But do we really know and understand why someone is applying for a job? Perhaps that person is tired of traveling and therefore looking for a more local role?
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a fantastic qualified lawyer who has been recommended for a Head of Legal DACH (m/f) position by someone in my network. A dream in-house career, continuously progressing into more senior and challenging roles. She has had very international roles, managing teams and legal matters within EMEIA and passionately spoke about the cultural differences when negotiating in the Middle East or India. Naturally, I figured right from the beginning that I would not be able to woo her with a role that will “only” be accountable for Germany and German speaking countries. Wouldn’t she want a General Counsel position next rather than reporting into the Legal Director EMEA? Nevertheless, I kept an open mind, and more so used the description of my role to better understand what she would ideally be looking for as a next step. To cut to the case, this specific role wasn’t a fit – but only because of the location. She surprised me with regards to my actual concerns.
“Been there, done that”, was her blunt answer when we touched her international exposure, her accountability for legal matters in a vast number of countries and her managerial experience. She travelled the world, had built up great knowledge working in other jurisdictions and found that her instincts were very much in line with the advice given by outside counsel on the grounds. She managed large legal teams and was part of the executive team. While there are plenty who will aim for the Chief Legal Counsel role of a multi-national corporation with that track record, she is not one of them – at least for now. Were it the right location, she would have loved the position that I had introduced to her. Less travelling by far, managing a region she knew extremely well and would not need to depend on local legal counsel, a very small team to oversee where she would have to roll-up her sleeves just as much as they would. She would have been able to sit down with the Sales Team and discuss the nitty-gritty ToB’s and at the same time help management assess the risks of a new business endeavor.
Lucky for this candidate, this is exactly what companies are looking for. In-house legal counsel jobs have never been only about managing external counsel. Companies need the experienced and well-educated lawyer with business acumen, a risk assessor and a doer, someone who will be thorough but pragmatic. In short: a business enabler.
I remind myself every time to keep an open mind before putting a resume aside – and I am rewarded each and every time by then speaking to a really interesting person. Sometimes, the gut feeling will be right. But sometimes you may have found a hidden star just perfect for your hiring needs – and your hiring budget. You never know! Give the alleged over-qualified candidate (and especially as in this case when they are recommended) the benefit of the doubt, be inquisitive and find out!