Job Search Techniques


You can find a job in a variety of ways.  Some methods are more effective than others.  To succeed, it is essential to understand how employers think, to lay the ground work for your search before jumping in and sending out resumes and to recognize that talking to people is the most important component of your job search.

The length of your job search will depend on a variety of factors, including the amount of effort you put into it, the job market, and the type of job you seek.  Do not become discouraged if you do not land something right away.  Sometimes the job search will require patience.   Your tactics may need adjustments.  If you are struggling, please come to see us and we can help make sure you are on the right track.

Thinking Like an Employer

Your search will be more successful if you can put yourself in the shoes of the employer.  Design your approach for their convenience, not yours.  Employers hire for one reason: They have a need.  To land a job, you need to persuade an employer you can best serve their needs.

When an employer is deciding whether to hire you, they are thinking about the four Cs:

  • Competence - Can you do the job?
  • Culture - Will you fit in with how the employer approaches work and the clients they serve?
  • Chemistry - Will you and the employers feel comfortable working with each other?
  • Commitment -  Are you interested in the type of work they do? Are you interested in living where they are located?

Keep in mind that hiring and training new employees consumes a lot of time, money and other resources for an employer. Most employers prefer “easy” job searches.  This is why networking works – it is easier to hire someone you know or someone who has been recommended.  They are also more likely to hire the student (or attorney) who best demonstrates how she or he meets the employer’s needs. 

Preparing for the Job Search

Your search is more likely to succeed if you spend time identifying your focus, your targets and your message before diving in.  In a competitive job environment, employers want more than just someone who can do the job.  They are looking for a candidate whose skills match their needs and who demonstrates a genuine interest in the employer.  Thus, it is essential, that you know what skills you have to offer and what type of job you are looking for.  If you are still not certain, visit our section on self-assessment or make an appointment with CPD.

Identifying your target market and target organizations is also important.  Because your time is limited, you need to select the type of employer(s) and geography that you wish to pursue. If your focus is too broad, you will not have the time to do well nor will you be able to demonstrate how you meet the needs of employers.  If your focus is too narrow, there may not be enough job openings available.  Once you identify the market, learn more about the hiring patterns for law students(PDF) within that market and start identifying target employers.  


After laying the ground work, it is time to start executing a variety of job search techniques.  We’ve listed the most common techniques below in order from most effective to least effective for practicing attorneys.  The order is slightly different for law students but networking is still first.  The techniques you employ will depend, in part, on the market that you are pursuing.  To succeed, employ a variety of techniques.

Talking to People (Networking)

Most people find their jobs through connections.  When networking, remember the three key rules: (1) focus on common interests, (2) share information, and (3) make everyone comfortable.  Avoid the biggest mistake job searchers make – focusing on job openings and getting hired.  To learn how to network, follow this link.

Staffing Firms

Staffing agencies work on behalf of employers to locate candidates for permanent and temporary work.  For law students and inexperienced attorneys, they can only offer limited help. Consider contacting an agency if:

  • You have highly specialized skills or experience that make you uniquely qualified for certain positions, or
  • School is over and you need to earn money NOW!  Agencies frequently need lawyers and occasionally law students to perform document review or other project work.

Responding to Job Ads

Some employers will post jobs on-line or in print to fill openings.  The challenge of responding to a job ad is the competition for that position will be fierce.  For example, when a law firm posts a job at our school website, it typically posts that job at the other three schools in town as well. For entry level positions, employers may receive 100-300 applications or more.  Moreover, even when a job is posted, there may already be an inside candidate for the position.  On the other hand, someone will get that job, so if a position interest you, you should still apply.

Here are a few tips for success with this technique:

  • Explain why THIS job and THIS employer interest you in your cover letter.
  • Demonstrate the skills and experience the employer seeks. 
  • Read the job description carefully and provide examples of experience that fits their needs.
  • Be the “Known” candidate.  If you know someone who works there, consider mentioning them.  If you’d been doing your networking and connected with someone at the employer already, bring that up.
  • Pursue other strategies at the same time.

You can find many job postings on Symplicity, but please remember not all employers post there. We’ve also prepared a list of other jobsites you can look at. 

Completing Applications

Some employers, particularly the government, will require you to fill out an application.  Here are a few pointers:

  • If the application is on-line, consider typing up your answers in a separate document and pasting them into the on-line application.  That way you can carefully proofread your information.
  • If the application is a physical form (hard copy), type your answers.  You can always use the typewriter in the CPD Resource Room.
  • Proofread, proofread, and proofread. Do not let typos torpedo your candidacy.

Direct Mail

Many employers never post their positions. Often these employers will hire someone they know or someone who has been referred to them.  Occasionally, these employers will hire a candidate who approached them even though no job was posted.  This technique works best with smaller employers and requires follow-up. Follow this link for step-by-step instructions. (PDF)

Cold Calling

Some people have found their jobs by taking a list of employers and phoning each one to find out if they have any openings.  The success rate for this tactic tends to be low and it works best with smaller employers.  Try to find someone at the firm who is a contact. Connect with us in CPD to ask who we know, as we might be able to help you make a "warmer" call because of contacts we or other faculty/staff have at the firm.

Out-of-Town Job Search

Just because you attend school in Minnesota does not mean that you must work here during the summer or after graduation.  An out-of-town job search will be similar to an in-town job search, but will require some extra effort to research, to network, and to contact employers.