The Cover Letter – Your Greatest Selling Tool

Written by Jo Williams: Corporate Support Consultant – empire group


In this highly competitive candidate market a well-written cover letter can be your greatest tool in getting noticed. Applying for jobs can sometimes seem like an arduous and administrative heavy process, but spending the extra time on a cover letter shows potential employers and recruiters that you value the opportunity and are serious about their job.

A cover letter should be concise with no more than 2-3 paragraphs. Keep in mind this is your opportunity to let the employer know why they should hire you. It should be professional yet conversational and to the point.

It is critical to personalise your cover letter to the role rather than sending out a generic cover letter. If possible, you should address it personally to the recruiter or hiring manager.

Address any criteria mentioned in the job ad and discuss the qualifications and experience that make you suitable for the role. Without being over-the-top or boastful, explain why you want the role so much. Explain what interests you about their industry and their organisation in particular.

Keep it professional! Do not mention any personal challenges or family commitments that have taken you away from your career. This can open you up to discrimination and unless they will affect your ability to carry out your role, they are not relevant.

Finish with a closing paragraph expressing your desire to meet them for an interview. Ensure this sounds genuine and polite, never pushy. It’s a nice idea to include your phone number.

Last but not least – check all spelling and grammar! Print it out, read and re-read it and get a second opinion if necessary. Poor written communication skills can be a major red flag for employers. Good luck!

What is the best way to prepare for an interview?

Written by Libby Mizrahi– Recruitment Consultant (Legal Professional) Melbourne VIC

Let’s face it, job interviews can be daunting. Usually however, we find that the anxiety we create in our minds around an upcoming interview, is a lot worse than the interview itself.   In fact, amongst most of the lawyers that I work with, those that are most apprehensive pre- interview, are equally as surprised post interview, with how well the interview proceeded. Conversely, some of the most confident lawyers are actually underprepared for interview and perform badly.

Interviews, like a lot of other things in life, are as scary as we make them. The more prepared you are going in, the better the result. For most of us, we need to look at the interview process in a new way. We need to reframe the way we perceive the interview as a chance to demonstrate or sell our unique and high level skills and experience. That’s where it can get exciting.  It’s a chance to paint of a picture of the type of person we are, discus what motivates and drives us, what we enjoy in our work, what we are passionate about and where we want to take our careers. Once we reconsider the process within this paradigm, most of that tension and anxiety dissipates and we can concentrate on the positive aspects of the process.

The number one, hands down best advice I can give as a recruiter is to BE PREPARED for the interview.  Hell, be over prepared, it will be a lot of easier pick and choose what you want to share in interview,  than to have to struggle and stammer through what may feel like an interrogation.

This includes:

  • Research the firm, partners and team

I encourage the lawyers I work with to use me as a resource. My job is to provide as much relevant info as I can on my client. This info has been gained over some 15 years and is invaluable. Lawyers should do their own research as well, scour the internet / LinkedIn and know your audience well ahead of time. You will need to know exactly why you want to work with this firm/ team.

  • Know your CV inside out and be able to sell your skills, abilities and experiences.

You need to know very convincingly how you could contribute to the firm. You need to be armed with examples of matters you have worked on and highlight of your career to date.

  • Be armed and ready to ask relevant questions.

It’s just as important to remember that the interview is also an opportunity for you to find out about the firm.

  • Don’t stress if it doesn’t work out.

If things don’t go to plan, learn from the experience and move on. Focus on doing better next time round.

Risky business: taking calculated career moves

Written by Sally Hill – Recruitment Consultant (Medical & Corporate Support), Brisbane QLD

The career path of the contemporary worker can be quite varied as business needs change, jobs evolve and industries are hit with tough economic conditions.  If you find yourself on your evening commute home from another day on the job wondering what it’s all for, whether you’re in the right job, that you’re stuck in the wrong job, or you should have finished that degree – you’re not alone.

A great feature of the modern workplace is that most direct managers will be extremely supportive of any desire for change, and will appreciate the honesty from a team member admitting that they’re not engaged with their current position.  The key is having the self-awareness to initiate change before your performance starts to slip from loss of motivation or purpose.

Your organisation may offer the flexibility or the path to be able to change departments, expertise or start all over again – you will never know unless you open the conversation.  Don’t lead yourself into a rut, follow your instincts and make something happen if you have doubts about your existing role.

Reflect upon your situation, your values and what you want to be spending over 40 hours a week doing.  If you’re leaning towards changing industries or career altogether, you’re probably going to have to take a step or two back both in title and salary, inevitably shake up your comfort zone and take a risk – all daunting concepts, but all so rewarding if you make the right move.

Research the job market; what entry-level vacancies are advertised, do you have any transferable skills or experience?  Do you have a strong and interesting working background that could give you an edge over someone who has been doing the same roles for ten years?

Contact a recruiter working within your ideal or existing industry, they likely see candidates from each and may be able to provide you with the best angle to get into your desired role.  Ask yourself these questions, talk to the right people and get to where you want to be.

Effective Workplace Communication

Written by Tarnya Mangano – Recruitment Consultant (Legal Support) Brisbane, QLD

Simple, but sometimes we all forget the art of effective communication, especially in our workplaces.  Of course, we all think we have great communication skills, and every job requires them – but what does it really mean?  And what does it mean to have these skills when it comes to your job?

Communication is about more than just exchanging information.  It’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information.  Effective communication is also a two-way street.  It’s not only how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended, it’s also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what’s being said, to make the other person feel heard and understood.  Communication, whether verbal, written or visual can be expressed in positive (assertive) or negative (aggressive, passive) ways.  People need to take feedback from how others interpret or perceive how they are communicating.  Sometimes we can be perceived as aggressive even though it is not intended.  It is all about how the other person has “heard” your communication.

Communication is the key to all successful projects and a lack of adequate communication can prove to be the downfall of many, which would otherwise be successful.  Effective communication can certainly help you develop your connections with others and improve teamwork, decision making, and problem solving.  It enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.  Effective communication in the workplace can also increase work productivity and output which leads to the success of the business.

Good communication skills are some of the simplest, most essential and most useful tools for success you can possess.  In fact, they are probably the number one ability sought by employers. 

Some key skills we all need to be reminded of to improve our communication;

  • Become an engaged listener,
  • Pay attention to nonverbal signals,
  • Keep stress in check,
  • Empathise and encourage,
  • Assert yourself.

Regardless of what field you’re in and despite the apparent hollowness of the term, honing your ‘communication skills’ will pay you back many times over.  If you get it right, you’re guaranteed to have a much smoother path through life and your career.

IS IT POST-HOLIDAY BLUES OR TIME FOR A CHANGE? 5 Signs you’re ready for a career move!

Written by Kirsten Carty – Recruitment Consultant (Legal Support) Melbourne, VIC

We all know that feeling when holidays come to an end and our mind reluctantly turns to work, but when do you know it’s more than post-holiday blues and it’s time for a change

1. Just the thought makes you depressed

You’re not even there yet and it’s already sobered your mood. Yes –work isn’t the same as sipping cocktails in paradise, but if you’re dreading walking through the door every morning, it’s probably a little more than post-holiday blues. Take it as the perfect opportunity to self-reflect and analyse why you’re feeling that way and where to from here.

2. You don’t want your bosses job

You may not want their job for a variety of reasons, but more often than not it is a great way to test your longevity within the organisation. We all need to feel inspired and have someone to look up to, so if you’re having trouble mapping out your path within the company and you don’t see yourself in their shoes, then the place probably isn’t for you.

3. You’re only there for the money

The majority of us get paid monthly and we can all agree that it is a great day but there’s only 12 of them a year, so how about all the other days? The fact of the matter is staying in a job purely for the money just isn’t enough – we need much more than that including feeling respected, appreciated, challenged and developed just to name a few. So if your pay day is truly the only reason you’re still there, then I’d say it’s time to starting looking at potential opportunities.

4. There’s a glass ceiling

There may be several reasons as to why you’ve reached a glass ceiling including no succession planning, gender equality or perhaps management’s perception of you. Regardless of the reason, if there is no room for you to progress internally then it’s time to look elsewhere and find an organisation that will nurture your growth.

5. Your heart isn’t in it anymore

You used to get a thrill from crunching numbers, solving problems or in our case placing candidates into their next role, but over time your care factor has diminished and the buzz just isn’t there anymore. This can be for a number reasons but one to consider is that you may have been cruising in autopilot for a little too long. Continuous learning is known to be one of the most essential elements in stimulating employees, so I’d say if you can do it in your sleep it’s probably time for a change!

In no way is this an exhaustive list – it is merely a chance to provoke some self-reflection because life is too short to be somewhere you don’t want to be!

Ask a Specialist Legal Recruiter: “What are your top 5 recommendations for entering the legal market?”

Specialist legal recruiter: Hi. My name is Libby Mizrahi (LLB) (Hons) and I’ve been recruiting legal professionals in the Melbourne market for over a decade. Throughout my career, I’ve recruited both in house and private practice roles, from Partner to 1st year Solicitor, in international global tier 1 firms as well as  small boutique suburban firms. I’ve had several children in that time, so I am acutely aware of the issues facing working parents and how flexibility in the workplace really works. My blog is aimed at imparting my experience and knowledge to you. Enjoy!

Be Honest: Don’t lie, don’t overestimate and don’t oversell.

We all want to portray ourselves in the best light and rightly so. Not at the expense of the truth, however. Whatever you hide from your recruiter will come out into the open… eventually. Whether you had a personality conflict with a partner you worked with previously or you need 4 weeks annual leave in the first year of your new role – make it known so it can be dealt with appropriately.  On the flip side, don’t undersell yourself – focus on your best points and highlight these with examples to back them up. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

Be open to opportunity: Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.

Upon entering the legal market, it’s a good idea to consider all opportunities. You never know who you might meet or what sort of exciting work lies around the corner if you’re closed minded. I’d never pressure anyone to take a role that they have considered but deemed unsuitable. However, if you go through the process of considering a variety of roles, it can actually lead you to your ideal role.

Preparation is key: Practice makes perfect

It’s best to enter the process with a clear picture of your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, etc. Obviously I can help you crystalize these, but the process if you have put some independent thought into it. Practice answering both CV based and behavioral interview questions beforehand. Again, I can help with this. If you can’t explain it, and back it up with an example, it shouldn’t be on your CV. Knowing why you want to work for a certain company well ahead of time can make all the difference.

Be N.A.T.O: Not attached to outcome

It’s business, not personal. Be professional, personable, punctual, respectful, positive… and slightly detached. There are many factors that go into a hire and sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Don’t take it too hard, do take any constructive criticism, note what went right, learn from it and move on.

Your career is long – make the most of every interaction

Using a recruiter facilitates many connections, the recruiter herself, multiple HR professionals, support staff, Partners and lawyers. Careers are all about connections, be sure to make them where possible and leave a good impression, you never know where you will meet again in the future.

7 Top reasons why candidates move on from their current position

Written by Kara Plummer – Legal Professional Consultant

2017 remains a candidate short market for law firms in the Australian market. The market is a competitive one and it’s likely that candidates may be interviewing for more than one role. You need to do what you can to secure good candidates.

A crucial first step in your candidate screening process is taking some time to fully understand why a candidate is looking to move firms. It’s very easy to glide over the reason without asking too many details, however in order to secure a good candidate, you need to properly understand what they’re looking for what they’re really after in an employer. Without this information, you’re flying blind. Knowing the candidate’s real reason for moving on will help you determine how to tailor the recruitment process, giving you the best shot of securing a candidate.

In our experience, these are the top 7 reasons why candidates choose to move on from their firms and some tips in terms of what to do in an interview process to attract them:

1. Rotten mentoring

Candidates at the junior and intermediate stages of their career want to work in an environment where their superiors can be approached for advice and able to provide constructive feedback.  If this is the reason they’re looking to move, be mindful of who you include in your recruitment process – make sure the interviewers are approachable and are able to confirm that your firm is able to offer proper mentoring.

2. Wanting better work/life balance

It’s sometimes unusual for candidates to be open about wanting a better work/life balance, but it is a genuine reason why some people want to move, especially if family commitments require it.  We all know that some firms are able to offer less hours than others and there’s no point talking about work life balance in an interview with a candidate if there’s really no chance of it being on offer after they start.  If yours is a firm that can genuinely offer this to a candidate, be open about what sort of hours a candidate can expect to work, or if yours is a firm that can offer part-time or flexible work arrangements, talk through what sorts of arrangements you may be able to offer.

3. Wanting a step up to a larger firm

Wanting to move to a larger firm applies mostly to junior or mid-ranking lawyers wanting access to higher scale and quality of work and more structured training and development.  Needless to say, if you’re courting a candidate from a smaller firm, talk through the work and clients on offer at your firm. These types of candidates will want to chat to you about the type of work going on in the team and the structure of the team so they know they’re not just going to get stuck on leasing or due diligence if they move. Getting a good partner into the interview willing to chat through some interesting work is a good plan for these candidates.

4. More $$$

Some candidates can genuinely be underpaid – some are just plain greedy. The trick is to work out which category they fall into.  If they are genuinely being underpaid, talk through what sort of salary they may be able to obtain and discuss other benefits and entitlements you can offer.

5. Wanting to work for an international firm

Due to the large numbers of Australian lawyers who move overseas to practice, candidates sometimes move to position themselves in an internationally recognisable firm from which they will be able to move overseas at some point in the future. Obviously you don’t want a candidate to join and 3 months later, ask if they can be seconded to the London office, but the ability to move internationally at some point in the future is a genuine reason for moving.  They’re probably not going to be completely transparent about their motivations for moving, however if you believe that’s why they’re looking to move, talking about the international work done in the office or the possibility of a secondment down the track is a good idea.

6. Wanting improved progression prospects

If a candidate is moving because of a lack of progression in their current firm, they will want a really thorough run down of the structure of your firm’s team and the criteria for progression at interview. The ones inquiring about partnership prospects will be particularly eager to talk through your internal process regarding this. It might also be worth mentioning circumstances where previous lateral hires have joined and success stories in terms of them progressing.

7. Wanting to move in-house

A lot of lawyers in the current market are keen to move in-house. The attraction of working for one client as opposed to many, moving to be closer to the business, no time-sheets, the opportunity to work on a broader range of legal matters, – these are all facets of that might attract lawyers to working in-house rather than stay in private practice.  If you’re recruiting for an in-house position, find out why your candidate is attracted to in-house work. A candidate who has worked in-house before or has been on fairly lengthy secondments in their current role are usually the ones that adapt the most easily into an in-house role as they already understand what it’s like to work in an in-house environment and what challenges they may face in making this move.

Taking the time to really investigate why a candidate is looking to move is a critical step in the recruitment process. Spending time during the process to understand their real motivation for a move will enable you to tailor the process and have a much better chance of securing them for your firm.

New Year – Time for a fresh start!

Written by Emma Weeber: Legal Professional Consultant – empire legal

The New Year can be the start of many exciting things and it’s getting to that time of year when we look back on what we have achieved this year, and where we want to be this time next year. Personally and professionally it’s a time of re-evaluation. If a new position is one of your goals for 2017 give yourself time – it can take a while to find the ‘right’ job especially in the tight legal market. fireworks_ew

Here’s how to nail it in 2017…

  • Sharpen up your resume – Add detail but not too much detail! This is a perfect way to really think about your career plan and figure out what you want to do. Make that first page stand out!
  • Register and meet with a recruitment agency – Find someone who you think really ‘gets you’ and understands what you want to do, avoid those that want to get you a quick fix. Find a couple you like and stick with them.
  • Network network network – You’ll be surprised who you have within your own contacts list!
  • Clean up your social media profile – Remove the Cup Day pictures or the like…
  • Apply for jobs!
  • Prepare and practice for interviews – This is a skill and it does take practice! Remember your skills, strengths and past successes.
  • Don’t expect to be successful every time, learn from the last one! Knock backs hurt but don’t give up.
  • When you get that big offer stop and think – Will this job take my career in the right direction? Will it challenge me enough? What does my future look like with this firm? Is the salary suitable?

Many of the larger firms like to be organised prior to the Christmas break, largely because their headcount, strategy and wider firm plans for the New Year are all set in place. We are currently noticing that a lot of our clients are starting the process of getting their recruitment processes tied up in time for this. Others will recruit through December and into January so there is often a number of new positions that become available in the New Year.

Whether you end up moving onto a new position or not, the New Year remains an ideal time to reflect on your current situation and how you can move forward next year!

What To Do When Your Interview Is Like a Bad First Date

What To Do When Your Interview Is Like a Bad First Date by Emma Weeber


My manager recently asked me to write a blog – sigh – I’m not one for blogging, Instagram is about it for me.  I rapidly realised that finding a topic is insanely hard and there were no light bulb moments happening on a Monday afternoon. I pretty quickly ended up on a far more interesting article ‘How To Get Out Of The Date From Hell’. As the author rightly states everyone needs an “undeniably kick-ass exit strategy” for that date when the person is a completely less photo shopped version of themselves in real life… I realise I am well off on a tangent here as I am sure you are asking what the relevance of this is to securing a career progressing job in the legal industry?

Well what do you do if you find yourself in a job interview and for whatever reason, this is NOT the job you signed up for. You completely give up and start thinking where to get a skinny latte at 4pm. How do you then exit that interview whilst maintaining your reputation. This is where the alignment to the disastrous date ends, unfortunately you can’t have your recruiter on speed dial for the “someone needs me” strategy. However, making a professional escape and protecting your reputation in a small market is still possible. Here’s how…

  • Maintain a respectful attitude and keep positive – Often there is more than one position on offer and chances are they might be considering you for more than one position that you aren’t across – Options are your best friend!
  • Treat the interview as an opportunity to network and build relationships – you never know who knows who.
  • Don’t make a snap judgement – You might be pleasantly surprised about the opportunities within the position for your career
  • Never ever walk out – Being uninterested or cutting an interview short can be just as detrimental.

Interviewing really can be like dating: you can’t control the outcome, some turn out great, while some don’t, the best thing to do is to make the most of the opportunity. If the job on offer isn’t a great fit for you, then keep looking for one that does!


Emma Weeber LLB.
Phone:     (03) 8602 7400

10 Answers You Need to Know to Blitz a Legal Interview

10 answers you need to know to blitz a legal interview by Kara Plummer


It’s surprising the amount of feedback we get from clients saying that candidates are underprepared for interviews and really haven’t bothered to do enough research and preparation before the interview.  There is really no excuse now for not having done any preparation. If you’re going to bother to make the application in the first place, you should be bothered to do some preparation.  That involves having a think about some of the more likely questions you’ll be asked and thinking through some answers before you get there.  Here are what we think are the most common questions that lawyers are asked at interview:



  1. Tell us about yourselfTalk us through your background.

Keep it succinct and relevant.  A chronological approach usually works best.


  1. Why are you seeking to leave your current firm?   

Obviously telling the firm you hate the partner you’re currently working with isn’t the best of ideas.  Focus on things like moving to a larger firm (or smaller firm), wanting a different mix of work, different clients, that sort of thing.  Keep things positive and don’t ever slag off your current firm.


  1. Why in particular are you approaching this firm?

Look at the team profile and profiles of the partners prior to the interview and link that information to why you want to work there.  It shows you’ve researched their firm before you get there.


  1. Talk us through the work you’ve done.

Be able to give a good overview of the type of work you do, the type of clients you work for and your involvement in particular matters.  A lot of lawyers find it difficult to do this.  Practice beforehand.  Obviously always keep confidentiality in the back of your mind and be aware that some partners can treat interviews as an information gathering exercise about the competition.


  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

It still comes up in interviews.  A good way to answer it is to refer to a recent appraisal and mention strengths from there.  That’s independent third party backup as well.  Obviously be careful what you mention as a weakness, use something fixable (delegating, time management) and mention you’re working on improving it.


  1. What are your short/medium/long term goals?

Short term – move to another firm which can achieve your current career objectives.  Medium-Long Term goals – develop your own client base, specialise in an area.  Be careful of mentioning partnership if you’re still only quite junior.


  1. Who else have you made applications to? Where else are you interviewing?

You have a few other things on the go but aren’t in a desperate hurry to move.  You don’t need to give them an exact breakdown of every firm you’ve applied to.


  1. What salary are you currently on and what salary are you looking for?

In relation to salary expectations, most firms are really wanting some idea of what you’re after. Saying market rate doesn’t really cut it. When you give a figure though, don’t over inflate it. Firms are well aware of what market rate is and giving a false over inflated figure can certainly harm your chances of securing a role.


  1. General questions in relation to the legal market/current issues.

What’s particularly topical for your practice area or firm?  Have a read through a few websites before you get into the interview.


  1. What do you do outside of work?

You’d be amazed at how many people stumble on this one.   Be prepared to answer questions which aren’t related to law (shock horror!)


Interviewing really isn’t rocket science, but a small amount of preparation will go a long way to getting you an offer.



Kara Plummer LLB Hons

Senior Legal Professional Consultant

empire legal

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