Sourcing Revelation — Work Anniversaries Are the Best Time to Recruit Employed Prospects

when employees leaveRather than being data-driven, I have found that most recruiters and sourcers contact employed prospects almost randomly on a trial-and-error basis. However, there are specific times when employees who previously said “no and stop calling me” actually change their mind and are fully receptive to a recruiting call.

So in case you didn’t realize it, the months immediately around an employee’s work anniversary are the time that they are most likely to quit and accept a new job at another firm. Yes, you have a much higher probability of getting a positive answer if you call the same recruiting target around their work anniversary date.

Why Their Work Anniversary Is the Time When the Most Employees Consider a New Job

There are several reasons why a work anniversary triggers many employees to begin a job search and to quit. They include:

  • LinkedIn notifications make it hard to miss — employees in this social media era are sure to be reminded about their anniversary date. This is because all of their LinkedIn contacts will be automatically notified of it and many of those contacts will reach out to congratulate them on their work anniversary.
  • A work anniversary is an ideal time to reflect — on their first work anniversary, almost everyone reflects on whether they made the right decision to take their current job. Their second and third work anniversary are also times for serious reflection on whether it’s now time to move on, because they didn’t make their expected progress in their career trajectory. If the employee is unhappy, at least the first three work anniversaries will surely trigger some serious thinking on whether they want to endure another year at this firm.
  • Performance appraisal may coincide with the anniversary date — many firms conduct performance appraisals on a new hire’s work anniversary date. And immediately after their appraisal, they will likely feel underappreciated if they didn’t get a large raise, a significant bonus, or a promotion.

The Data Clearly Shows the Times When Most Employees Leave for a New Job

I don’t regularly cite vendors, but it would be a mistake for readers not to look at the recent amazing data-driven research by Entelo. The enhanced chart above clearly shows that employees decide to leave their firm primarily at the peaks, which are the months close to their work anniversary dates. After reviewing a million resumes, it’s hard not to see the pattern Entelo revealed.

Work Anniversaries Signal a Change in Prospect Receptiveness

Referring to the chart at the top (click to enlarge), look for the sharp dip in turnover rates (indicated by the black arrow) immediately before each spike in turnover during the first three years. This dip or waiting period means that the anticipation of something positive happening on a work anniversary briefly keeps many employees from looking for another job. However, immediately after the work anniversary passes, they now know what, if any, positive changes are in store for them. So the employee turnover rate literally doubles between the waiting period and the spike that occurs during the month or two surrounding their work anniversary.

It’s Relatively Easy to Find Out When an Individual Employed Target Is Most Receptive

One of the predictive metrics for recruiting leaders is, when will external recruiting targets likely shift into “new job consideration mode”? If you want to find out when an individual recruiting target who works at another firm is likely to be more receptive to considering a new job, here are some action steps to take to determine those times:

  • Average time in a job — calculate the average time that this individual stays in a job over their last several jobs. And use that information to identify the three-month period where, based on past patterns, they are likely to be considering a new one. Obviously, it makes sense to contact them before their average time in a job is about to run out.
  • The firm’s performance-appraisal month — some recruiting targets work at firms that conduct all employee performance appraisals at the same time during the year (as opposed to their yearly work anniversary). In these cases, you can assume that many employees will be frustrated during the month immediately following their year-end performance appraisal.
  • “Reflection days” almost every individual around the world rethinks their life and their job on both their birthday and on New Year’s Day. Other days of reflection may occur on a landmark birthday (turning 30, 40, 50, or 60) or when their last child leaves the nest. Contacting them on a “reflection day” is likely to get a different and more positive recruiting response than you would on a normal workday.
  • “Right days” — days immediately following a negative event where employees are likely to reconsider their future employment options. Typical “right days” for an individual might include when their boss/best friend leaves the firm, when a major project they are working on ends, when their budget was cut, or when a major idea of theirs was rejected. An entire firm or team can have “right days” also. These can be when the CEO quits, the firm faces a major scandal, a major layoff or merger is announced, after a major product failure or when the stock crashes. Recruiting during “right days” may get you several high-quality hires.
  • A year-end bonus is received — if a recruiting target receives a year-end bonus and they don’t qualify for another bonus until a complete year has passed, you can assume that immediately after receiving the bonus they are receptive to a new job opportunity.
  • An updated LinkedIn profile — whenever a recruiting target significantly updates their LinkedIn profile or resume, assume that they are now more receptive to new job opportunities.
  • Their work anniversary — once again LinkedIn makes it amazingly easy to identify when someone is having a work anniversary. But you can also find their current work anniversary month by looking at the employment starting dates on their resume.

The Same Type of Data Should Be Used to Predict Internal Employee Turnover

Obviously knowing when employed prospects are receptive to a new job has a great benefit for recruiters and hiring managers. But the same type of data can be used internally to predict who is likely to quit your firm, and when. Although I have recommended one for years, few corporations (Google being the notable exception) or vendors have developed an effective turnover prediction process. The most effective individual employee turnover prediction processes can actually identify which employees are going to quit literally before the employee knows it themselves.

You might think that such an assertion is crazy, but if you survey your own employees, you’ll be surprised to learn that even they don’t know that they are most likely to quit immediately after their first, second, or third work anniversary.

The overall lesson to be learned is that corporate retention efforts need to abandon intuitive decision-making and to become data-driven.

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Final Thoughts

Consider this analogy: if you were going to ask someone to marry you, you know that there are certain days, like Valentine’s Day, where your chances of getting a yes improve dramatically. Logically you should also know that asking on the wrong day, like the day that your potential spouse’s close friend was diagnosed with cancer, would not only be in bad taste, but it would undoubtedly get a “no, not now” answer.

Smart sourcers and recruiters realize that the timing of the contact is at least as important as the attractiveness of the job and the company. Rather than guessing or using trial and error to find the right time to make a recruiting contact, use hard data. The data in this case reveals that most currently employed individuals are most receptive to a new job conversation right after their anniversary date or immediately following their annual performance appraisal. Smart talent management leaders will instruct their sourcers to increase their calls around these “right days.” But they will also go the next step and check their own internal data to see if anniversary dates or performance appraisals signal upcoming employee turnover in their own organizations.

The key lesson to learn whether you work in recruiting or retention is that timing is everything.

About the Author

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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.

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