Archive for August, 2012

Questions about Seasonality

August 20, 2012

On a regular basis, I’m asked by candidates for my take on the current state of the job market.  The second most common question I’m asked is about timing.  When is a good time to search for new positions?  Are summer and Thanksgiving through New Year’s throw-away periods, when job opportunities are sparse?

Keep in mind that my focus is the technology domain.  As such, my take may not apply to other areas that may have quiet periods, such as higher education, government or agriculture.  Within technology, the short answer is “No.”  There is no discernible seasonality to hiring.  In some years, both as a hiring executive and more recently as a search professional, I’ve had wildly busy summer hiring periods, only to be followed by the doldrums the next summer.  The same holds true with the oft dismissed Thanksgiving to New Year’s stretch.

So why do these times of the year carry the stigma of being useless for job seekers?  Starting with the end of most companies’ Q2, summer essentially begins with the 4th of July holiday, in which most everyone piggybacks multiple days off around the holiday itself.  Extending through August, this represents the most popular vacation time for people (i.e., hiring executives) to take.  However, since this time period also represents the midway point in the fiscal year, many companies take this time to assess and readjust their annual business plans.  Such adjustments include terminating non-performing employees, conducting layoffs, starting up new initiatives and teams, and opening up new hiring reqs.

As a result, the summer can be an excellent time to seek new opportunities.  The downside, which many people misinterpret as being a summertime hiring lag, is that many hiring managers and others on the extended interviewing team take vacation time.  Invariably, this leads to recruitment, interviewing and hiring delays.  An open position that should have taken 6-8 weeks to fill is now taking 10-14.

As for the late fall/early winter timeframe, there are similar forces at play.  Many companies are finalizing next year’s business plans and want to get a head start on hiring.  However, there are multiple speed bumps that slow down the hiring process, starting with Thanksgiving and continuing on with multiple holidays parties.  It culminates with that lost week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Once again, there’s the perception of a hiring slowdown, but in reality, it’s purely a logistical issue.

Companies that are growing have an ongoing need to hire.  There is no seasonality.  They hire when they are successful in attracting the right candidates.  That challenge doesn’t ebb.  Just like the stock market, in which experts admonish us not to time the market, the same holds true with job seeking.

More importantly, I believe that candidates should be in a perpetual state of making their own activity.  Seek out companies of interest, regardless of their open positions, and find ways to get in via informational meetings.  It’s amazing what doors can open from this proactive approach.  Interestingly, summer and late in the year can be two of the best times to do this.  Vacations notwithstanding, hiring executives generally appear to be more amenable to meeting people during there periods.

The best time to conduct a career search is when you’re open to a change and willing to commit to it.  Let your network know of your intentions, contact your trusted recruiters, and do your research.  From there, don’t worry about timing.  Anything can happen at any time of the year.


Action items:

1.  Don’t let perceived seasonality serve as an excuse not to work on advancing your career.

2.  There’s no reason to wait until the new year, end of summer or months with an “R” in them.  Growing companies are continually challenged with finding good, qualified talent.

3.  Forget about the ebb and flow of the job market.  Create your own momentum by proactively researching companies and working your network to get a foot in the door.