One of the things I was most surprised by when I got into the jobs business over a decade ago was the prevalence and practice of age discrimination in hiring right here in the USA. Oh, sure... we're not like some overseas markets where job ads explicitly demand youth, or a particular gender, or beauty(!), in the applicant, but there it is...
The weeks between Thanksgiving and the new year are often perceived as the job-seeking equivalent of a lump of coal in your stocking.
A perception persists that hiring managers push off hiring until January either to save money before they close the books on the old year’s budget or to avoid the administrative hassle associated with onboarding a new employee during the busy schedule that accompanies end-of-year deadlines and holiday vacations.
But the slowdown in hiring during the holidays is a myth, said several hiring managers and recruiters. In fact, many say they feel increased pressure to fill open slots before the end of the year.
"If a job is available, whether it's the holiday season or not, it has to be filled,” said John Robak, chief operating officer and executive vice president for Greeley and Hansen, a global environmental and engineering consulting firm. "We're a professional services firm, and, at the end of the day, we're about selling billable hours. If there's a job vacancy, we're still interviewing people."
Robak said he's interviewed people all during the holidays, including on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. "People who wait or think that those jobs might be available after the first of the year might miss a golden opportunity."
The end of the year also brings use-'em-or-lose-'em deadlines at many companies. If hiring managers don't fill open positions before the New Year is rung in, they risk losing the open slots.
"What ends up happening is that hiring managers put a great deal of pressure on recruiters to be able to get them candidates and set up interviews before everyone in the company goes away for Christmas break," said Phil Rosenberg, president of reCareered, a job information site and career coaching service. So, the first weeks of December are oftentimes some of the best times to be active, especially in strong years."
If the volume remains steady, hiring managers admit the pace can sometimes slow during the holidays.
One of the challenges at this time of year is getting all people needed to make a hiring decision in the same room and on the same page. The volume of hiring might remain the same, but the pace does seem to slow, said Kathleen Brush, author of "Leadership = Motivation = Innovation + Productivity."
"There's a good reason that some companies slow down their hiring during the holiday season, and that's because there are a lot of people who are out," she said. "It's very difficult to jump through all of the hoops [that go along with the hiring process] because you need to meet with a number of different people.”
Brush doesn't advise that job seekers sit out the job search until the last strand of tinsel is vacuumed up. She does recommend making a concerted effort to "keep the connection fresh."
In other words, it's great if you use the holidays to your advantage to make a connection with a key player at a company for which you're interested in working. However, you will need to make a concerted effort to rekindle that relationship after the holidays and to connect with other stakeholders at the company.
Whatever the actual pace of hiring during the holidays, take advantage of your rival job seekers' impression that it's a season better spent sipping hot toddies than aggressively interviewing, says Robak.
"Everyone is busy with holiday festivities and all of the things we have going on," he said. "There are fewer job seekers and fewer resumes being sent. That can be an opportunity for someone who truly meets the requirements of the job to stand out because the competition might be less."