Optimizing your General Counsel and Attorney Resume
Quite a few attorney and general counsel resumes I have reviewed and subsequently re-written this year suffered initially from what I like to call “career neglect” or “career outgrew resume.” While the actual career of many general counsels has grown significantly over the years in terms of responsibilities and achievements, that growth is often not reflected in their legal resumes.
I believe the two main reasons for this common scenario are that 1) early in a legal career the focus seems to be mainly on graduating from a prestigious law school and snatching a job with a big law firm and 2) career marketing does seem to come somewhat unnatural to legal executives.
Let’s look at those two reasons in a bit more detail now.
I. Early Legal Career Focus
Typically, you earn your first stripes in the legal field as an attorney in law firms and private practices. At this stage, a law degree from a top school might be enough to serve as your door opener. Once you get your foot in with a top law firm, the combination of your law school and top firm will frequently carry enough weight to land your new opportunity easily and without too much “resume hassle.”
However, once you make the transition to in-house positions, and you are making a move to General Counsel or Vice President of Legal Affairs, the need for a sophisticated and optimized resume increases drastically. At this stage, quite a few non-legal professionals will review and screen your resume, and your achievements must be “translated” for the business side of things. In other words, the classic “bear bones” attorney resume you might have received as a template from your law school 20 years ago won’t cut it anymore.
II. Career Marketing Might Feel Unnatural to Legal Executives
Legal counsel management, leading major negotiations, and defending the intellectual property of your employer and clients are all things that come quite naturally to you as a general counsel or private practice attorney. Ideally, you enjoy doing those things quite a bit.
But tooting your own horn? Usually, not so much. Most of my legal executive clients will say that they are good at writing about a plethora of legal problems but feel less comfortable drafting their own career materials.
And this only makes sense. Drafting legal documents with potentially an unlimited available amount of words and pages with other legal professionals in mind is quite different from jam-packing your entire career on a 2- or 3- page resume format that must pass a 10-second legal recruiter “scan.”
III. What do you do?
The first step to catapulting your resume to 2019 is to become aware that the resume is essentially a marketing document which will receive very little initial attention; be it from a recipient of an application or another law firm that you might be targeting for potential referrals.
In other words, this is non-billable time for your resume and CV recipient too (except for a legal recruiter that is), so they will not take 30 minutes out of their daily schedule to thoroughly go through your document line by line. Your resume and CV has to deliver rapidly to make an impact. Contrary to legal writing, you will have to limit yourself to stressing your most crucial career highlights to communicate the benefit that you bring to the table. Everything that looks like “too much work to go through” bears the risk of not getting read, and that is obviously what you are trying to achieve. That’s why I recommend limiting attorney and general counsel resumes that target employment to 2 to 3 pages.
But what about resumes and CV that you want to utilize to target other law firms for referrals? Well, in that case, I usually recommend a tiered approach. You could provide your recipients with options that vary in length and detail.
So, for example, you could send them a folder/attachment with a short/introductory one-page bio, two-page resume, and a full-blown academic CV with all speaking engagements and publications.
That way, you put your potential reader in full control of how much they want to “digest” about you and your achievements.
Full-reader control is your way to success for your legal resume in 2019!
If you have any questions about your attorney or general counsel resume, feel free to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Following up with interviewers after you've had an executive interview is common courtesy. However, following up “the right way” provides you with opportunities beyond simply showing that you are a polite and polished person. You can read the whole post on Forbes here.
Going repeatedly through several rounds of interviewing and not getting the job offer can be very frustrating. The question then becomes, is it your interviewing or something else? I have dealt with this question in my latest Forbes contribution here.
A new tool for conducting a confidential executive job search: GatedTalent
As a seasoned executive, you have come across various executive search portals. Usually, you have to sign-up for a fee-based “membership,” and in return, you are “allowed” to upload your resume to their database where your resume could get found by executive recruiters.
Now, I personally always found that idea, where you as the searching executive have to pay to make the life of recruiters easier to find you, a little bit cheeky, but whom am I to judge, right?
Nevertheless, I was quite happy to learn about a new and free alternative out there for top-level executives trying to conduct a confidential search with leading recruiting firms. Enter GatedTalent (www.gatedtalent.com/.)
GatedTalent was formed in 2017 and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dillistone Group, the largest publicly-traded software and technology supplier to the recruitment sector in the world.
With the GatedTalent business approach, it is the executive search firms that have to pay for accessing top talent on their database. That seems to me the way it should be, but I wanted to learn more about the company and service.
So, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Louise Duffield, an Executive Researcher with GatedTalent. I asked Louise to tell me a little bit more about the platform and how it works from the executive point of view.
Here is the takeaway from our Q&A session:
Tim: Louise, why should an executive register with GatedTalent?
Louise: The Answer will vary based on those ‘actively’ looking and those who are not looking ‘right now’.
Most executives will know a couple of senior recruiters. Most also know that senior positions aren’t advertised. Most will realize that high level Searches are handled by a single recruiting firm. However, most don’t think through the ramifications of these three facts – if you know 5 of the top 6 recruiters in a sector, but the perfect position for you is being filled by the 6th and is not being advertised, they you are not going to hear from that recruiter unless you can be found.
GatedTalent helps highlight your achievements and aspirations and puts you under the nose of leading recruiters – it is used by over 200 of the leading Search firms in the World to identify and engage with talent and is accessed via the CRM they use day in, day out. It’s also private, so executives can share more information that they would on LinkedIn ensuring that they are more easily found.
Fundamentally, what I do state to those who are not actively looking ‘right now’ is GatedTalent is a way to stay on the ‘radar’, something we touched on in our last article was the rate at which things can change day to day. It’d better to be on the ‘radar’ and be informed in my opinion, then to dismiss a chance of being found for your perfect next role.
Tim: Could you tell us a bit the type of opportunities executives can expect to find through GatedTalent? Can you find C-level opportunities through the platform?
Louise: Absolutely. We have over 200 clients across 30 countries. Many undertake Board work; others cover the C-Suite. We also have clients which deal with Consulting or Interim roles. An executive can express their interest in their preferred role/s in a GatedTalent profile – under ‘Aspirations’, they can add as many roles which are of interest to them currently, along with aspirational information on location and compensation expectations.
Tim: Could you tell us a bit about the confidentiality aspect of the platform for executives who are currently employed and might want to be on the platform in stealth mode?
Louise: This is crucial for our members. A clear majority of profiles in the platform belong to successful executives who are currently employed. They can’t be seen to be looking! A point made to me time and time again and of course always happy to reassure our executives on!
Unlike LinkedIn, our platform is only available to our recruiter clients who pay a fee to access it. Should they find your profile, your name and contact details will be hidden initially. You also have the option to mask your company name and title if you wish – so the CEO of American Airlines (as a random example) could label himself “C-Suite Executive, Global Airline” if he wished.
At GatedTalent, we are so focused on privacy that even I won’t ever know if the executives I speak to create a profile as I have no access to the profiles made by our members.
Tim: Are there any regional restrictions or is your platform a good resource for executives conducting a global search?
Louise: Great question, something I am asked a lot as we are a UK company, I am pleased to say there are no restrictions! Our platform is truly global. We have executives in more than 100 countries. We have recruiters based in 30 countries, but many of them operate globally. Our recruiter clients between them have offices in more than 60 different countries.
Tim: How would a recruiter find an executives profile and how would they establish contact?
Louise: We offer very detailed Search functionality, and this is available directly within the CRM platform that many of the recruiter firms use (FileFinder Anywhere from Dillistone Systems – our sister company).The recruiter can search on various criteria (industry, location, required compensation, key words, company / title (if you decide to share it), resume text etc.). They will then see an anonymous version of your profile if you are a match. If a recruiter is interested by your anonymous profile, they’ll send you a message with details of the search. If you are interested, you can share your details. Alternatively, you can block the recruiter or simply say “not right now” meaning the they can contact you again in future.
Tim: Last but not least, is there any scenario you can see where it would not be a good idea for an executive to sign-up with your platform?
Louise: I can safely say I can’t think of one. An executive in her perfect role may be interested in a Board seat. An executive not in her perfect role may be interested in a new executive role. It’s a free service with no fees at any time and it maintains your privacy…. I cannot see any disadvantages in creating a profile and believe it can only be beneficial for executives to join us at GatedTalent!
There you have it right from the source. In my opinion, a great new tool for advancing your executive career, even in times when you are not actively looking.
So far I cannot see any reason why you wouldn’t leverage it as part of your strategic career planning.
More questions about your career search or career documents? Simply shoot me an email: email@example.com
Behavior or competency-based interviewing of job seekers is arguably one of the most challenging forms for candidates to navigate. See my most recent post on how to master them in full length here.
Personal branding needs to be a holistic and consistent approach for it to have any impact. If you flip-flop your message or randomly change aspects about your personal brand in your career documents, you are jeopardizing your chances of seamlessly moving up the career ladder. Read up on how to do to this in my latest Forbes contribution here.