Q&A with a Consultant – Myriam Lapierre
About the Recruiter – Myriam!
What type of recruiting do you do?
I focus on the recruitment of legal assistants, paralegals, legal translators, and law firm management. We also recently broadened our practice to include executive assistants, as a number of big Montreal law firms have expressed interest in hiring EAs to assist partners.
How long have you been recruiting?
I recently celebrated my first year with the ZSA family, and plan to stay for many more!
How did you get into recruiting?
I worked in the Human Resources department of a major government organization during law school and had the chance to develop a great relationship with a colleague who was in charge of internal recruitment. They let me assist with the recruitment process, even though it was not part of my original job description.
It was still important for me to finish my law degree and pass the Bar because as we say, law opens many doors! The rest was just perfect timing. After my articling, I enrolled in college again to complete a Masters in Human Resources. Three months before the start date, I met Jordana, who would become my future colleague. There was an opening in the ZSA team in Montreal, Christopher and Dominique gave me a chance and I think I found my calling!
What do you enjoy most about recruiting?
What I enjoy most about recruiting is the fact that it’s a perfect mix between human resources, marketing and legal work. I do so many different things in a day; no two days are the exact same for me.
I still rely on my legal education every day as it is useful to understand the roles I’m working on, and I attend many of the Bar and Young Bar’s networking events. The human relations side comes in handy when I need to make sure I not only find the right CV, but also the right personality, and when I accompany my candidates through the career planning process. Marketing is important because we need to be constantly creative in order to maintain our name and reputation in the current market. We also have to strategize on how to discover new candidates, and maintain strong relationships with our amazing clients.
What are your hobbies outside of recruiting?
I’m currently planning my next trip, which will be Germany and Belgium. I’m also definitely a foodie. You’ll never see me splurge on fancy clothes, but you have a good chance of running into me at a good restaurant. As a result, I also make sure I hop on my spinning bike at least three times a week. Finally, I think any of my colleagues would agree that I’m way too obsessed with my dog!
Q&A with Myriam:
What skills/characteristics are you looking for in a candidate generally?
There’s no magic recipe for what qualities make a great candidate; it often depends on whom we’re hiring for. Some of the more objective characteristics that tell me I have someone great in front of me are – confidence, good presentation, as well as perfect spoken and written French.
How important is the style of a CV?
Again, I don’t think there is one perfect way of doing things, but candidates should keep in mind that employers only want to spend 3 seconds to find what they’re looking for in your CV, which is your work experience. Make sure this information is always prominent. I would also avoid going super creative or colourful if you’re applying for a position in a more traditional work place like a law firm. Not that some of them won’t think it’s great, but you have no idea what the employer likes, so might as well not take the risk!
Do recruiters benefit from a cover letter even when they do not ask for one?
No, there’s a reason why we don’t ask for one. Our job is to make sure we respect the exact criteria given to us by employers, so I’ll go straight to your CV to see if you have what I need. If there’s the slightest chance that your experience could include it, I’ll meet with you.
A recruiter’s job is to be your advocate – basically, a “living cover letter”. Once we meet, we’ll be the one explaining to the employer things that can’t be found in your CV.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you have come across on a CV?
Spelling and grammar mistakes! This is something that will instantly start you off on the wrong foot, it’s the worst thing you can do. How are we supposed to think you’re a meticulous and serious candidate if you fail to edit the most important document of all?
Then there is the classic situation where a CV is 4 – 5 pages long, or that contains so much writing it’s hard to navigate.
What are some of the biggest mistakes made by a candidate in an interview or during the process as a whole?
As per interviews with recruiters, I find it unfortunate when candidates don’t see our meeting as a full on interview. Yes, we’re here to give you advice as well, but my job is to make sure the candidate is presentable, professional and serious. People who are too relaxed make my job a little harder.
Then for interviews in general, I find that two of the most damaging mistakes are:
(1) Not answering questions based on the job you’re interviewing for. I had someone meeting me for a job at a major law firm tell me how they enjoyed working with small teams!
(2) Criticizing your ex-employers. It’s unfortunately true that some people quit their job because they are being treated badly, but you always have to stay polite and respectful when talking about it. No need to go into detail.
What skills/characteristics are clients looking for that may surprise a candidate, or a candidate wouldn’t expect?
People tend to think that only professional skills are important, and I find that some candidates are very surprised at how important personality traits are for employers. The infamous “fit” is considered more often than not. Sometimes we’ll be asked to look for someone extroverted, and other times the employer will want someone reserved.
I remind people that it’s a very good sign for an employer to think about these things, as it means they know their team well and want to make sure the person fits right in.
What has been your most rewarding or memorable recruiting experience so far?
The best experiences are where I’ve had to try 2, 3, 4 times before finding candidates that are right for the job. This is when the great news is truly amazing to give in the end, and when candidates are the most thankful; because we didn’t have them settle for less, and encouraged them to keep searching.
What’s also amazing is when I get a call from a new candidate, saying they were referred to me by someone I’ve helped in the past. Searching for a job is so important and personal, and it’s rewarding to know that people feel comfortable referring me to their friends and colleagues.