I often encounter candidates who have previously applied to a particular law firm – either on their own or through another recruiter. Sometimes, they are frustrated because they have heard nothing in response, and they want me to do something about it. Specifically, they want me to reapply to the particular law firm on their behalf and use my connections or long-term relationship with the particular law firm to get them the interview they believe they so well deserve. Whatever the merits of their belief, I have to inform these candidates that I cannot help them with that particular law firm. This is because of conflicts. Once a candidate has applied to a law firm for a particular position, the firm will not accept subsequent applications from that same candidate. (However, the candidate is not precluded from applying for a different position in the same law firm in the future). If a law firm receives a second application for the same position from the same candidate, and at least one of the applications involves a recruiter, then a conflict situation is created. Specifically, a potential dispute arises over whether the recruiter, or which recruiter, is entitled to a fee if the firm ultimately hires that candidate. Obviously, recruiters do not like to be put in this position, where they may end up doing substantial work for no chance of compensation. The firms do not like it either, because it creates the potential for legal action from one or more recruiters, as well as an administrative headache. And it is bad for the candidate, who appears to the firm as someone who lacks the organization and professionalism to know what they are doing in their job search. For these reasons, sending multiple applications for the same job – especially through recruiters – accomplishes nothing and harms everybody. This is also true for candidates who send multiple applications on their own. While they may not create a potential fee dispute, they still project an undesirable image of annoyance, desperation and/or incompetence to the firm.
I also occasionally encounter this conflict issues with candidates who have not kept careful track of what applications they have sent to which firms through what recruiters, if any. One candidate in particular wanted me to contact his other two recruiters and piece together where and through whom he had previously sent scores of applications so that I could send out new applications without creating a conflict. I explained to him that it is the responsibility of the candidate, not the recruiter, to keep complete track of their own job search. Of course, recruiters should keep track of which applications they send out. But they are under no obligation to play detective and try to discover where else the candidate has applied through what recruiters – even assuming these competing recruiters would want to provide this confidential information. In sum, candidates should only apply for a particular position at a firm once, and they should make sure that their only shot is their best one.
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