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‘Tis the Season for Recruiting — 20 Reasons Why December Is a Powerful Recruiting Month

by Dec 3, 2012, 5:23 am ET

If you work in an office, you realize that many times the Christmas season can be a less hectic and even a slack period. In most cases everyone, including recruiters, gear down and change their work patterns for the holidays.  But if you’re a corporate recruiting leader, December should be viewed instead as a golden opportunity. It is a prime recruiting month (along with January and June) because many employed prospects have free time to consider a new job due to their own reduced workloads.

The end of the year is also a time where many individuals are reevaluating their current work and life situation and planning for the future. You may be skeptical but in this article I provide more than 20 reasons why corporate recruiting leaders should actually ramp up recruiting during the holiday season.

The Top 20 Reasons Why December Is a Powerful Time to Recruit

This section contains a list of the top 20 most powerful reasons why December is strategically one of the most effective months to recruit.

  1. What better gift to give … than a great job — because it is a season of giving, recruiters should realize that they are not intruding on prospects; they are providing individuals with exciting opportunities that will change their lives. This “gift of a new job” costs the individual nothing but they and their family will get a great long-term benefit from it.
  2. Recruiting targets have ample free time – because many employees and even customers take time off during this month, many projects are essentially forced into suspended animation. With teammates taking time off for vacation or shopping, there is simply more slack time for individuals to look for a job and to respond to recruiter calls. There is more time for catching up on reading and learning, so top candidates may be seeing your employer branding materials for the first time during this period. Many take their unused vacation in December (because they may lose it at year’s end) and as a result, they are unusually available for calls and interviews. And finally, the week between Christmas and New Year’s (especially at firms that shut down during that week) is also typically a time when individuals reflect on their life and work and whether it’s time to make a change. When they are off work, prospects don’t need to lie to their boss in order to find time to go to an interview.
  3. December is the #1 “easy-excuse month” for candidates – December is the #1 easiest month to find an acceptable use to leave the office. This is because so many employees routinely leave the office for a few hours using acceptable reasons like shopping, running errands, and Christmas parties. Because bosses are so accepting of excuses, it is relatively easy for candidates to make an excuse to get out of the office for either a long lunch or a formal interview.
  4. There is little recruiting competition – because many corporate recruiting budgets run out in December, functions that plan poorly may literally have no money available, so they have no choice but to limit recruiting. The lull in the office and having many colleagues absent may also cause recruiters to also want to be less active. Unfortunately, many recruiting managers contribute to the “slack-off problem” by easily accepting the weak excuse that “I can’t recruit because no one’s in the office.” Taken together this means that if your own recruiters are highly active during December, they simply won’t encounter many of your competitor’s recruiters actively fighting with you over top candidates.
  5. Smart recruiters will have more time to proactively recruit — on the positive side, the slack office atmosphere during December will give recruiters more time to catch up. Smart corporate leaders will realize that because hiring managers are not opening up new positions and there are almost no job fairs or college recruiting events scheduled during December, their recruiters will have extra time. A significant percentage of the less-desirable “active job seekers” are inactive during the holiday season, and as a result, they won’t flood organizations with their resumes, emails, and calls. Taken together, this reduced volume can free up your recruiters time to search for high-quality resumes that are already in their database and to proactively seek out others using direct sourcing.
  6. Hiring managers are finally available – the same slack time and reduced workloads that impact employees also impact hiring managers. In most organizations during December, there are few scheduled meetings, offsites, or professional conferences to attend. And as a result, hiring managers are generally in town and in their office with few excuses to offer as to why they are not available to review candidate resumes and to interview.
  7. It’s a great time for employee referrals – because your employees have extra time and they will likely be extremely active on social media during the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to encourage them to find top quality referrals. Because employees will be shopping and going to many holiday events and parties, they are also much more likely to physically meet and interact with top prospects. Employees should be encouraged to send holiday greetings to top prospects and to use the easy communications during the season to further strengthen recruiting relationships.
  8. December is bonus payout time – once individuals receive their year-end bonus, they know that they can’t get another bonus for a full year. This payout reduces their incentive to stay at their current firm. Also if they are disappointed with their bonus amount, the percentage of next year’s salary increase, or if they feel that others who were less deserving got better pay, they now have new good reasons for beginning a job search.
  9. Prospects will be highly active on social media – the holiday season is a prime time to be contacting friends, online shopping, and sending pictures and greetings. Taken together this means that prospects will be frequently be online and that will make it easier for recruiters to find and communicate with top prospects. The extra free time during December will also provide individuals with opportunities to update their social media content, their LinkedIn profiles, and their resumes, so that they are ready to begin a job search.
  10. They will carry the mobile platform with them 24/7 — the mobile platform is always a powerful recruiting tool. However, it is even more so during the holiday season where people naturally answer calls and texts more often because they are expecting calls from family and friends. No one goes shopping without their mobile phone and many are much more likely to answer while they are traveling to the mall, when shopping, and when waiting in line. If prospects can’t view every aspect of your corporate job application site and apply directly from their mobile phone, you will be missing out on a great opportunity.
  11. Back home travel provides a recruiting opportunity – the holiday season is a heavy travel season and many prospects will return home to visit their family. This visit may stir feelings about wanting to move home and to be closer to family. Smart recruiters will take this as an opportunity to recruit visitors while they’re in the area.
  12. December is prime time for college recruiting – As a college professor, it is intriguing to me that few companies have realized that up to a third of college students graduate at the end of the fall semester. But few firms specifically target fall grads. In addition, during the winter break students have a great deal of free time and their minds are relatively unencumbered. As a result, college students are easy to contact and physically meet when they return home. Effective recruiting can also occur at popular college student gathering areas like ski resorts.
  13. It’s a time that they are thinking about money – the holiday season means extensive shopping, travel, and Christmas party expenses. As a result, it is a time where many individuals think about money. If your organization pays significantly above the average, December and January provide you with an opportunity to attract those who are having money issues.
  14. The holidays are ideal for employer brand building — many years ago, Cisco pioneered holiday employer brand building through gift-wrapping events staffed by its employees at the mall. The holiday season is obviously a great opportunity to show community involvement and that your employees care, while at the same time indirectly but powerfully building your employer brand image.
  15. The economy will likely get a kickstart with the fiscal cliff deal – the likely solving of the fiscal cliff budget problem will give a kick start to the economy in the U.S. Smart recruiting leaders will begin recruiting right before the deal is completed, in order to get the best talent before other firms begin to ramp up their recruiting and the competition.
  16. December really is “the prime time” for recruiting retail and customer service – December is the very best month to recruit retail, customer-facing, and delivery employees. Since anyone who is any good in customer service is working during the December holiday period, there is literally no better time for recruiters and employees to identify the very best through their work. Provide employees with powerful referral cards to turn any positive interaction into a recruiting opportunity.
  17. Not everyone celebrates the holiday – many countries don’t celebrate the same holidays. Even individuals from different religious groups within the U.S. don’t celebrate the same holidays. This means that in many situations, you should continue your normal recruiting approach and be aware of individual differences. Countries with warmer climates during December don’t always have the same intensity for this holiday.
  18. New fiscal year budgets are coming open — because many business calendar years start January 1, managers will know their upcoming budget and headcount in early December. This provides an opportunity for recruiters to work with managers and to get a head start on soon to be open requisitions.
  19. Blockers and screeners have let their guard down — although I’m not a supporter of cold calling, it’s easier to get through to key prospects during December when so many receptionist and “call-blocking” jobs are staffed with temporary fill-ins. In fact, the holiday spirit makes almost everyone more willing to accept calls that they wouldn’t even consider taking during normal frantic business periods.
  20. An opportune time to plan and to improve the function — even if you decide not to ramp up your recruiting effort during December, the slack period is an ideal time to work on your strategic recruiting plan. It’s also a great time to review your year-end metrics and to implement process improvement efforts. In particular, you should focus your planning on taking advantage of the mobile platform, the LinkedIn platform, and developing predictive analytics that make it easier for recruiting to take identify and then take advantage of upcoming talent opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Most firms don’t recruit heavily during this period, so naturally it’s easy to for corporate leaders to follow the crowd and to also wind down their own recruiting efforts during December. Strategically however, that would be a huge mistake and a missed opportunity.

The best time to recruit is when others are idle and when the candidates are most available and receptive, and December fits that description. Seize the opportunity and take advantage of the idleness of others by beginning your winter recruiting campaign today. Recruiting is a 12-month profession. And just think how many more of your recruiting goals that will be met if you have a full 12, rather than an 11 ½-month effort!

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Recruiter Richards

    That’s a long list of good reasons, thanks.

  • Josh Tolan

    This is a great list of reasons why you shouldn’t give up your recruitment efforts for the holiday season. After all, as you noted, good prospects will find themselves with more time in December. And despite the holiday rush it might actually be easier to schedule a meeting with a great candidate, whether the meeting is in person or through online video. The holidays are a hectic time, but they also might be just the time you need to find great people.

  • Mark Stephens

    Another great article Dr John.
    As a recruitment owner, I am continuously frustrated with recruiters sighting excuses for non performance and the Xmas one is the pick of the crop.

    I wrote and posted this article on the subject just last week, that some of your readers might like to read, if they found this article interesting or useful.
    Is December a good month to hire?

    Mark Stephens

  • Bill Humbert

    Dr. John, We are in the same pulpit! For years I have preached that this is the best time of the year to recruit – and to interview. When I was a contingent recruiter, I made most of my money in December and August (vacations). One of my candidates interviewed with one of my best clients during the morning of Dec. 24 and was invited to stay for the informal office potluck lunch. While she was eating, the Manager debriefed everyone who interviewed her. Then he asked her to come into his office one more time – and extended an offer to her. She called me Christmas night to tell me she had a Christmas present for me. She accepted the offer.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Dr. Sullivan. This is one of those things (like freeways or using LinkedIn to recruit) that works really well as long as not too many people use it/do it. The more people who actually do as you suggest, the less effective the advantages will be for them.

    Happy Holidays,


    P.S. What’s a “strategic recruiting plan’ and what companies have them? Is it a fancy term for “headcount”? Lots of companies have those….

  • Brian Kevin Johnston

    Winners always view December 1st as January 1st. This was/is a great article. The first 3 weeks in December should be your #1 priority if you want to win the war for talent.

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  • Keith Halperin

    @ Brian Kevin. Very sensible and practical.
    However, it seems that being paid promptly and in full (for as long as possible) should typically be a recruiter’s #1 priority, and not just during the first three weeks of December, but all year round as well.


  • Rajpreet Heir

    Jolly good. Thanks for acknowledging how “many recruiting managers are easily accepting of the weak excuse that “I can’t recruit because no one’s in the office.” What grinches. Can’t wait to share this article, it’s a well laid-out case which will no doubt benefit candidates and recruiters.

  • N C

    Great article, but I there’s another big benefit – if your prospective candidate(s) will need to relocate, December is by far the best time to hire them. The added holiday time off will get them more time to make the move, get settled in, and come in on day one ready to give 100%. It can be irritating if you have to wait three to four weeks for a new employee to start work, but if the company will be less busy or out of the office during that time anyway, it’s a win-win situation.

    And from the employee’s perspective, they can possibly use their year-end bonus from their previous position to front moving costs, and may have a bit longer to apartment/house hunt.

  • Shartia Huddleston

    Dr. John I totally agree.

    Employers should take advantage of scheduling interviews and new employee orientation with students during winter break so they won’t have the worries of missing class. Also a lot of candidates are in the midst of creating New Year resolutions and finding a new job just may be on top of the list!

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  • Scott Coffey

    I hate to be the only negative person commenting but while there are many “hopeful” reasons why December “could” be a great month . . . in reality, it’s simply not the best time of year for anyone in the staffing/recruiting industry. There are many obstacles that exist only during this holiday season which creates additional challenges to the people management industry.

    I don’t think most people would agree that they have “more time” during the month of December. Whether it’s shopping, social or family obligations, there is simply less time to get everything done. Simply trips to get normally every day things done take hours because of the long lines at every retail outlet. And as a recruiter for many years, this is the time when candidates generally “hold off” from their searches because they understand many employers are doing similar “holding off” on decisions until after the new year.

    In addition, hiring managers generally have “less” free time to spend discussing candidates because much of their own staff uses December to take time off for family or simply because business slows down around the holiday. While it seems like a “slower” time, for those in charge of managing others it can easily create just as much stress as the July/August vacation months.

    I’d very much like to believe that December can be even just as great as the other times of the year, but I have yet to see one that is.

  • Patti Green

    This is a great article and just got my engine started. I have, historicaally, been of the school of thought that “nothing will happen in December”. One thing that I DO NOT understand is why the author does not support cold calling. How in the world else would you obtain top notch candidates or market them to prospective or current clients?

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