How to Improve the Articling Recruitment Process
The articling recruit is unique compared to the OCI process. Not only are there a greater variety of prospective employers that participate, but also students generally know the area of law they would prefer to practice in and have some tangible experiences to support their interest (there are only so many ways to say that working as a line cook gave you the endurance to work as a lawyer).
As a former participant in the Toronto articling recruitment process, I found it to be intense. I acknowledge the precarious position that prospective employers occupy in being forced to make hiring decisions based on interviews that do not last long enough with overly zealous students; however, there were certainly moments where I felt overwhelmed.
These are some of the suggestions that I propose to lighten the stress and uncertainty associated with this process, which will be a welcome reprieve and hopefully a systemic improvement for both students and practitioners. Although my experience is limited to Toronto, I feel at least some of these suggestions can apply to other jurisdictions.
Mandatory Intent to Call Emails
Intent to call emails need to be mandatory from employers that intend to call you and should be sent no later than three days before Call Day. While it may sound like a good problem to have, an unexpected call can negatively impact a student’s schedule. Many students may feel a sudden need to reorder their schedules or review the background of the firm that contacted them. This can lead to delays on the phone line (which certainly does not please the recruiter) or can cause a student to miss a call from another prospective employer.
Additionally, many students tend to wonder why they did not receive an intent to call email from said recruiter in advance and may question if they are being treated as a backup choice (and therefore not a viable/competitive candidate going forward). Mandatory intent to call emails ensure that students know to expect a call and guarantees that recruiters know that a student won’t hesitate when they hear from them on Call Day. If prospective employers do not intend to call a candidate but would like them to be aware they are on a follow-up list (in case other students are not available) then a maximum of ten students per prospective employer should be informed of this in an email as well. The employer should also include the time frame the student should roughly expect to hear from the recruiter (regardless of if they are offered an interview).
A Set Schedule
During the recruit there is no set guidelines for when a recruiter can schedule you other than that the interviews can be scheduled from Monday, August 8 at 8:00am to Wednesday, August 10 at 5:00pm. A recruiter can schedule a twenty-minute interview starting at 12:45pm or a two-hour interview starting at 8:00am. The lack of consistency in the start and completion times of interviews is a source of anxiety for many law students who want to anticipate how best to schedule their interviews. It also puts some recruiters in a position where they lose an attractive candidate because the student had to accommodate one oddly placed interview.
Since it is nearly impossible to complete more than 5 interviews in a day during the recruitment process (you shouldn’t do that in general, but it happens), all recruiters ought to be required to schedule within a bracket based system. A recruiter can schedule an interview between 8-9:30am, 10-11:30am, 12-1:30pm, 2-3:30pm, and 4-5:30pm while cocktail receptions/dinners can begin at 7:00pm. Within the time slot, the overall length of the interview and the precise times when the interview is started and completed would remain at the discretion of the individual prospective employer. This would balance the desire for certainty among student candidates while also not unnecessarily limiting the autonomy of recruiters to schedule their interviews.
This is beneficial because students know precisely how many interviews they can have, they will have time for regular breaks before interviews and there is no fear that they will have to cancel an interview on Call Day because one recruiter has a schedule that is inconsistent with others.
Mandatory Updates to Schools Engaging in the Recruit (Toronto)
Each prospective employer that is seeking to engage in the formal articling recruitment process needs to be required to inform each law school that they are planning to recruit an articling student two weeks before applications need to be submitted. In addition to informing the school they would need to disclose: how many students they intend to hire, the interview location, the prospective employer’s address, salary/benefits, practice areas, if they do multiple interviews, and the name of the head of recruitment/the student committee (aka who to address your cover letter to). This ensures that articling recruitment information held by the Career Development Office (CDO) is current and relevant and guarantees that prospective employers are not pestered by unwanted applications and emails. It also ensures that students can access all relevant information for their applications. A failure to provide this information would disqualify the prospective employer from the formal recruitment process.
Requiring Prospective Employers to Disclose if they Engage in Multiple Interviews
Each recruiter would not only need to disclose if they engage in multiple interviews to the CDO but would also need to explicitly state at the end of an interview when the candidate should expect to hear if they will be offered another interview. Although this information can be gleaned by contacting members of the student committee or the employer’s previous articling students, some recruiters maintain a degree of uncertainty about whether they pursue multiple interviews and when students can expect to receive contact from them, which can be infuriating and fear-inducing. This change would also assist recruiters since students will be able to anticipate how to respond when they receive an opportunity for a second/third interview and will be able to make a decision on the spot if required.
Send an Email If Student is No Longer Being Considered
If a student is no longer being considered as a viable candidate by a prospective employer, the recruiter should send an email informing them of that. Although disheartening, it is advantageous for students because they know how many potential offers remain before them.
Using Wednesday Exclusively for Second or Third Interviews
Under the present guidelines, students are technically allowed to book interviews until 5:00 pm on Wednesday. However, it is a widely-held belief that recruiters treat interviews scheduled later than Monday as a sign of lower interest by the candidate. When a student is offered a second interview with a prospective employer on Tuesday and has a first interview with a different recruiter on Tuesday at the same time, the student often feels pressure to choose the second interview. This is because a second interview shows that a recruiter is interested in the articling candidate and students are more willing to gamble on this. However, it limits a student’s options by forcing them to cancel a first interview with a recruiter on Tuesday.
By designating Wednesday as a date exclusively for second and third interviews this would benefit both students and recruiters tremendously. It would benefit recruiters because it ensures that they have a designated day when they can schedule a follow-up interview with a student and reduces the likelihood that students will cancel interviews with them on Tuesday. It will benefit students by encouraging recruiters to avoid scheduling second interviews on Tuesdays. Especially since students may garner a negative impression of a recruiter that forces them to cancel their first interview with another firm, given that there is a day dedicated specifically to second interviews.
This is going to be a bit more radical but bear with me. During a cocktail reception/dinner students need to be forbidden from ‘talking shop’ with their prospective employer. Students and lawyers would be prevented from talking about the law, their practices, moots, clinics, or anything that relates directly/tangentially to the legal field. The goal here is simple. In order to find out what kind of person a recruiter is really dealing with, they need to know about the candidate’s interests, hobbies, etc. and then determine if that person will be a good fit. There is only so much you can glean about someone’s personality from their resume or an interview. Trial by fire on personality emerges in social circumstances and ‘shop talk’ is a convenient way to dodge that. Students should embrace this as an opportunity to actually talk about their interests (and a chance to learn more about the recruiter’s corporate/firm culture) and not just their aspiring legal goals. Recruiters should embrace this in order to get a better insight about the people they may hire as articling students. If a recruiter wants to hear about your ‘shop talk’, they can get that from you at a second or third interview.
James Omran (3L) is a contributor to Juris Diction.