Recruiters Share Their Thoughts on Job Search During the Holidays

Recruiter Insider: Special Holiday Edition

Is December the right time to put a freeze on your job search? Take it easy, relax, get back to the search once the calendar flips… that’s what all the job seekers are doing, right?

That is a common belief held by many job seekers. However, we wanted to know if that were really true. Naturally, we turned to our network. Listed above are the recruiters from some of the top search firms in the country, a recruiter trainer, and an ExecuNet executive career coach who shared their expertise with us on this and other holiday-related job search questions our members have been asking.

A warm thank you to our experts: Andrew Chastain, President and CEO, WittKiefferJohn Todd, Managing Director – GattiHR – Boston; Tom Conroy, Managing Director, GattiHR – Industrial; J.L. Baker, Managing Director, GattiHR – Chicago; Michael Delisle, GattiHR, Vice President, Regional Practice Leader; Joel Koblentz, Senior Partner, The Koblentz GroupBarbara Bruno, President of Good as Gold Training, HR Search, Inc., and Happy Candidates; and Harriette Lowenthal, Director, ExecuNet Coaching Services Group.

1. What challenges do job seekers face that are unique to the holiday season, and what do you suggest they do to navigate around those challenges?

Chastain: The holidays are typically a great time for executives to jumpstart their job search. For most, it is a time of reflection and one where the typical commitments to work are more limited. Plan ahead and block off time on your calendar so that your career needs don’t get lost in the holiday shuffle.

Baker: Looking for a new job during the holiday season can be more frustrating than usual. As organizations seemingly “adjourn” for much-needed PTO and (stay)vacations, response rates and engagement decline. The key is to stay persistent but to be respectful. Reality is, while most corporate hiring managers and recruiters try to unplug during this time, there are many who do not. As their inflow declines, you may catch someone’s eye!

Conroy: This is always a stressful time a year for people. Job seekers should acknowledge that, recognize the normal stresses that come with this time of year, and realize a job search can only add to that. Try to figure out ways to de-stress, focus on minor accomplishments, and feel good about productivity, even if the work doesn’t end up in a job offer. If you’re lucky enough to be active in a hiring process with a recruiter or hiring team, be patient but visible. A lot of decision makers will be taking time off, and that will delay next steps, interview scheduling, etc. But beware; don’t be so patient that you appear disinterested or disengaged during this time of year. This can be a valuable time to progress in your job search.

Delisle: A key challenge for high-demand positions is the number of applicants per position has increased significantly. Candidates focused in this area should leverage and develop their network, pursue a social media outreach to their target employers including participating in industry groups, pursue connections that can influence your candidacy, assess your skills, accomplishments and develop a resume (personal branding) that reflects and targets highly-desired skills. Practice your presentation and interviewing skills (role play) to be successful in a Teams/Zoom video interaction. Thoroughly research your target companies develop attributes from your accomplishments that will stand out. For example: as a product leader delivered new cloud applications that generated 30% revenue lift within the first 12 months of launch.
Mr. Delisle submitted a longer version of this reply. Click here to go to it.

2. Why is it important for job seekers not to pause their job search in December?

Chastain: Companies are still hiring in December and executive recruiters are still very active. Also, if you have time off around the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to refresh your resume, brush up on your elevator pitch, or jot down career goals for the next year.

Baker: Setting the groundwork now can lead to a more productive January… and beyond. While things may slow in December, they accelerate in January, and as those decisions/projects/objectives begin to take off, having done the work in advance could pay off. A simple reminder follow-up email landing back at the top of the stack may be all it takes.

Conroy: The year is coming to an end, and the holidays are right in front of us, but these next few weeks and the days between holidays can be very valuable in a job search. As much as people are taking off, some hiring managers’ calendars are lightening up because they aren’t traveling due to COVID-19 or the big meetings can’t happen with all the vacation time ahead. If you’re in a hiring process, now is the time to set yourself up for the last few interviews early in January, since most organizations would like people to start in January. It makes a lot of sense, and you get a full year in (assuming calendar year for pay/finances).

Koblentz: In our case, and I suspect for others in our field, we are very busy trying to finish our engagements before year-end while discussing/accepting new ones to kick off next year. We are observing a strong pent-up demand for executives who are curious, lateral thinking, data-driven and bold with strong communication skills…up and throughout their organizations. They understand that success in their roles means bending the curve more than being innovative. They must demonstrate a drive to tangible value, not just stating that they “have” or “can”…it must be provable! Personally, I am in the midst of several CEO and board engagements and that does not stop in December.

Bruno: I recommend companies in need of talent hire right now because there are very, very good people who are available. There is so much more competition for talent after January first. Many companies feel they can wait until after the holidays and put it in next year’s hiring budget and see what happens. The last quarter of the year should be your biggest hiring quarter. Companies should find the top talent and spend their hiring budget. The holidays are also a great time to interview because people can take time off to interview if they are employed. It is just a great time to hire.

Lowenthal: Do not put your job search on hold. Without COVID-19 there would be a lot of traveling, but now that is not the case.  People are actually more available for calls or video meetings. Being prepared and responsive and going forward with your plan is essential right now.

3. Considering the limitations the pandemic puts on face-to-face gatherings, how can job seekers effectively network this holiday season?

Chastain: This can be the best time to network by email, phone, LinkedIn, and Zoom. You have a built-in excuse to reach out to people – to say hello and wish them happy holidays. It’s a good time to remind people who you are as long as you’re not too promotional about it.

Todd: Job seekers have multiple options when it comes to networking and getting noticed by hiring managers and recruiters now more than ever. Traditional in-person networking events have gone virtual, which allows job seekers who may have been limited by geography or commuting restrictions to attend events located anywhere in the world. There are also literally thousands of live and recorded podcasts to enable job seekers to become more knowledgeable.

LinkedIn remains one of the top networking tools for most professions. Following thought leaders and hiring managers in your target company list and commenting on their posts to engage with them can open a dialog.
Mr. Todd submitted a longer version of this reply. Click here to go to it.

Conroy: Over the last nine months, we’ve found that decision makers can meet more people than they have ever before, given the remote and virtual world we’re now living in. When you’d normally be asking to grab a cup of coffee for 30 minutes (which usually takes up an hour of someone’s day), your 30 minute meeting request now is actually only 30 minutes because it is virtual. The holiday season is the easiest reason to network with people you haven’t stayed in touch with. It’s also right before the new year, new goals, and new deliverables start. That’s a worthwhile topic to network around. The goal of networking during a job search is to not uncover a job opportunity with the person you’re speaking with but to plant the seed you’re in the market so your network uncovers the jobs you might be a fit for.

4. If an executive looking to make a move in the new year wants to develop a meaningful connection with a recruiter this holiday season, what should they do?

Chastain: It may be harder to track down a recruiter for a meaningful conversation or connection during the holiday season. A better strategy is to send a holiday greeting with a request to connect in the new year, at a time convenient for you both.

Baker: Planting a seed now is just as important now with recruiters as it is with hiring organizations. Reality is that the higher up the corporate food chain you go, the more likely it becomes your next gig will come via your network i.e. recruiters. Good executive recruiters play long ball, so just knowing that you’ll be open and interested in opportunities in the new year is half the battle.

Conroy: Cold email introductions only have so much effectiveness when sent to recruiting firms. I’d first recommend an email and connect (with a customized note) on LinkedIn. Two touches are much harder to ignore than one email. One touch might remind the recipient to review the other or vice versa. The meaningful connection is established by someone who is willing to be part of a network. Do you see anything the firm is working on that you’re familiar with? It doesn’t have to be a fit for you but rather an opportunity you could help the firm with, based on your network or experience. It’s much easier to develop a relationship when it starts out as a genuine offer of assistance.