At this time of year…

It is hardly a revolutionary idea to compare the recruitment consultancy with an estate agency. The two businesses invite many comparisons, positive and negative. Our industries are both strongly oriented towards sales and remuneration is based predominantly on commission. And like recruitment there are some very good agents out there and some that perhaps, fall somewhat short of the mark.

Whilst looking for a rental property in London recently, all bar two (and I called a lot) of the agents I called told me that the likelihood of finding anything available this side of Christmas was almost zero. Three didn’t even bother to register my interest as, and I quote, they said “there was no point” (their words not mine).

This resonated with me as it falls in line with the opinions of many of the clients we work with during this period, which got me thinking about the similarities between the property world and the recruitment world. December is a traditionally busy month for everyone, so it’s no wonder recruitment takes a back seat for companies and consultants alike. But should that really be the case? The need doesn’t disappear just because we appear not to have the time.

Firstly, if you recruit now and your year end is December, the costs fall into 2010 rather than 2011. Couple that with the saving benefit from the looming VAT increase and you and your FD are off to a flying start come January.

In addition, you get the pick of the best talent now. All clients starts looking for new people in the New Year – and they tend to all be looking for the same skill sets. The war for talent is more aggressive than Oxford St during January sales. The best candidates quickly get placed and businesses often end up taking longer and spending more money than they need to on the same staff.

But many clients still prefer to wait until January. I started to wonder whether this is because recruiters, like estate agents, are advising clients against recruiting in December? Are the majority too busy involving themselves with the festivities and the apparently obligatory client Christmas drinks to roll up their sleeves and get involved with fulfilling requirements this side of the New Year? Is it too easy to postpone until the next year and convince other to do the same? Would you prefer to wait until the New Year when more people are looking?

Just think about it, you have the rare opportunity in December to introduce them to the business in a relaxed environment, the inevitable socialising gets them integrated quicker and the opportunity to familiarise themselves with new working practices before the pressure of the New Year budgets.

My team and I have now banned the phrase ‘at this time of year’ and are heading for a smashing December. Turns out this is not such mad logic and many clients are delighted to find that we’re still placing good people in the run-up to the New Year and getting their new staff on board in time for the festivities.

Equally, we’ve been reaching out to candidates and getting them to think differently about this ‘time of the year’. Why should that CV you’ve just written in preparation for your new year job hunt sit idle on your desk top for the next 4 weeks?

We’ve all grown accustomed to thinking of business in cycles – so we assume August will be flat and December will be much the same. This isn’t just in recruitment and estate agency, it’s pervasive.

But as it happens we really do live in a 365/24/7 world. Which means that businesses can start the New Year feeling certain about having good people on board, rather than beginning with a blank slate and reaching out to candidates at the same time as everyone else.

Similarly candidates can take time off, certain that they’ve secured their next career move or opportunity.

Perhaps if I’d met an estate agent with a bit more determination, I’d be settled in my new home in time to thaw out my turkey, happy and relaxed, just like all those candidates who are starting out new jobs this month.