This post is about separating yourself from the pack. Many people looking for a firm job follow the traditional pattern and then are surprised to find out how difficult it is to land a good job. These folks may follow the crosswalk signs to the letter and wait to cross the street until the sign changes and/or they have independent confirmation by watching others that it is safe to move. Other folks are a bit more daring and do not always follow the rules. They may cross when the hand is still up if there are no cars or if there are cars at a safe distance away.
Be like the folks in the latter group. Get ahead of the pack in your job search. Let others stop at the first sign of no. Not you. You can easily separate yourself from the pack by continuing forward.
Here is an example based on real facts told to LegalJob today. You had an initial interview with a big firm and you felt a strong, positive connection with the interviewer. You were “called back” by human resources to come visit the firm again. The next day, however, the same person calls to tell you that someone accepted an outstanding offer and therefore there would be no second visit because the position has been filled. Disappointing? Yes. But is this the end of the story? It does not have to be.
If you really liked what you heard about the firm, enjoyed your interviewer, and you truly believe you would fit into the firm culture and be able to hit the ground running if given an offer (or you can check of most of these items), LegalJob recommends you proceed as described below. Note that this step will require some initiative and is atypical of the way things are normally done, but LegalJob does not see much downside, aside from a bruised ego and about one hour or so of your time.
LegalJob recommends writing the person whom you met and copying the human resources person who called you with the news and explain what you liked about the firm and specifically (but concisely) why you would be a strong fit when they do have an opening and you kindly request another brief chance in person to learn more about the firm. You understand they are not looking anymore AND (not “but” here) you would like the chance to articulate a little more specifically how you think you could contribute should an opening come up.
Note that this action step could be taken even if there was no call back fake-out (but in this case it is clear that the firm had some interest which is helpful). Obviously this plan may not work every time (or any time) but really what do you have to lose at that point (other than pride). There are many potential favorable positive outcomes that may result — from merely filling their file with good things about you should something open up (and anything can happen these days at the law firm; people leave, move, etc.) to impressing someone there with your initiative (and your substance to back it up).
Be bold, go after what you want, and do not wait for the crosswalk to change.