Sprucing Up Your Image for Your Legal Job Search: Dos and Don’ts


Q. I’ve worked for the same firm since beginning my paralegal career. Now that the economy is showing signs of a sustained recovery, I’m thinking of looking for a new position. How should I go about polishing my image in order to secure a management-level position at a more prestigious firm?

A. Many job seekers get tripped up when it comes to projecting a professional online image. In today’s digital-driven world, here are some do’s and don’ts to remember as you embark on your search for your next legal position:

  • DO: Tidy up your digital tracks. Prospective employers often check out a potential hire’s online presence, so before you embark on your job search, remove questionable photos and content from social media sites, blogs and chats. Also, check your privacy settings to ensure you’re not oversharing personal information. Going forward, think strategically about what you share, post, tweet and do in your personal life that could leave a long-lasting digital footprint.
  • DO: Enhance your presence on professional networking sites. For example, an incomplete profile on LinkedIn is a missed opportunity to market yourself and showcase your experience. Help prospective employers and networking contacts understand your qualifications and interests with a robust profile that highlights your key skills and achievements.
  • DO: Correspond carefully. Proofread all emails to prospective employers and networking contacts carefully. Your friends may not mind receiving messages that contain typos and digital shorthand, but hiring managers and those who would recommend you for a job might think twice if your communication style doesn’t measure up.
  • DON’T: Experience technical difficulties. With more firms conducting initial screens by phone and Skype, make sure you’ve worked out any potential bugs beforehand. For instance, don’t do a phone interview on your cell phone from a location where you have a bad connection or a lot of background noise, and if you do a Skype interview, make sure you project a professional appearance. Just because you’re connecting from home doesn’t mean you should appear to be “at leisure.”
  • DON’T: Be dumb with your smartphone. Prospective employers and colleagues will expect your undivided attention, so turn off your cell phone as soon as you arrive for an interview. And it should go without saying that answering a call or sending a text during an interview is never OK, even if the interviewer leaves the room briefly. Also, avoid using your phone for entertainment as you wait for your interview. It can make you seem indifferent to the matter at hand: landing a job.
  • DON’T: Neglect traditional basics. Make sure your personal appearance elevates your candidacy by dressing and grooming in as professional a manner as possible. Be mindful of your demeanor and language as well. Greet interviewers professionally with eye contact and a firm handshake and avoid casual lingo (e.g., “no problem” or “whatever”). As the old adage goes, interview for the position you aspire to, not the one you currently hold.

Share your ideas for polishing your professional presence in the comments below.

Tags: Interviewing