The Holiday Myth Busted

There is a myth that permeates the recruitment industry - as with many other industries I don't doubt - that I want to dispel. The myth is the self-fulfilling prophesy that "things slow down at the end of the year."

Although it is true that the end of December and early January are slow, it is in no way true that the period of time broadly classed by purveyors of the myth as "the end of the year" (from late October through to early February) see a slow down. What this period of time does see is companies and individuals postponing decisions because they believe that they can. The basic components of the myth go as follows:

"I don't need to make a decision on this individual/opportunity because they will still be here early next year."

"Everybody looks to hire/find a role in the new year, nothing happens at the end of the year."

"All recruiters slow down at this time of year, mine is no different."

The purpose of this article is to dispel this myth and to give you, whether you are a client with a critical requirement or a candidate looking for a new opportunity, some guidelines on how to use the fact that this myth exists to your advantage.

So why does the myth exist? It is my belief that the myth is largely perpetuated by recruiters themselves. Why? Because they can't accept that they need to change their approach for the last 2 months of the year? Probably. Because they want it to be true so that they can wind down a bit? More than likely. Because they genuinely believe it? Almost definitely.

But the fact remains that, when clients begin to use the "end of the year" as an excuse for delaying a decision, recruiters take this as gospel and communicate the sentiment back to the market. The market gets this feedback from multiple sources and then feeds it back to those sources in an ultimately self-fulfilling cycle. The myth circulates like bad air in an airplane, getting more potent the more times it is circulated.

But the reality is very different and you, as someone who is looking for a positive outcome before Christmas, shouldn't take this myth as gospel.

I've always rallied against this myth, running incentive programs, special training sessions and an almost totalitarian ban on consultants repeating the sentiment before mid-December. The result of this has been that sales, for TRC, hasn't slowed down. In fact, if we look back over the last 5 years at TRC's average monthly sales in the months of November and December and compare these to the other 10 months in the year, we see that there is virtually no difference in the number of placements made.

So does this evidence hold true for both permanent and contract recruitment? Doubters of my theory may suggest that although the total numbers of placements remains consistent, the split between permanent and contract will change. The logic behind this argument is that over the holiday period employers look for a temporary workforce for the holiday period.

In fact, historical data shows that there is virtually no change in the mix between permanent and contract recruitment over this period and neither permanent nor contract placements reduce as an average compared to previous months.

I admit that it would be naive of me to claim that there is no slow down in the market at the end of December and through the first few weeks of January. But evidence suggests that the period leading up to this is just as busy as previous months.

One of the great ironies of the myth is that decisions are postponed "until the start of the new year". My proposition on this is that once a decision is assigned to the vague dusty cupboard under the stairs that is the "start of the new year" it will likely gather dust for all time. January is genuinely a very quiet time in the recruitment calendar. Decisions delayed from early December until the new year will, at best, come to fruition early February but many will likely remain delayed indefinitely.

This error in judgement is fueled by another recruitment myth: people start looking for a new role in the new year (we've all seen the plethora of adverts in January "new year, new job" etc. etc). It has in fact been my experience that the opposite is true. After a bit of a break, some time at home with the family away from the stress and the daily grind, job seekers often give it another go - a break is as good as a change. Your boss doesn’t seem so bad the other side of a 2 week break. It often takes a couple of months for the old gripes to reappear thus ensuring that decisions delayed by either party are never actually made.

The evidence shows that, (for TRC's clients and candidates at least), January is in fact not the time when everyone starts the new year looking for a new job.

It is the role of a good recruiter to make things happen, to facilitate an outcome that both client and candidate are happy with. If your recruiter takes their foot off the pedal in the lead up to Christmas then they are doing you a disservice. If they do not push you a little bit when you take the easy option of delaying a difficult decision until the "start of the new year" then they are doing you no favors. If you sense your recruiter drifting into holiday mode just when you have critical decisions to make then maybe it is time to do some Christmas shopping around.

So how can you, as someone who needs things done before the end of the year, use this perceived slowdown to your advantage?

 Firstly, it is key to remember that people do make decisions before the end of the year, the good candidates do take jobs, the good jobs do get filled.

Secondly, it is worth remembering that your competitors (be it companies searching for the limited top resources on the market or other candidates vying for the plum roles) most likely believe the myth and have taken their foot off the pedal. Fortune favours the brave!

Thirdly, (and this may seem like a bit of a plug for TRC), find a recruiter who is noticeably active in the lead up to the end of the year. Who is advertising multiple roles relevant to you? Who is sending out a positive message to the market? Who is publishing freshly pulled opportunities rather than farming old, stale adverts? Find this recruiter, speak to them about their perception of the market, let them know you want to make a decision before the end of the year and see what they say.  Ask them:

Do they have clients/candidates who will also make decisions within your timeframe? 

 Have they checked with their client that all decision makers are available up until the end of the expected interview process?

Are they themselves working up to the end of the year?

Do they have multiple opportunities relevant to you?

Don’t accept sub-standard service just because it is the holiday season, expect top-standard service because you are giving them an opportunity to gain market share from their competitors.

December is traditionally the month when TRC gains the most new clients. Many of these have called us in the absence of their usual recruiter and most have stayed on as regular clients post Christmas.

What better time is there to grab the best candidates or the best opportunities than while your competition (and the recruiters they rely on the represent them) are resting on their laurels and their mince pies. If a decision is worth making it is worth making now. What better time to sign up a new employee or land yourself a nice new role than just before the Christmas break. 

There are so many things to worry about at Christmas; who bought you the inappropriate present in the office Secret Santa, visits from annoying relatives, over indulging. Don’t spend the break worrying about all the decisions you've delayed just because you believed something you heard from a recruiter – Christmas is no time for myths.