August has been dubbed the “Silly Season” because supposedly nothing really important happens during this time. Mucky mucks in the world of business and government tend to take long vacations during this month, and try to spend as little time as possible thinking about work. Because of this reputation, as well as their own desire to take some time off, employment seekers tend to put the brakes on their job hunt for positions right about now. However, they do so at their own peril, said Duncan Mathison, a senior consultant at DBM, a firm that helps professionals find work who have been released through downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, and so forth.
“We typically find that in the third quarter, companies start to look at their budgets for the coming year,” he said. “They’re looking at what they’ve got in their budgets, and they’re looking at what they’re planning for next year. What often happens is in the summer, when the workflow is interrupted by vacations and things like that, it’s a great time to get queued up into the hiring cycle for a company. You do that through networking and those kinds of things so that when they really start selecting people, you’re in the queue. If you wait until the actual offers start going up to get into the job-search cycle, then you’re too late.”
Likewise, the holiday season running from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has a reputation as a slow period for company operations and, thus, hiring. Yet, as in August, the holidays are in fact the perfect time to get your foot in the door. “In the holiday period, people say, ‘Nobody hires in December, so don’t look,’ Mathison said. “But the reality is that’s perfect time to be queued up. What we see is our clients who are active during the holiday period are picked up immediately once the new budgets are put into effect at the first of the year. If you miss that cycle because you weren’t in the search, then that puts you off even further.
“The theory is that not much happens in the summer or the holidays,” he added. “If you really understand how companies hire, it’s a mistake to drop out of the search during those time frames. It has to do with the difference between the recruiting process and the job publication process: how companies go through recruiting and when they actually get around to making the offers. Remember, the recruiting process happens before the hire, so don’t drop out.”
There are two issues at play when it comes to job hunting during these ostensibly sluggish periods, Mathison said. To begin with, companies think about opening up a position and go through the exercise of publishing the job through newspaper ads, Web sites and other mediums. Then, they go through the selection cycle. If candidates are already making themselves known to hiring authorities through networking or other direct approaches during that window of time, then that reduces the amount of competition they have. They might even get picked up before the company announces the opening. “You get yourself in the cycle earlier, and you get exposure to positions that are never even published,” Mathison said. “You can save them thousands of dollars in recruiting fees, because they know somebody who’s qualified in that platform. Every manager who’s worth their salt has a file of résumés.”
As for the actual approach, he recommended that IT professionals start out with a soft pitch by making inquiries as to the software, hardware and network applications their desired employers use. “Because of the technical nature of their backgrounds, it’s a very reasonable approach to contact company IT groups directly. You call them up or send them an e-mail asking a very simple question: ‘What kind of platform do you guys operate on?’ You get a sense of what that environment is. Then, you say, ‘I don’t know if you’re hiring right now or not, but I’ve got that background, so it might make sense for us to meet.’ If you don’t have that background, then you qualify them based on that.”