​If you’ve ever searched for a new IP job and found an apparent lack of opportunities to be somewhat frustrating, how much of your disappointment might have arisen from your own checklist of requirements?

The IP sector traditionally suffers from being ‘candidate short’ and ‘job rich’ - but I wholly acknowledge this is mainly from a recruiter’s perspective. As a candidate, the job market can appear somewhat rigid in terms of specific roles, and the ‘qualification v experience’ conundrum that commonly prevails, i.e. “Am I under or over-qualified for the position?”

In the past 12 months, the highest demand from private practices has been for patent attorneys at the near-qualified/recently qualified level. This is mainly because attorneys at this level of experience represent the best value from a commercial perspective; they are likely to have acquired the right skills and client-contact experience, as well as being able to fit into a firm’s hierarchy relatively smoothly. These candidates are also competitively priced, salary wise, of course. Naturally, their current employers want to hold on to them for as long as possible.

However, over the same period of time, the demand from prospective candidates looking for a career move has actually been in the 5 – 10 years PQE category. This represents a jump in salary expectations of course. It’s immediately apparent there is a supply and demand shortfall, but this is not necessarily an insurmountable problem if candidates can be open-minded about their requirements.

Firms have also had to adapt to the rigours of the market by adopting several flexible solutions to the attorney-shortage. Flexible working is not just defined as working from home once in a while, as there have been an increasing number of alternatives that aren’t always made visible when applying for a role: i.e. flexible hours to fit around other commitments; alternating between office and home working; more part-time solutions and even working from another country entirely.

Modern and progressive private practices have had to embrace alternative solutions to attract talent at the right time. As a candidate, being mindful of this should further increase your chances of success.

On the flip side of the coin, there are several determining factors that could influence whether a candidate is successful or unsuccessful throughout an actual recruitment process. Here are some of the most candid questions that a person’s inner voice might raise post-interview:

“Was I honest about what I was looking for?

“Do I really want this job?”

“Will I lose out to a better qualified candidate?”

“Was the role accurately sold to me?”

“Did I sell myself well enough in the interview(s)?

“Did I convince the decision makers that I was serious about moving?”

“Can they afford me?”

“Was I too unrealistic about my prerequisites to move jobs?”

In recent months, the last question has arisen more frequently in final stage interviews than perhaps it used to, so there is an argument that candidates are sometimes guilty of inflexibility. If you find a firm that feels right, and you can see yourself working with like-minded colleagues, it would be churlish to walk away if just one component of your checklist criteria is not met.

If you’ve approached a job search only looking for a position that can offer 3 days a week, home working, a 30% uplift on basic salary, bonuses, partnership in less than a year and all within walking distance of home then you may be disappointed!

However, if you can be genuinely realistic about your expectations to move then you are likely to make a better impression with a prospective employer too. Having empathy with the decision maker on the other side of the desk might just work in your favour.