"It's the most wonderful time of the year"....or so Andy Williams/Johnny Mathis (depending on your preference) would have you believe, but is it the "most wonderful time of the year" for the recruitment world? - this is a question I have been pondering with some interest this year.
In my experience, the topic of Christmas is ordinarily raised at some point during November at most recruitment companies, usually in the form of a manager or management team addressing the troops and trying to convince them that "December is just like any other month" and that "we need to finish the year on a high." December finally arrives and within 10 minutes of being in the office, somebody has fired up miniclip games and half the workforce are trying to club a penguin down a seemingly endless stretch of ice (apologies to those who have never heard of, or played this game - my personal best is 456m!). Admittely this may be a slight exaggeration and possibly applies more so to larger recruitment companies, but I think you catch my drift.
So why does this extraordinary transformation occur every year?
If I had a pound/dollar for every time a recruitment consultant (probably an ex recruiter now!) has told me that "X or Y company won't be recruiting so close to Christmas so there is no point calling them", I would be a very rich man indeed. This old favourite gets dragged up year after year and seems to be infectious. Granted, there are thousands of companies that won't actually be recruiting staff so close to Christmas but there are other things that can be done other than just filling a client's immediate requirements; what about relationship building, visiting clients, planning for any New Year recruitment drives, discovering new managers and contacts. Surely this period of festivity - when even the most difficult of hiring managers is looking forward to his Turkey dinner - is the perfect opportunity to check in with a client and show that you are a human being, not just a sales robot trying to convince them that they need to see one of your candidates.
Perhaps some recruiters feel that they have earnt the right to kick back a little after a long hard year, believing that this extended period of relaxation will replenish them enough to hit the ground running in the New Year - ground that will have already been eaten up by wily consultants who have been in the game long enough to realise that December can be a lucrative money making opportunity.
I would be lying if I said that I hadn't fallen into the Christmas recruitment bubble earlier in my career (hey, online games and pub lunches can be fun after all) but I quickly realised that a solid December usually leads to a good new year and also makes that glass of sherry on Christmas Eve all the more satisfying.
This year I find myself in the lucky position of Business Manager for the X4 Group - a small up and coming recruitment firm in London, working alongside chaps who have also experienced both sides of the recruitment christmas. We have made a conscious effort to ensure Christmas is business as usual (with a few designated periods of down time - nobody's perfect) and consequently we head to our Christmas party this evening (providing the snow disappears) with a prosperous 2010 to look forward to.
So in answer to my original question - I'm going to have to sit on the fence on this one. I think if you head away for the Christmas break satisfied that you have done everything you can in preparation for the new year, Christmas can be pretty wonderful. I'm not so sure you will feel the same if all you have achieved is 9th place on the "Club a Penguin" leaderboard.
Season's Greetings everybody.