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How to land a job in a tough climate

Be judicious about your use of social networking sites such as LinkedIn, don’t claim to be proficient at something unless you are and avoid declaring that you are passionate about areas of the law if you aren’t, or if you don’t have the evidence to support your claim.

That was some of the advice from seasoned recruiters and law firm consultants at a series of panels and networking events yesterday aimed at boosting law students’ chances of finding a position in a tough economic climate.

“I need to know what is remarkable about this attorney in less than 30 seconds. That’s the deal,” revealed Karyn J. Thomas, lateral attorney recruitment manager with Arent Fox at a session yesterday.

She was explaining the processes she uses to whittle down applicants for interview and outlining some dos and don’ts of job hunting.

The recruitment experts on the resume-writing panel had sympathy for new job hunters and plenty of practical advice: qualify and quantify your achievements rather than using clichéd phrases; highlight the transferable skills you acquired by doing non-legal work and volunteering; use your covering letter to explain obvious gaps in your resume or less-than-glowing academic results but don’t dwell on weaknesses; and avoid using the word proficient, not least since it can mean different things to different people.

But the panelists stressed the importance of networking, particularly if you lack the experience that so many law firms now demand of candidates. Once you’ve made a contact, focus on connecting with the person.

Thomas added a caveat about how people should use social media, advising the students not to request LinkedIn contacts directly with lawyers at her firm because they may not want to reveal their network of business contacts to job hunters. “We have an Arent Fox LinkedIn page and we would recommend people use that in this situation.”

In a session on interview skills, recruitment specialist Pooja S. Krumenacker listed some meeting no-nos: don’t reveal your weaknesses before being asked—even if you are naturally self-depracating; don’t be tempted to check your smartphone while you are waiting for the interviewer; and don’t answer the “tell me about yourself” question by revealing your birth weight and elementary school.

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