Managing Through a Crazy Time of Year for Interviews

I’m often asked about the seasonality of hiring. Many people have concluded that along with the summer doldrums, the holidays are another time when interviewing and hiring go on sabbatical. Nothing can be further from the truth. From this recruiter’s perspective, there is no seasonality whatsoever.

Instead, both the summer and December holiday periods reflect a similar challenge. Despite ongoing high priority hiring needs, vacations and holidays throw a big time wrench into the process. And needless to say, this time of year offers up a double whammy as companies are also fully consumed with the push for quarter-end and year-end business. Actually, it’s a triple whammy as for some unknown reason, strange things seem to happen to people around the holidays.

As a microcosm of this difficult period, in which preserving interviewing and hiring momentum appears to be an exercise in futility, let me give you a glimpse into the last week alone:

* A hiring manager had to drop everything because his son was rushed into emergency surgery

* A leading Director-level candidate has postponed his second-round interview because the night before, his mother who lives overseas, suffered a heart attack

* The hiring SVP had to cancel an interview due to a last minute trip to help close year-end business

* A finalist candidate had to postpone final meetings in favor of the emergency room due to severe back spasms from a car accident two weeks ago

* The CSO missed a scheduled phone interview and has been unresponsive due to immersion in year-end business efforts

* The hiring VP, who was quite interested in a particular candidate, unexpectedly went radio silent for over a week because of high-level meetings with executives who had just acquired his company. And although he’s now back from those meetings and ready to resume, we’re now on the doorstep of the holidays. So, he wants to delay the interview process until the holidays are over.

I had to talk a candidate off the ledge because the hiring executive has been so unresponsive throughout the interview process. The candidate took it as a sign of disinterest and/or lack of prioritization. Good thing he didn’t summarily abandon the opportunity as he ended up getting the job. This brings to mind a general point about the interview process: it never goes as planned or anticipated. Even during other times of the year, when there are fewer reasons for problems to arise, I’ve found that delays persist on a regular basis.

For both candidates and hiring managers, the question is how will they act when interview postponements crop up due to unforeseen circumstances? Naturally, it’s frustrating for everyone involved. When I tell my hiring clients that the average search lasts eight weeks, they nearly die. In a vacuum, eight weeks seems like an inordinate amount of time. Yet, in real life, where unanticipated scheduling conflicts occur with great frequency, eight weeks isn’t so bad.

The holiday season is stressful enough. Adding to that the expectation that things will go as planned is setting the stage for discontent. Even though interviews may be deemed a high priority for all involved, the world doesn’t stop for them to be completed. Candidates still have their current jobs and families to tend to. Hiring managers already had a full plate before interviewing and hiring were added to the mix. Combined with the holidays and push for year-end business, we have all the trappings for pure havoc.

The antidote for getting through this crazy period for interviews and hiring is to readjust expectations. Let’s expect unexpected delays in the interview process. It may not solve the issue at hand, but it will lessen the crazy factor. I can see why many people believe that interviewing and hiring ceases during the summer and December holiday period. Yet, it’s not for a lack of activity. It’s because of too much activity.


Action items:

  1. When interview delays or compromised communications occur, don’t read too deep into it. It’s likely that external issues are at work.
  1. Adjust expectations to reflect that the interview and hiring process will take longer than anticipated…because it will.
  1. Try to enjoy the holidays as best you can. Fortunately, they end just in time for us to regain our sanity and carry on with our lives.

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