Timing Is Everything — Initiate a December Recruiting Push When Competition Is Low

Timing is always critical in recruiting, and sometimes the best way to land top talent is to wait until the major corporate competition is not active. Data reveals that for new jobs put out to search, December is 35 percent lower than average, while the number of applicants in December is about average (a great ratio for firms that are recruiting).

The second-lowest month for job openings is August. This “counter cycle” recruiting approach provides the best odds for firms other than industry giants because the search occurs when the number of posted jobs is low. Less recruiting is occurring because headcount budgets are depleted and many hiring managers take time off of work in order to shop, go to holiday parties, or even to use accumulated vacation time before it expires. As a result of these competition reducing factors, there is generally a significant drop in large corporate recruiting during December.

So I am providing my annual year-end reminder for those who aren’t aware of the advantages that come with “a December recruiting push.” Take advantage of this period of low competition, especially if you recruit for a smaller or lesser-known firm that would lose every battle for talent when the major firms are actively recruiting.

There Are Several Off-cycle Periods Where Major Corporations Are Less Active

Smart recruiting leaders use data to identify the times throughout the year where the major firms are simply not actively recruiting. In addition to the holiday season, you can gain a competitive recruiting advantage against corporate giants whose fiscal years end in June, and during August when everyone is on vacation and anytime when major competitors institute a hiring freeze. You might also be surprised to learn that January is actually the month where the ratio of new candidates to new jobs is highest (24 percent higher than the next month). But because every large corporate firm is actively recruiting then, any posting will likely be competing with jobs from dozens of major firms with recently opened-up annual headcount budgets. And with that intensive head-to-head competition, obviously, the odds of a lesser-known firm landing a top candidate would decrease dramatically.

10 Reasons Why December “Tis the Season” to Recruit

There are many benefits associated with recruiting during the slow December period, including:

  1. Competitors have depleted their headcount budget — even well-branded competitor firms can’t hire when their official headcount is exhausted toward the end of their fiscal year. So if your firm has available headcount, or if you start recruiting early for 2018 budgeted positions, your firm will likely have only limited competition from large corporate firms because most top firms won’t even start recruiting for their 2018 headcount until the second or third week of January. And if you’re seeking active candidates, of course with the lowest number of posted jobs of any month, your December postings have a much-improved chance of being noticed.
  2. Some firms literally do no hiring during December — many firms place complete hiring freezes in effect toward the end of their fiscal year. Other firms (especially tech firms) completely shut down operations during the last two weeks of December. As a result, these normally fierce recruiting competitors offer no competition to those organizations that are smart enough to recruit during December.
  3. Hiring managers are distracted, so any attempted hiring is slow or impossible — during December, most hiring managers and recruiters in the corporate world are distracted by shopping, holiday parties, and family needs. Year-end financial closeouts also keep many managers busy, and as a result, they devote significantly fewer hours to recruiting. In the cases where there is active recruiting, this lack of attention stretches out the time before an offer can be made. So, even if a major firm does post open jobs, fast-moving firms can capture top candidates in December before most other firms get around to making a hiring decision. Make hiring decisions within 10 days during December.
  4. Many employed individuals are rethinking their future at the end of the year — in most industries where the demand for talent is high, the top prospects are fully employed and are not actively looking for a job. But because the best are also forward looking, it makes sense for them to spend at least some time during the weeks before the end of the year reevaluating their current work and life situation. Part of that reassessment would invariably be rethinking whether they want to spend another year in their current job. Smart recruiting leaders can take advantage and proactively propose a new career opportunity to those who are reconsidering their future. In addition, if your focus is on sales and other jobs where year-end bonuses are paid out during December, you will find that December is the top month for turnover in these kinds of jobs.
  5. Some employed individuals realize that they need more money — the holiday season means extensive shopping, travel, and Christmas party expenses. Many individuals realize that they need more money. If your organization pays significantly above the average, December recruiting provides your firm with an opportunity to attract those who are experiencing money issues. And finally, remember that not every potential applicant celebrates traditional Christian holidays, so those who are not celebrating will have even more time to consider new job opportunities.
  6. Few important events are scheduled, so recruiting targets can get away — there are no industry conferences, internal company off-sites, or other major corporate meetings scheduled during the holiday period. As a result, top prospects are not preparing for them, so they have more available free time to consider job opportunities. Because many employees and even customers take time off during this month, many major projects are essentially forced into suspended animation. Top-performing prospects also have more time for catching up on reading and learning, so candidates may be reading your employer branding materials for the first time during December. Many prospects also take their unused vacation in December, and as a result, on vacation, targets are much more available for calls and interviews. Obviously, with few events and meetings scheduled, if your recruiters don’t have the December blues, they will also have more available time to make a strong “December push.”
  7. Recruiting targets are easier to contact when everyone is active on social media — almost everyone is highly active on social media during the holidays. That means your recruiting targets are constantly checking social media for messages from family and friends. There is also an increased chance that they will see, read, and even respond to your recruiting messages. In many cases, your recruiting targets will also use their free hours during December to update their LinkedIn profiles, so recruiters can use those updates as an alert that these individuals may be open to new opportunities.
  8. December is the top “easy excuse month” for candidates — December is the easiest month to find an “acceptable excuse” for leaving the office. 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 during this time, it is relatively easy for candidates to make an excuse to get out of the office for either a long lunch with a recruiter or a formal interview.
  9. Recruiters are exhausted  2017 has been an intensively competitive year, so almost everyone in recruiting is exhausted, and they need a break. That means even if they are actively recruiting, the energy level of a competitor’s recruiter will probably be well below average. So if your own firm’s recruiters are energized by the lack of competition, it can be a win-win situation.
  10. Holiday travel may provide interview opportunities — in some cases, your recruiting targets may be conveniently in town because of unrelated holiday travel. Without being intrusive, take advantage of those “briefly in town” opportunities to interview high-value prospects.

Yes Top Prospects May Also Be Distracted

Of course, in some cases, it will take some level of work to get top prospects interested in a job search during the holiday period. However, since you’re probably the only one contacting them, having only a single new employment option means that they will be receiving fewer phone calls and having fewer interviews during December. In December, candidates have an added motivation for deciding early on your job offer so they can begin the new year at a new job with a fresh perspective.

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Final Thoughts

Counter cycle recruiting is an excellent strategy throughout the recruiting year, but is especially effective in December.It may take some effort to convince your own managers and recruiting staff to initiate a “December recruiting push.” But the advantages far outweigh the negatives. And with the reduced level of competition from major corporations, success is much easier to achieve. So take advantage of the idleness of others and seize the opportunity to produce amazing recruiting results by instituting a “December recruiting campaign.”

 

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Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.