December Is Prime Time for Recruiting … Because the Competition Is so Low

Recruiting is a direct competition between firms. So, unless you’re a firm with a great employer brand like Google, Facebook or GE, focus your recruiting during the months where the competition is extremely low. And, in the U.S. and many other industrialized countries, the time period between late November and New Year’s Day is the time with the lowest level of recruiting competition. So, if you’re a corporate recruiting leader, December should be viewed as a golden recruiting opportunity. Smart firms that actively recruit during this low competition time can successfully land talent of amazing quality that they literally would have no chance of getting when the competition for talent is normal.

The Top 7 Advantages of Recruiting in December When the Competition Is Low

In this new era of data-based decision making in recruiting, smart recruiting leaders use data to identify the times when they have the highest probability of landing top-performing talent. And, if you run the data, you will find that December is the month with the lowest recruiting competition.

There are many advantages for recruiting in December. The top seven advantages are listed below (in descending order of importance).

  1. Talent competitor firms have little available headcount — even powerhouse recruiting machines like Google can’t hire when their headcount is exhausted toward the end of their fiscal year. And since, many corporations’ fiscal year ends in December. If you have available headcount, your firm will have only limited competition because most top firms won’t have available headcount until January 1 (after January 1, your odds of winning a single head-to-head competition might sink to zero). And, of course, with fewer jobs posted, your job postings have an improved chance of being noticed.
  2. Some firms 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 the last two weeks of December. And as a result, these recruiting competitors literally offer no competition to those organizations that are smart enough to recruit during December. With no headcount, throughout December there will be zero head-to-head recruiting competitions with your firm.
  3. Many employed individuals are rethinking their future at the end of the year  the best recruiting prospects are forward-looking. So, most of the top prospects are fully employed and are not actively looking. They will still invariably spend at least some time during the weeks before the end of the year reevaluating their current work and life situation and rethinking whether they want to spend another year in their current job. Smart firms can take advantage of that questioning time period and be one of the few that proactively propose a new opportunity to these “not-actively-looking” individuals. 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 quitting in these kinds of jobs. The holiday season means extensive shopping, travel, and Christmas party expenses. As a result, 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 having money issues. And finally, remember that not everyone celebrates traditional Christian holidays, so these individuals will have even more time to consider new opportunities.
  4. Hiring managers are less available, so a competitor’s hiring decisions take forever — during December, most hiring managers and recruiters are distracted by shopping, holiday parties, and family needs. As a result, they devote significantly fewer hours to 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 before most other firms get around to making a hiring decision during the December. Make hiring decisions within 10 days during December.
  5. Few important events are scheduled, so recruiting targets have more time — 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. Also, 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 (because they may lose it at year’s end). And as a result, targets are much more available for calls and interviews. Obviously, with few events and meetings scheduled, your recruiters themselves also have more available time to make a strong “December push.”
  6. Recruiting targets are easier to contact when everyone is active on social media — almost everyone is highly active on social media during the holidays. Your recruiting targets are constantly checking social media for messages from family and friends. There is an increased chance that they will see, read, and even respond to your recruiting messages. In many cases, your 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.
  7. December is the top “easy excuse month” for candidates — if you took the time to analyze it, you would immediately realize that December is the easiest month to find an “acceptable excuse” for leaving 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 with a recruiter or a formal interview.

Action Steps for Those Who Mount a December Recruiting Effort

If you’re a corporate recruiting leader with headcount or if you run a small business, it should be obvious that December is a great time to make a strong recruiting push. Some of the action steps to begin that recruiting effort include:

  • Educate your hiring managers about the lower competition — start off by educating your hiring managers and your CFO about the reduced recruiting competition. Convince them to allocate both time and headcount to your December recruiting push.
  • Initiate a push for employee referrals — your employees will also likely have extra time, and they will also be active on social media during the holidays. Encourage them to use that free time to look for top-quality referrals. And because employees will be going to many holiday events and parties, they are also much more likely to physically meet and interact with top prospects. Employees should also be encouraged to send holiday greetings to top prospects and to use these holiday communications opportunities to strengthen current recruiting relationships. And because so many of your employees will be interacting with customer-service people during shopping, emphasize the importance of using these contacts to make strong customer service referrals.
  • Use the mobile platform — with so many of your recruiting targets out and about, use the mobile phone for almost all of your recruiting communications. Mobile phone communications are more effective during this time. Because everyone is continually expecting contacts from friends and relatives during the holiday, they are much more likely to see them and respond. Emphasize text and video and make it easy for potential applicants to apply and interview, exclusively on the smartphone that they carry with them 24/7.
  • Don’t forget to target college recruiting — during the winter break, students have a great deal of free time and their minds are relatively unencumbered with academic issues. Therefore, college students are easy to contact, and in many cases, physically meet when they return home during December. Effective recruiting can also occur at popular college student gathering areas like ski resorts. And finally, up to a third of college students graduate at the end of the fall semester. Because most companies recruit exclusively on campus and during the spring, the off-campus recruiting competition is much lower for December grads.
  • Returning home for the holidays provides a rare recruiting opportunity — during the holiday season many prospects will return “home” to visit their family. This visit may stir feelings about wanting to move back to your hometown, where they would be closer to their family. Smart recruiters take this as an opportunity to recruit visitors while they’re physically in the area. 

Final Thoughts

In any competitive endeavor, if you want to win more than your fair share of head-to-head competitions, go against the flow. So in the area of recruiting, firms should what I call “counter cycle recruiting.” Instead of shutting down the recruiting function during December, put together a “December recruiting push” in order to take advantage of the lowered level of competition. Focus your recruiting on forward-looking individuals who, even though they have a current job, use December as a time to rethink their current career path and their future.

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And finally, understand that because it is “a season of giving,” recruiters are not intruding on prospects; instead, 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 receive great long-term benefits from it for years to come. I hope that you will agree with me to seize the opportunity and take advantage of the idleness of others, by beginning your December recruiting campaign today!

About the Author

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.