NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Anyone looking for work might assume fewer companies are hiring during the holidays as managers and human resources employees go on vacation, but in reality, the next few weeks may be the best time to land a position quickly.
"Most candidates think they should just wait and ramp up their job search in January, but this is really a great time to find a job," says Carolyn Hughes, a vice president at the job search site
. "There is an urgency on the employer side that happens at the end of the year which you don't see at any other time of the year."
It's officially hiring season, whether most job hunters realize it or not.
The reason for this heightened sense of urgency to hire, according to Hughes and other experts, is that many managers are looking to fill whichever job openings they can as soon as possible for fear an unfilled position might simply be cut from the budget in the next fiscal year. In these situations, managers may feel they no longer have the luxury of a few extra days or weeks to make a decision. Either they fast-track hiring for the position or their department could be short-staffed for the foreseeable future.
Ordinarily, most employers hope to fill an open position within
one to three months
of when they post it, but at the end of the year that time can get chopped in half. Managers are eager to accept a candidate before the break around Christmas and ideally set a start date for right after the holidays.
"Imagine you're a marketing manager and the company tells you there will be a hiring freeze in 2012. You have just a few weeks to fill an open position or you won't be able to do it, so there is a rush to get someone on the books," says Charles Purdy, a career expert with
At the same time, there are generally fewer candidates searching for jobs in December. SimplyHired, for example, estimates that its Web traffic is about 60% less in December than in January. In essence, it's the perfect storm for job hunters: businesses are desperate to hire yet there is less competition for job openings.
The one downside is that there tend to be fewer jobs posted during the holiday season. According to Purdy, Monster's Employment Index found that the number of job postings on corporate career sites and job boards suffered a "slight dip" of 3% between November and December last year.
"You may not see companies posting as many jobs, but looking for a job doesn't necessarily mean looking only for those that have been posted," Purdy says, emphasizing the need for job hunters to focus on promoting themselves and reaching out to managers at companies they'd like to work for. "Now is when many organizations are locking in their budgets for the coming year, so getting on a company's radar makes sense."
The formula for landing a job during the holidays is slightly different than throughout the rest of the year. Here's what you need to know to score a new job for the new year.
Send Your Resumes Out By Mid-December
There is only a narrow window to take advantage of these end-of-year job openings, and that typically goes from the end of Thanksgiving through the first half of December.
"If your resume comes in too close to Christmas and New Year's, it won't have enough lead time and could end up at the bottom of the pile of January resumes," Hughes says. "Do whatever you can do to get yourself in the process of having a conversation with that company by the second week of December, because that's really when a new hiring process is no longer viable."
Take Advantage of Added Network Opportunities
Not only are employers more desperate to fill job openings at the end of the year, they are also more willing to network, thanks to the holidays.
"Holiday cheer is in the air, so people are more social and like to have coffee, hot toddies, eggnog and what not. Leverage the time of the season to stay in touch with people who can help connect you with jobs," Hughes says.
Likewise, Purdy suggests taking advantage of the many holiday parties hosted by friends, colleagues and businesses this time of year to get your name out there and make it known you're looking for career opportunities.
Since the clock is ticking, candidates need to be more persistent in following up on their applications.
As a general rule, Purdy says job hunters should always send a follow-up email within two weeks of submitting their resume, but during particularly busy periods for hiring managers such as the end of the year he recommends following up sooner and more often, as well as reaching out to other relevant employees at the company to
get your resume noticed
"There is a chance that your resume may land on the desk of someone who is out of the office early for the holidays, or conversely, there is a chance your resume may land on the desk of someone with 1,500 resumes who has been told they have to hire someone in the next three weeks," Purdy says.
Reapply in January
If for whatever reason you don't hear back from the company before the end of the year, Hughes suggests sending your application again in January after everyone is back from the holidays to ensure yours isn't buried at the bottom of a pile from the previous year. After all, there will be job opportunities in 2012 too.
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