[Your Career] Hiring Time?

There is  seasonality –  cyclic variations based on the time of year or season – to any number of things. Just as it helps to know that back-to-school hits in July/August (so you avoid ending up with the dregs of what’s left for your kids), it advantages you to know the times of year when firms are hiring, and times when they’re likely not.

First things first though: take this advice with the proverbial grain of salt – (cum) grano salis. These thoughts are meant as a series of 80% rules – right most of the time, not all of the time. But take notice, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, even a pro can learn some new tricks:

  • Companies hire when they have hiring/headcount budget (don’t laugh – I know people who have been offered jobs, and then had the offer withdrawn because there was no budget to fund the position) so it helps to know when budgets – if any – are approved. Not everyone – both large and small companies – work with a budget. But for those that do, it generally means that the end of the fiscal year (sometimes but not always a calendar year) gets fallow as hiring managers wait for new headcount approvals. The converse is also true: the start of the fiscal year gets busy as hiring managers move to get a running start on their new headcount. Note that places like Apple (fiscal year starts in October),  Intuit (starts in August) or Salesforce.com (starts in February) are running on different cycles. Also note that some firms may update hiring headcount authorization quarterly, and some firms do headcount budgeting / authorization on an ad hoc basis. Tip: If you’re interested in a particular company, find out when their fiscal year starts – and ends – and how they do hiring headcount.
  • There are active and slow times of year in hiring. Life intrudes into the hiring process, though in part it intrudes depending on what the demographics of a firm are like. A place like Zynga, which I’d guess might skew younger as a start-up in the gaming space (note the photos of senior managers like Michael Luxton or Colleen McCreary with their small kids here), likely has less of business calendar that revolves around school calendar events  such as Spring Break (the past two weeks), or summer vacations (June – August) as a firm that had demographics that skewed older, perhaps as someplace that’s more mature as a business with a workforce that’s likely older such as Intuit. Firms that have international operations that involve hiring managers out of the US will have slow periods in August. Why? Because much of Europe and other parts of the world treat that month largely as a vacation month, and many people are gone on holiday. Tip: Knowing the demographics and maturing of a of a firm can in part help you know in advance if it’s hurry-hurry-hurry or glacially slow based on things like family impacting outside schedules.
  • Sometimes the cycle is driven purely by outside events, such as fund raising. In certain sectors, investment drives hiring. Asset managers that are working on raising funds, or for that matter venture capital and PE firms as well, may not hire until the completion or back side of a fund raising cycle. Earlier stage start-ups may defer hiring added staff until they’ve raised additional funds. Tip: Find out what drives hiring if it’s not done to any calendar.
  • Sometimes the slowest times are the best times to get to know people. I’m a huge fan of networking done well (see post here) and slow times like end of the calendar year holidays or toward the end of a cycle well before headcount’s been approved are great times to network because there is no hiring going on. It also means that hiring managers aren’t being pulled in to interview other people’s candidates, and may actually have some time available to catch coffee with people. Tip: Use these slower periods to catch up with people you know, as well as people you’d like to know. Not only is time usually more available, but it’s also of a less frenetic nature.

For many, this is a time when people are back in the job hunt with new hope. It helps, as you move forward, to simply account for how seasonality will affect your search. Good luck!

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive and team coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above.