more burdens on people searching for jobs.
All told, job candidates need to deal with a number of annoying practices while searching for jobs, and this adds to the stress these folks already experience. Law firms should take a hard look about certain norms of the hiring process that may be eliminated in order to streamline the process of looking for jobs.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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