Is Christmas the best time to look for a new job?

Santa with Help! Out of Work signA survey by a UK jobs site has revealed how digitally connected we are becoming to our work – with many of us even logging into work email on Christmas Day. Holidays are also a time to make career plans. But is anyone looking to hire at this time of year, and what should digital communicators be aware of when it comes to maximising their appeal online?

According to the Reed poll, 56% of UK workers expect to be looking at work email on Christmas Day this year. And more than three-quarters (77%) say they would be prepared to work on Christmas Day if the outcome was a new job.

Rest assured, Firehead won’t be phoning up our job candidates during the Christmas break but holidays are often a popular time in which to plan a career move, especially with the potential of a fresh start at New Year and all those resolutions to bag a better job or salary.

Last week, Firehead owner CJ Walker (pictured below) was interviewed as part of the poll by about recruitment issues at this time of year – and the role technology can play. Read the poll results and interview on Reed’s site: Forget the presents – more than half of us can’t wait to open emails on Christmas Day. Alternatively, read the full recruiter Q&A below.

CJ Walker, founder of FireheadIs Christmas a difficult time to be match up jobseekers with employers?

The Christmas season is traditionally a tricky time to be a recruiter. You’re in the middle of especially eager candidates and clients who are completely ready to take a long time off until next year.

Are there more jobseekers at this time of the year?

We find that the number of applicants goes up this time of year because of what we call ‘New Year’s Syndrome’ – the new year is a natural break, the holidays give candidates time off to prepare their CVs and search their options. Everyone is looking forward. Budgets are set for the new year, or at least the coming quarter, in December – although a lot of hiring managers don’t know for sure if they can spend or not until they come back in January.

How do recruiters approach finding the right people? How has technology over the last five years made this process easier?

Word-of-mouth and in-person networking will never be replaced in our business – people want to know the people they’re working with – but technology makes it easier to use our networks effectively. We meet people and we stay in touch with technology in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in the days when we had only personal visits and the phone.

It’s great to go to social media to stay in touch with both clients and candidates when we can’t see them. Job boards, LinkedIn and Twitter are our staples.

How have recruiters used social media to find people who are looking for a job at exactly the right time? Do they check out potential employees online to get a feel for the type of person they are?

Social media allows recruiters to find candidates in ‘real time’ because we can find who’s looking when they’re looking – or know who might be especially interested in a specific role with particular requirements.

I advertise on social media as often as possible because it means my audience has already ‘opted in’.

I Google every person I am interested in interviewing from the information they provide in their application. I cut things into a much more effective shortlist this way, saving me enormous amounts of time. This is especially true in international or geographically distant recruitment, as you can’t just check their reputation, quality of work or references through the more traditional channels.

As Firehead works in digital communications, an online presence is fundamental to a candidate’s profile. It would be a bit suspicious if there were nothing online.

What is the first thing recruiters look for when assessing someone’s fit for a given job – and how does technology help with this?

We look for relevant skills and professional online presence that substantiates what candidates send in their CV when assessing a candidate’s competence for a given job. Yes, we Google everyone in addition to using our good, old-fashioned industry knowledge and background checks. The two are a powerful combination.

What specific aspects of platforms like LinkedIn help recruiters in their job?

LinkedIn is an interesting platform. We love it and we hate it. It really has become the go-to place for searching both candidates and clients because almost everyone is on it, if they are anywhere. Why is that frustrating? Because LinkedIn calls all the shots.

It’s most useful to see who’s connected to whom. I think this is even more useful than their strong person/company search feature because you can get context to situate yourself in a network.

You can also see who’s been looking at you.

To what extent is having an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn – and one which really sells you – a crucial part of being a professional looking for career development today?

I think it’s essential. It’s the first place most recruiters go – outside of their own database.

Do recruiters find any frustrations with not having decision-makers around at Christmas – and how contactable are they by phone/text/email/IM/social platforms?

I find it difficult, if not impossible, to find any decision-makers over the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I schedule accordingly – I try to get most of the hiring budget decisions from the client clear as soon as the next year’s budgeting is approved. This is usually in mid-December, so it’s cutting it close.

Often, we’re left waiting for the final approval to come in the new year, as clients have also been out enjoying their holiday season during December. The new year is when the jobs actually start.

Do recruiters check their work email over the Christmas period (on Christmas Day?) if they are not in the office?

Recruiters celebrate the holidays too! I wouldn’t think of checking my work email on Christmas day – there wouldn’t be anything to read anyway. I spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s catching up with loose ends from the year – and preparing for the coming rush.

In your eyes, what is the biggest mistake jobseekers make in how they go about searching/representing themselves through technology?

I’m constantly surprised what people will post publicly on the internet in poor taste or in moments of bad judgment. That stuff is searchable. Don’t put down your current or past employers online. Ever.

If you had one tip for a jobseeker looking to maximise their search – and their accuracy – in using technology to find a job, what would it be?

Know what you’re looking for. Then choose your job search keywords based on that.

Finally, do you think that the ‘always on’ nature of digital communications – and the way that people now have so much control over how they represent themselves online, either accurately or not – ultimately helps recruiters and jobseekers alike?

The ‘always on’ nature of digital communications provides a lot of information for recruiters to use: good, bad, and ugly. Although it is very possible to represent yourself inaccurately online, gaps of poor judgment say a lot. Recruiters can build a rounded picture of a person if they research so much available information online. What you see – and what you don’t – say a lot

Of course one has to use good judgment but you can get a fair sense of someone’s profile from what you see online. It certainly helps in ruling out red flags.

This ‘information overload’ also helps recruiters because we can just sift through it. I use the online information gathering process to help make the decision if it’s worth my time to follow up with calling the candidate to discuss next steps.

Is this bad for jobseekers?

Only if they don’t consider that their online postings will be considered professionally – by more than just recruiters – and don’t maintain a reputable digital presence.

Image: (CC) Mike Licht, 

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