There Is Little Recruiting Competition During December … So Be Bold and Seize a Great Opportunity

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 5.24.51 PMBetween Thanksgiving and the rest of the year in the Silicon Valley and in many other geographic areas around the U.S., it is mostly a dead period for recruiting. But recruiting leaders should realize that failing to recruit during this period is a huge missed opportunity, simply because the recruiting competition is mostly inactive during this extended period. This lack of competition makes recruiting even more essential for smaller firms and those without a strong employer brand simply because the major firms (with powerful employer brands that are difficult to compete against) are on the sidelines.

Generally I’m not talking about high-volume recruiting because fewer individuals actually apply for jobs during December. Instead focus on selective targeted recruiting, where you focus on fully employed top performers who are normally “too busy” to respond to job offers and recruiter calls. Some of the reasons to gear up your recruiting during December include:

The Top 15 Reasons Why You Should Be Actively Recruiting in December

If you’re not sure of the value of proactively recruiting during this long holiday period, here are multiple reasons why the low competition makes December such a great recruiting month.

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  1. Not everyone celebrates the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays — many in the U.S. from different cultures and religions do not celebrate Christmas. And around the world not everyone celebrates Christmas and no one (other than U.S. expatriates) celebrates “our” Thanksgiving. So don’t make the false assumption that everyone is tied up during the holidays with shopping and going to parties.
  2. December is bonus time — almost all year-end bonuses are given out in December (and most top performers get them). Therefore, the financial incentive for a top-performing employee to stay diminishes almost immediately after their bonuses are paid out.
  3. Top performers are still working during the slack period — because top performers are driven, they are less likely than others to take advantage of an opportunity to slack off. That means that driven individuals will still respond to messages and that they are still looking for opportunities to learn on online technical talent communities. Because top performers remain fully engaged, never assume that they are too focused on celebrating and shopping to appreciate a great job opportunity when it is offered to them during this period.
  4. Because some are disengaged, many projects stall — because many employees, vendors, and customers do take time off during this month, many corporate projects are essentially forced into suspended animation. Not being able to work on key projects actually frustrates many top performers and project managers, and that boredom or frustration may make them increasingly interested in another job where projects do not come to a halt during December.
  5. December is low-budget time, which often means hiring freezes — many companies are in a “no growth mode” during December because their budget money has run out and everyone is waiting for the release of the new January budget. The frustration levels of progressive employees may actually increase when new budgets are announced in December, because top employees will realize that there will be adequate funding for their new and exciting projects during the next budget year as well. As a result, you are likely to get a positive recruiting response from these go-getters and top performers when you indicate that your firm is still operating at full speed. Smart recruiters take advantage of these frustration and offer individuals new opportunities to work on fully funded projects. The diminished budgets will likely mean purchasing and hiring freezes. And if many firms institute hiring freezes, that will severely limit your recruiting competition.
  6. Without clutter, your jobs will be highly visible — because many fewer jobs are posted during this slack period, any jobs that are posted will be much more visible.
  7. Candidates are more available for interviews because December is an “easy excuse” month  because so many employees take time off for Christmas parties and shopping, it will also be relatively easy for your candidates to make excuses to get time off to interview. Because it is easy to get away, it is also a great time for exploratory informational interviews in order to assess and sell potential candidates for future job openings. All combined, the circumstances make it easy for candidates to find available time to interview, and fortunately, few managers question their intentions when employees do take significant time off to interview.
  8. The Christmas to New Year’s shut down period is also a great opportunity — the eight-day period between Christmas and New Year, when many facilities shut down completely, may be the most-opportune time to interview individuals who are always “too busy” or those who refuse to “lie” in order to take time off work for an interview.
  9. Hiring managers are available — because many individuals and managers take so much unscheduled time off during this month, there are few scheduled meetings, off-sites, or professional conferences for them to attend. And as a result, hiring managers are generally in town and at their office, so there are few excuses that hiring managers can offer for not having the time to review candidates’ resumes and to interview the best. Catch these managers when no one is asking for their time and turn December into recruiting-and-interview month.
  10. Almost everyone is more receptive to calls and contacts — because almost everyone is off guard during this season, this makes it easier for inquisitive recruiters to get through to key individuals during December. It is easier in December because so many receptionist and “call-blocking” jobs are staffed with temporaries or fill-ins. In fact, the holiday spirit makes almost everyone more willing to accept calls that they wouldn’t take during normal frantic business months.
  11. The competition’s recruiters are disengaged — when most other recruiters are relaxing, you might find that you are the only recruiter actively seeking candidates during December. During this period of relaxation, it’s an opportune time to catch the best, while the competition is napping. Yes, there are a scarcity of job fairs and other “active candidate” recruiting events to attend during this time but you probably shouldn’t be wasting your time at these active-candidate-focused events anyway.
  12. Many recruiters take vacation during this period — because many recruiters (and other exempt professionals) who work extra hours throughout the year use this month to draw down their accrued overtime to avoid losing it. Many of the recruiters who you would normally compete against at other firms will be on vacation.
  13. The workloads of your own recruiters are lighter — because fewer prospects call, apply for jobs, and few requisitions are open during this period, this can free up your recruiters’ time to focus on direct sourcing and sourcing the much-more desirable “employed top performer.” Having more time allows the recruiter to focus on higher-quality prospects and to use more time consuming techniques.
  14. December is prime time for identifying and recruiting retail and customer service people — in case you are not aware of it, December is the very best month to recruit retail and customer-facing employees. This is because literally anyone who is any good in customer service is working during the December holiday period, so there is no better time to identify the very best than during this month. As it is almost always the case, the best approach for recruiting customer-service people is to hand out referral cards and to reinvigorate your employee referral program. Because your employees will be interacting with hundreds of customer service people during their shopping excursions, as well as when they eat out and attend holiday events, now is the time to focus your referral program on identifying great customer service people. Specifically ask employees to get the name and number of any special individuals who dazzle them during this difficult rush period when the very best are the only ones not frustrated and tired. Offer a small reward just for their name and number and the fact that the employee made a sincere effort to assess and sell them to the point where they would accept a phone call from your recruiters. Build a candidate pool and target individuals for hiring right before the holiday seasonal layoff time and then as they are needed throughout the year.
  15. December can also be prime time for college recruiting — as a college professor, it is surprising to me that few companies have realized that up to a third of college students graduate at the end of the fall semester. The days of every student graduating in June have been over for years. Unfortunately, few college recruiting programs are designed to specifically capture these individuals. Fall graduates are sometimes actually better graduates because they have finished their work early and they are certainly easier to recruit because most college recruiting programs are geared for June graduates. Try December college recruiting and you’ll find that the competition is almost nil and the pickings are excellent. Calling and e-mailing current students during the break is more effective because they have no schoolwork to distract them.

Final Thoughts

Because most firms don’t recruit during this period, it’s easy to follow the crowd and to also shut down your own recruiting effort. 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. This is even truer if you are a lesser-known organization that has little success when you must recruit side-by-side against better-known competitors.

It’s time to seize the opportunity and take advantage of the idleness of others by beginning your winter recruiting campaign today. Wake up and realize that recruiting is a 12-month profession, not an 11-month job with one month off for slacking. And just think how many more of your recruiting goals that will be met if you have a full 12, rather than an 11-month recruiting effort!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact 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," 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 and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



2 Comments on “There Is Little Recruiting Competition During December … So Be Bold and Seize a Great Opportunity

  1. Hello, Dr. Sullivan… we go again….

    I will start off by saying you were doing fine/so-so until you referred to me as a “slacker” because I take November/December off, having brought in all my billings up to that point.

    Also, as much as recruitment might very well be and probably is a twelve month endeavor for the majors, those of us who run smaller practices are perfectly well positioned to take a month off during the holidays. That’s the advantage of being in a business that pays so well. Your use of the ‘slacker’ characterization is uncalled for. There are many of us in executive search who are billing $60K + each month and can easily afford to take off for the holidays.

    To address your text above:

    I still tend to believe your knowledge of our business is second hand knowledge; you tend to describe our processes as though you are describing something you see others but not yourself doing.

    Case in point is your suggestion we offer ‘small rewards’ for information. I can’t begin to describe how perfectly awful that suggestion is.

    It is a practice that has been abolished in the past and to see you resurrecting it is like seeing a vanquished evil demon being revived. It is generally considered to be sleazy to offer to pay for information on an informal basis. You couldn’t come any closer to sounding like a used car salesman if you tried, Dr. Sullivan.

    Contrary to what you said in paragraph #9, hiring managers are often NOT
    around during the holidays, even after they’ve given us a search assignment. It
    is a most vexing situation but it exists, nonetheless. Those of us who have been in the business for a while know what to do under these circumstances but to suggest it is easy as pie to reach out to them during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is untrue.

    Many of your other points are valid.

    There is an issue you have not discussed that is common to every holiday season. While it is true there are those who are amenable to being recruited after they have received their year-end bonus, that does us little good when we have an employer who wants to hire NOW and wants a Start Date during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.

    After running into this a few times I set a formula that although is not entirely satisfactory to clients who are in a hurry to hire during the holidays, it does basically resolve the dilemma:

    When your recruits balk at the idea of interviewing during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, simply suggest they agree to take time off to interview NOW but agree they may set a Start Date for the second week of January.

    Experienced recruiters know this already so I submit this for those who are new(er) in our business and have had to scratch their heads each year, wondering how to resolve the need to hire NOW but not having candidates who are willing to interview until January.

    Almost anyone can, as you said, take a day to interview in November or December and the challenge of effecting an immediate Start Date (which triggers a billing) is resolved by arranging by mutual agreement between the client and candidate a Start Date in January. Most clients, knowing an Offer of Employment is accepted during November or December, will settle for a Start Date in January.

    You’re welcome, newbies!

    As for me, well, I had my bag packed and my plans for another trip to St. Thomas set until I got a call from a long-time client….Harumph.

    It’s probably just as well- the last time I was there I had an adventure with the son of the governor of Puerto Rico which almost ended similarly to the fate of the Maltese Falcon.

    Have a great Christmas, Todd!

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