Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Five Myths About Holiday Job Hunting via an emailed newsletter from

by Sinara Stull O'Donnell

When I was an executive and a corporate recruiter, I found that December was my busiest and most stressful month. It's no exaggeration to say I often made job offers on Christmas Eve and came in the day after Christmas to do the paperwork so that an employee could start Jan. 2.

Yet, the misconception that nobody hires in December is common, as is the poor advice that "you might as well take the month off." It may seem counterintuitive, but the opposite is true.

Holiday job-search myths have been around for a long time and are repeated like mantras, but shatter when scrutinized. Consider the following:

Myth No.1: "Nobody hires in December"

December is still a month employees are being paid to work. There are five reasons companies may hire in December:

  1. Many companies must spend the money in their budgets before the end of the year. Hiring "heats up in December because hiring managers are trying to reach deadlines to use budgets," says Susie Basanda, principal of Basanda Consulting, a recruitment management company in Ventura County, Calif.
  2. People tend to want to tie up loose ends before the new year. Hiring managers, human-resource representatives and executive recruiters are like the rest of us who have that feeling of urgency as the year-end approaches. If there are unfilled positions on their staffs, hiring managers naturally want to fill them.
  3. Positions open up in late November or early December because many professionals quit their jobs this time of year. As David Knowles, a senior recruiter with Excel Unlimited, an executive search firm in Houston, says, "The holidays can bring on a time of longing to be closer to family, roots and people. If no bonus is involved, people often will quit Dec. 1, and give two weeks notice so that they can be with family for the holidays."
  4. Headhunters are more motivated to place candidates before the end of the year. Almost all executive recruiters are paid on commission. This commission is based on fees their company earns for placing professionals. What helps the December job seeker is that this commission rises based on overall yearly billing. One might start the year at 30% and graduate to 60% by December. The catch is that it goes down to 30% again Jan. 1.
  5. Strong companies often want to start the new year with a bang. "Companies that are forecasting profits want to have key people in place to start the year off well," says Knowles.
Myth No. 2: "You won't find the job you really want in December"

You're just as likely to find the job you really want in December as in any other month. One reason is because you won't have as much competition, says Judy Kneisley, senior vice president and general manager for outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison Inc. "Because so many people believe in the myths, it's a perfect time to be out there," she says. It may sound logical that only losers would be desperate enough to look for jobs during the holidays, says Knowles, but "the fact is that winners are looking in December." Winners don't give up.

Myth No. 3: "Nothing ever happens after Dec. 15, so you might as well leave town"

Most recruiters advise job candidates to be flexible in scheduling interviews and meetings around the holidays. Eberhart goes a step further and advises candidates to avoid taking weeklong trips during the holidays. Basanda once held a round of interviews New Year's Day.

Myth No. 4: "Even if an employer has an opening, the hiring manager won't have time to meet with you"

The interviewing process can be slower during the holidays because of the number of days people are out of the office. But, as Basanda says, the process "will slow down but it doesn't stop."

Myth No. 5: "You'll have a better chance if you wait until the first of the year"

If employers have a need, they don't care whether it's January or December. "[Hiring] isn't focused on the time of year. It's focused on need," says Keith Mills, vice president for Aaron's Automotive, a manufacturer in Springfield, Mo.

Ms. O'Donnell is a free-lance writer and a career consultant in Springfield, Mo. This article was abridged from

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