The Struggle of Recruiting at the Start of New Year

You wake up on Jan. 1, with so much optimism. And then Jan. 2, comes along. And by Jan. 3? You know the rest.

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Jan 10, 2024

There is something about coming back to work after New Year’s that seems more difficult than after other breaks. I don’t know if it’s the inappropriate amount of food consumed the month before, the stress of the holidays, or just the culmination of an entire year’s worth of ups and downs, but that first week has been a struggle.

Based on conversations I’ve had with co-workers and clients, I’m not the only one who feels this way. There has been a distinct feeling of having to re-learn how to do my job, or at the very least, a challenge in remembering where I was in any given project.

This can be especially true with recruiting. There is some disagreement with whether hiring technically slows down during the holidays, but with year-end closeout, hiring manager PTO, and the general belief that “no one hires during the holidays,” recruiters may have felt like they were alone in the wilderness the past few weeks.

It’s easy to lose track of where you were and you might be struggling, like me, to get back into the swing of things. When you’re supporting both hiring managers and candidates, this can be a problem.

So in the spirit of starting the new year off right, here are some simple, concrete steps to jumpstart your 2024 recruiting work:

Reacquaint yourself with your open reqs. This seems basic — and that’s intentional. Sometimes the best way to move forward is to ground yourself in something simple yet concrete. Read through your notes, review the job postings, remind yourself of the status for each req. It’s a way to prime your brain for higher-level thinking.

Meet with each hiring manager. Now that you remember what you’re doing, you’re ready to check in with your hiring managers. A new year often means a change in direction for operations, so it’s important to reconnect. This should be more structured than a simple “how’s it going” conversation and should include confirmation that the role is still open, review of the applicant flow, discussion of any needed changes to the job posting and sourcing strategy, and clarification of the timeline. Adjust as necessary so you can meet the needs of the business.

Connect with your candidates. If you feel like you’ve been incommunicado during the holiday season, imagine how job-seekers are feeling. Many feel like they are sending emails into a black hole and just want to know where things stand. Simple outreach to check in on their job search status, continued interest in any roles you might have for them, and just a general wellness check can make all the difference for the candidates. It can also remind you of the human beings on the other side of the equation.

Review how last year went. Let’s face it: 2023 was a rollercoaster of emotion for talent acquisition. Hiring freezes, rescinding of offers, and recruiter layoffs caused more than one recruiting pro to question their life choices. Sometimes in the thick of chaos, we forget to register progress. Take some time to look back at how last year went, celebrate your successes, and acknowledge your challenges. This is not the time to beat yourself up over things that didn’t go well; it’s an opportunity to identify the elements that you can control to improve.

Set realistic goals for the new year, and then change them. Goal setting is the worst, seriously. We start from a very optimistic place with a belief that we are going to change the world, and halfway through the year we are convinced our lives are wasted, and then typically we end the year somewhere in between the two extremes. And with all of the uncertainty in the world, quantity goals for hiring feel like an exercise in science fiction.

Focus instead on quality. How well are you running each of your reqs? What’s your customer-satisfaction rate? Are you losing time due to inefficiencies, and can you optimize your process? Prioritize one or two things that you want to focus on for the first quarter, and then reassess. There are very few goals in this world that can’t be changed to account for new circumstances. Giving yourself permission to move away from impossible goals helps you reclaim control in your work.

So there you have it — simple steps to get back into the swing of things. And no, none of this is groundbreaking, and that’s the point. Sometimes we all need a reminder that personal growth and motivation doesn’t typically spring from external factors. The rise of generative AI isn’t suddenly going to make you care about your candidates more if you don’t want to. Technology isn’t going to cure you from existential dread if you don’t take the time to reflect on your own performance and motivations. It will be incremental, intentional actions that you take that will set you up for success in 2024. Good luck to us all!

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