“I’m qualifying in September, should I start looking for an NQ position now?” Is the first question I hear from most trainee solicitors, and with good reason. If you haven’t been promised a position at the end of your contract, the first response might be to start your search as soon as possible… and you should!
That doesn’t mean you should apply to all of the firms in January if you qualify in September. Chances are they wouldn’t be able to provide you with an answer, and by the time your application would be relevant you’ll be buried under all the other applicants that came in after. But what you can do is begin your research on which firms you would like to join, which people you think can give you the best opportunities to develop and, of course, get in touch with a recruiter!
For any trainee solicitor preparing to make the step up to qualification and lose the training wheels, a recruiter can be a great resource for you. Having worked with solicitors of all PQEs and specialisms, we can walk you through what may feel like an unfamiliar and even daunting process, as well as advise you on decisions you’re having trouble with. For example, one of the common questions we hear at Harvey John is “my firm can offer me a job but not in my specialism, what should I do?” Generally, the answer is to always follow the specialism you are looking for. The further into the wrong specialism you go, the harder it will be for you to change further down the line. But this is exactly the sort of issue we are happy to advise you on and where a good recruiter can prove their value.
Having an experienced recruiter to walk you through the application process can free your attention to focus on getting ready for interviews and how you want to present yourself, something which we’ll be able to give even more help with! For many trainee solicitors, there are a lot of questions going forward with the process: where to look, how to apply, what are firms looking for? These can all be answered by a recruiter who knows the industry and crucially, knows you.
To that end, I cannot stress enough how useful it is for you to find a recruiter you get along with (and whom you believe has your best interest at heart). You don’t want to start working on a detailed personalised application with one recruiter to find out that another one has simply pinged across the first draft of your CV. If you’re working with lots of recruiters, it’s not possible to build the kind of relationship where they get to know what you need from a job how you’d fit into a team. (Read our blog about picking one recruiter and why that’s beneficial to your job search success)
As a recruiter, I might be a little bit biased here, but getting to know us and giving your recruiter an opportunity to get to know you can be beneficial to everyone - check out Alice’s blog on “why is meeting a recruiter worth my time?” - So having more time to do that before your application goes out can be a great way to ensure we know exactly where to look.
The best way for your recruiter to get to know you properly will always be in person, we are happy to meet on lunch breaks, etc. for a coffee and a chat to get to know you personally and how to best help you. We can enhance your application in a lot of ways: going through your CV and offering advice, communicating with the decision makers and knowing which firms are hiring and when.
This can help the balance for when to apply to be ahead of the crowd, but not too early so your application is forgotten. If your CV is a presented mid-July when they are inundated with soon to be qualified solicitors, it’s more competition for you to get noticed. If it’s presented in February, you may not be at the front of their minds when it comes time to arrange interviews. Generally, we would start making decisions on where to apply around the end of March and then look at each firms’ process individually and decide how to best move forward.
By knowing the firms as recruiters we know when they are meeting or discussing budgets; timing an application to come in just after a new budget has been approved can make it a much easier decision. By remaining open regarding your availability and making it clear you’re planning a career move and not making a snap decision, a well-timed application for a strong candidate can seem like the stars aligning for your new boss.
There is no best time to apply for every role so get in touch sooner rather than later, my colleagues and I would be happy to meet and discuss exactly what would be best for you. Let us know what it is you’re looking for and be ready to make your application before the summer rush!
Eddy Shuttleworth is a Resourcing Consultant in the Legal Division at Harvey John.
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