Everyone has to start somewhere. In entry-level jobs, the candidates tend to have limited experience, so an interviewer is inevitably focused more on ability, and potential, rather than their track record. Academic achievements sometimes get undue prominence, simply because there is nothing much else to go on.
The more senior the role, the greater and broader the expectations on the candidate. A senior associate in a law firm may be expected to have have several years’ experience of practising law, interacting with clients, managing projects, and so on. There is more data on which to assess whether the candidate is good at the technical aspects of the job, at getting on with clients and colleagues, at working hard, and at achieving the client’s objectives. Candidates for partnership need these skills but, depending on the firm, they may also need an ability to run and build a business, work with fellow owners, manage budgets, hire and fire, and so on.
It doesn’t stop there. IP Draughts has recently applied, unsuccessfully, for two part-time roles chairing organisations in the legal field. He thought he had the ability to do both jobs well – he wouldn’t have applied otherwise – and that he had relevant experience. But it seems that his CV lacked certain elements that were considered important. Sometimes, these elements are not fully brought out in the job specification and only become clear when the recruitment panel considers the candidates who have applied.
For one role, the feedback after the first interview mentioned various desirable traits. On several, he thought he had a strong or reasonable case. The one on which he probably had least experience, and which had only briefly been discussed at interview, was “holding the Chief Executive to account”. It is true that his various chairing roles haven’t included that responsibility, though he does have experience of managing people. Whether this means he couldn’t have performed that role well is, of course, a different question.
For another role, the recruitment exercise was re-run without interviewing the candidates who had applied the first time. The stated reason was that the candidate pool wasn’t sufficiently diverse to enable the recruitment panel to make a choice. This sounds, of course, like a polite way of saying that they didn’t like any of the candidates.
But taking it at face value, what does it mean? Are white, middle-aged men no longer suitable candidates? Having gone through compulsory diversity training at the Law Society, IP Draughts is aware that diversity comes in many forms. If he had known that this was going to be an issue, he could have laid it on thick about how his parents left school at 15 and 16, how he was the first person in his family to go to university, etc. But this wasn’t one of the stated criteria when he applied. As a good lawyer, he answers the questions that are asked, and isn’t so good at anticipating and answering the questions that are not asked.
IP Draughts’ message for anyone applying for a job (including our current vacancy for a trainee) is that you just have to give it your best shot, and hope that the job advert is an accurate reflection of the selection criteria. Beyond that, it is out of your hands. We all experience rejection, and we just have to keep plugging away.